With Chris Bosh out due to the death of his grandmother, the typical burden lumped on Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to dominate the competition further expanded for the Thursday night matchup between the Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers.
Despite leading their team to the best record in the Eastern Conference (27-7) before the All-Star break, Wade and James spent most of the week answering questions about events from the meaningless league showcase going into their first game back from the break. The best player on the planet (by far) had to answer for not shooting at the end of the All-Star game, while D-Wade fielded inquiries about breaking Kobe Bryant's nose on a hard foul. Guess what happened when they stepped back on the floor for a game of actual consequence?
LBJ and D-Wade exhibited razor-sharp focus from the tip, and the Heat cruised to a 107-93 road win. Those two combined to score Miami's first 18 points, overwhelmed Portland in transition and never took their foot off the gas. Wesley Matthews looked too small to cover James and too slow to stay with Wade, so the Heat megastars took turns punishing him for most of the night. After the first quarter, James had dropped 12 points, four rebounds and four assists, and Wade had generated 10 points, one rebound and three assists. By halftime, their production increased to 19/7/4 and 22/2/4, respectively. The third quarter margin swelled to more than 20 points, but LeBron still finished with 38/11/6, while D-Wade turned in 33/2/10.
The duo's efficiency remained spectacular for the entire night, but some moments shined brighter than others. Here's what it all looked like at its best:
In contrast, the Trail Blazers entered the matchup under far less auspicious circumstances. Recent free agent acquisition Joel Przybilla made his debut earlier than Nate McMillan had originally planned, as Kurt Thomas suffered a mild concussion in Wednesday's loss to the Denver Nuggets. Meanwhile, struggling swingman Wes Matthews announced his plan for "bringing the (bleeping) fun back" by reintroducing three-point goggle t-shirts during pregame warm-ups.
Przybilla got an ovation from the Rose Garden crowd when he first checked in, but only managed four points, six rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes. Matthews brought a bit of the "bleeping fun" back -- he scored 15 points and needed just six shots to do so -- but that and his seven rebounds and four assists only partially made up for his struggles on defense.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Jamal Crawford carried the offensive load for the Blazers, but it wasn't nearly enough. Aldridge attacked on a mix of face-ups and low post looks for 14 first half points and 20 on the night. However, his attacking became more passive as the game continued, and he failed to earn even a single free throw all night. Batum slashed to the basket whenever LeBron moved far enough out of position on help defense, but that only allowed Batum to put in 16 points on 6-11 shooting. Crawford added 18 points but committed five turnovers in the process in a very Jamal Crawford-esque performance. The Blazers' trio combined for 55 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists. James and Wade produced 71 points, 13 rebounds and 16 assists on superior efficiency and with less total turnovers than Jamal Crawford. Unsurprisingly, the Heat claimed the victory fairly easily.
Portland fell to .500 with the loss (18-18), while the Heat improved to 28-7 overall and 13-5 on the road. Here's another highlight dunk from LeBron up the recap because at this point I agree with TNT announcers Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller: "Why not?"