Other NBA players should have his problems.
LeBron James has always deemed this to be the “hardest point” of the season, this period in which his team’s playoff seeding is secured due largely to his stellar play, and he isn’t quite certain how much of a break to take. The Heat forward discussed this after Friday’s shootaround, noting that sometimes he needs to “police my own self, because I don’t like sitting.”
Still, he wanted to make something else clear.
“If I’m in uniform, then I’m here to play at the highest level,” James said.
And he did.
In a 108-89 victory that allowed Miami to clinch the East’s top seed with 10 games left, James shellshocked the hosts with 23 points in a stretch of 5:29 spanning the end of the first and start of the second quarters. James was so hot that he was pulling up with no pause, against any number of defenders. He was so loose that, at stoppages, he shimmied down the sideline to a remix of an Adele song, even enlisting Norris Cole to join him in the dance number.
James finished with 36 points before getting that rest, laughing with teammates while watching the entire fourth quarter.
The win put the Heat in good spirits, after their 27-game win streak was snapped Wednesday in Chicago and prior to arguably the last meaningful game of the regular season.
That comes Sunday in San Antonio, against the top seeds in the West, with a chance to create more space in the chase for the NBA’s top overall seed and guaranteed homecourt advantage in a potential NBA Finals. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sent his top players home prior to the team’s only meeting this season, Nov. 29 in Miami, but both teams are expected to take this game a little more seriously.
Mario Chalmers missed Friday’s game with a sore ankle — with Mike Miller starting and even slamming a lob in his place — but the Heat point guard called his absence precautionary. Manu Ginobili has been nursing a sore hamstring, so it is unclear he will play.
You can be sure that James will, and his level won’t be low.