On a night when Clark Kent got sidetracked for one of the few times this season, it was left to Jimmy Olsen to pull the Heat out of the fire.
But just as there was only one Superman, there’s only one LeBron James, the Heat found out the hard way.
Only hours after he put on a memorable show, James hit the back iron on a three-pointer that would have tied the score at the buzzer on Tuesday evening, as the Houston Rockets held on for a 106-103 victory at the Toyota Center. The visitors had their win streak snapped at eight in a row.
Beforehand, James said he was “extremely tired” after his 61-point barrage against the Charlotte Bobcats one night earlier. The admission raised the question whether he should have played 41 minutes in the 17-point victory. He played all except the final 83 seconds of the fourth quarter.
“I fought through it in the first half,” James said of the fatigue factor. “But in the second half, it wasn’t there for me.”
The Heat squandered a chance to gain ground on the Indiana Pacers in the race for homecourt advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. They remained two games behind the leaders.
“At this point, we’ve got to play our game,” said Dwyane Wade, who scored 24 points. “We can’t worry about ‘Oh, (the Pacers) lost, so we need to win.’ We need to win every night.”
While James misfired on 6 of 7 field goal attempts in the second half, none other than Michael Beasley came to the rescue off the bench. The reserve forward scored a season-high 24 points, 13 in the fourth period.
“You know, I felt normal. I was just shooting open shots,” said Beasley, who connected on 9 of 13 field goal tries. “I passed up two in the first half and kind of got yelled for it. So I was just being me. I was just letting the game come to me.”
“Everyone notices it when he scores, but he was doing some active things defensively on the other end,” head coach Erik Spoelstra pointed out. “But he gave us a scoring punch, and we rode that. In the fourth quarter, he got us back in the game.”
The Heat never led in the contest, and even with James at less than his best — 22 points, six assists, one rebound — they nearly pulled off a remarkable comeback. In the final 83 seconds, they overcame a 105-98 deficit to put themselves in position to send the game into overtime.
A Wade basket and a Beasley three-pointer sandwiched around a James Harden free throw make it a three-point game. Harden (21 points) air-mailed a pass out of bounds with 13 seconds on the clock, but James was long on a shot over Dwight Howard at the buzzer.
After the Rockets took away the first two options — Ray Allen and Beasley — James could have elected to drive to the basket for a two-pointer but thought better of it. The Heat did not have a time-out available.
“I knew if I had a good look, I could take (the three-pointer),” said James, who took a blow on his fractured nose late in the game. “We got the switch on Dwight, and all of a sudden, I had to take a heave over him. I felt that I had a good look, but (the shot) was a little long.”
One night after Bobcats big man Al Jefferson torched the Heat for 38 points and 19 rebounds, Howard got the better of Chris Bosh this time. The All-Star center finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds.
Heat reserve center Greg Oden was held out of the second of back-to-back games as a precautionary measure.
“It was a strange game for us defensively,” Spoelstra said. “At some points in the second quarter, we were outstanding. At other parts at the beginning of the first and most of the third, that was about the worst we could play defensively. We still found a way to show some toughness and resolve to hang in there and make a game of it down the stretch.”