Is that chatter” as in talk? Or “chatter”as in “chattering” teeth?
Just five nights after he was taken to task (by some harder than by others) for not attempting the game-tying shot in the All-Star game, LeBron James had a brilliant fourth quarter until that quarter came to an end. With the game on the line in Utah, James passed to Udonis Haslem for an open 17-foot jumper that missed, and Miami’s winning streak was halted at nine.
James had 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the fourth quarter (he made 10 of his final 11 shots) as the Heat rallied back from an 18-point deficit midway through the third quarter, but what people will remember from this one is not the shots he took and made, but the one he didn’t take at the end.
Since joining the Heat, James is just 1-for-9 in the last 24 seconds of the 4th quarter or overtime with a chance to tie or take the lead.
James had 35 points — 17 in the fourth quarter — 10 rebounds, six assists and three blocked shots. He flicked the ball over to Haslem as Josh Howard and Paul Millsap converged on him.
“I just try to make the right plays and do what it takes to win basketball games,” James said. “At the end of the day, games are not lost on one shot at the end or me not taking a shot. But I know the chatter will begin. I wanted that game as bad as anyone else on that floor.”
From Ira Winderman of the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel: “After Kobe Bryant got on LeBron James in a playful way for passing up a final, potentially game-winning shot at last Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game, one could only imagine what Bryant might have to say when his Los Angeles Lakers take on the Heat in Sunday afternoon’s nationally televised game at Staples Center. Because this time, with something tangible at stake, off an inbounds play with 4.5 seconds to play Friday night against the Utah Jazz and the Heat down one, James again deferred. This time to power forward Udonis Haslem, who has been off with his shot almost all season. Haslem missed the jumper just to the right of the foul line. The Heat lost 99-98. The nine-game winning streak is over. And James, after an otherwise brilliant 35-point performance that included 10 rebounds and six assists, created another of what Heat coach Erik Spoelstra calls media-driven “storylines.” “We got a good shot there at the end,” Spoelstra said. “[Haslem] had an open shot. He made the correct play.”
Spoelstra was asked a follow-up question and responded, “That is the thing about today’s age, there’s so many talking heads. There will be opinions out there and none of those opinions matter in the locker room. He was brilliant in the second half. We’ve got his back. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of speculation. It’s not something we haven’t dealt with before. That speculation began in the opposing locker room, with Jazz forward Josh Howard, who was defending James on the decisive play, saying, ‘I guess he felt like there was too much pressure on him.’”
On a night when there were 11 games played in the NBA, that was the only one to come down to the final play.
It’ll be the talk of the nation for the next 24 hours as everyone awaits the matchup of Kobe Bryant vs. the player who broke his nose (Dwyane Wade) and crosses their fingers that the game comes down to one final possession, with the ball in the Heat’s hands.
Will LeBron pass it again?
Heck, that’s going to be the storyline each and every time the Heat are involved in a close game — something they are unaccustomed to. Friday night’s loss was their first final possession game since three Sundays ago when James had two horrible isolation possessions and missed two free throws — all in the final minute — of a victory over the Chicago Bulls.
Elsewhere around the NBA:
- Chris Paul pulled the Clippers to 77-75 with a wide-open 3-pointer from the top of the arc off an inbounds pass with 26.5 seconds to go, but Channing Frye broke free to receive Grant Hill’s inbounds pass, and the Suns worked the ball to Jared Dudley, who was fouled. His two free throws put the Phoenix Suns ahead by four win what ended as an 81-78 victory over the L.A. Clippers.
- Kobe Bryant scored 38 points in his second straight game wearing a protective mask, and the Lakers blew most of a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter before holding on to beat Sacramento 115-107 in their highest-scoring performance of the season to improve to 16-2 at home.
- The defending champion Dallas Mavericks lost their season-high fourth in a row as Jarrett Jack scored six straight points in the final 1:09 and hit an 11-foot shot in traffic with 17.9 seconds left to secure the Hornets’ 97-92 win.
- The Memphis Grizzlies moved up into fifth place in the Western Conference by defeating the Toronto Raptors 102-99 as Rudy Gay had 23 points and 12 rebounds and hit the go-ahead jumper with 26 seconds left.
- Derrick Rose had 10 of his 19 points and six of his nine assists in the fourth quarter to lead the Bulls to their fifth straight win, 112-91 over the Cavaliers, who were without Kyrie Irving (flu) for the fourth straight game. Chicago is the first team to make it to 30 victories.
- Ty Lawson had 22 points and a career-high 15 assists to lead the Nuggets to a 117-105 victory over Houston. Arron Afflalo scored 16 of his 17 points in the second half and Kenneth Faried added 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Nuggets, who had seven players score in double figures.
- With the Bobcats (losers of 20 of 21) in town, coach Gregg Popovich gave Manu Ginobili (strained oblique) his fifth straight game off. San Antonio didn’t need him in defeating the NBA’s worst team by 30, 102-72. It was the 21st straight game in which Charlotte failed to score 100 points.
- Lou Williams scored 25 points to lead Philadelphia to a 105-83 victory over Golden State on the 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game. The Sixers topped 100 points for the first time in 20 games.
- Kevin Garnett had 20 points and 10 rebounds, Rajon Rondo finished with 14 points and 13 assists, and Paul Pierce added eight assists to go with his team-high 27 points as the Celtics won by more than 10 for the first time in 31 days, 107-94 over New Jersey.
- Vladimir Radmanovic (11), Jannero Pargo and TracyMcGrady (nine apiece) combined for 29 of Atlanta’s 34 fourth quarter points as the Hawks outscored the Bucks by 16 in the final period of a 99-94 victory.