This game between the Miami Heat and Charlotte Bobcats had a result most people would expect to see; the Heat won, 97-81. Everything that happened before the final buzzer defied expectations -- save for some more spectacular play from LeBron James.
Erik Spoelstra gave James a rest with 7:52 left in the game. The four-time NBA MVP had played the entire second half up to that point, and it was actually necessary. Dwyane Wade, who had not played in a back-to-back set this season, probably should have sat out tonight. He scored just four points on an abysmal 1-for-7 shooting from the field, and he received treatment on his knees in the fourth quarter. Chris Bosh couldn't manage to stay on the court, as he committed five fouls in 15 minutes. Ray Allen (flu) and Udonis Haslem (back spasms) were unavailable, and Mario Chalmers was suspended for the night.
Miami held on to a tenuous eight-point lead when James got his first rest of the second half. Spoelstra decided to use a lineup of Norris Cole, Roger Mason Jr., Michael Beasley, Rashard Lewis and Chris Andersen in a tight fourth quarter. The Heat coach probably hoped that this lineup could hold on to the lead to give James a few minutes of rest.
That lineup actually extended Miami's lead to 17 at one point and give Miami a comfortable win.
Charlotte went more than four minutes without a point after James took his rest, and the Heat took advantage. Reminiscent of his college days, Beasley made a nice spin move into the lane for a layup that put Miami up 85-72. And when Kemba Walker drove for a fast break dunk attempt a couple minutes later with no one to challenge him, he missed a chance to cut Miami's lead to 10. On the other end of the floor, Andersen found Lewis for a 3 that put Miami up 15 with 2:21 left to ice the game.
Beasley finished with 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field, providing much needed offense. He has played about as well as anyone could have hoped thus far and merits continued playing time after Udonis Haslem returns to the lineup. Andersen finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks -- including going a perfect 6-for-6 from the line. And Lewis actually led Miami in rebounds, with nine boards to go along with nine points.
Although Miami's bench pulled away from Charlotte, James kept Miami ahead up until that point. He had another superb game, finishing with 30 points on 13-of-18 shooting from the field, seven assists and a sweet chase-down block. James started the game with a Dirk Nowitzki-esque one-legged jumper and continued dominating. Cole set him up with a nice bounce-pass for a dunk and, later, an alley-oop. It was James' third straight game of scoring at least 30 points, and it's amazing that he did it on just 18 shots. It's important to remember that James plays at an unparalleled level night-in, night-out and to not take it for granted.
The Heat will host the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.