LeBron James scored 30 points against Charlotte in Game 3, but it was two points in particular -- a breakaway dunk -- that will be the talk of the town after this game. Miami went on to crush the Bobcats 98-85 to take a 3-0 lead.
• The staredown. It was something the Cleveland iteration of LeBron James never would have done. An Akron-born kid had too much respect and adoration for his ideal Michael Jordan. But after four MVP awards, three trips to the finals and two championships, James knows his place in history is at stake.
So late in the third quarter, with the Heat blitzing the Bobcats, James stole the ball in the front court and took off the only way LeBron can, with the kind of frightening ferocity we've seen a million times. But as he gathered, James did something different, something perhaps out of character. He glanced toward the sideline at Jordan, sitting there courtside, gathered and hammered it home as if to say "I know you see me. I see you, and I'm coming for you."
James, for his part, denied it was a message after the game, but take a look at the video and decide for yourself.
And it was a fitting moment in a game where Miami reminded us why it's a championship contender. LeBron was sensational, finishing with 30 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. It was the 21st game in James' playoff career he went for 30,10,and five the only player accomplish that feat in NBA history according to Elias Sports.
Miami outscored the Bobcats 67-38 in the second and third quarters combined, and flashed an unstoppable offense and suffocating defense, capable of shutting you down at a moments notice. And if Miami can play like it did in Game 3 for the rest of the playoffs, they'll do something Michael Jordan, for all of his greatness, never did: take four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
• Miami's 'other guys' pick up slack. Coming into Game 3, Chris Anderson had a +36 point differential in the series. We know Miami had an advantage with the Big Three, but it's been the role players who have really created a mismatch in this series. Before garbage time, the Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and James triumvirate combined to take 41 shots. The rest of the team took 39. The Big Three scored 55 points, while the rest of the team chipped in 43.
When you consider Miami got nearly 67 percent of its offensive output from the Big Three in in a close Game 2 win, the reduced burdened suits the Heat. The takeaway may seem obvious, but it's a crucial tenant of the Heat's championship hopes: when 'the other guys' play well, the Heat are nearly impossible to beat.
Anderson came off the bench to add 12 points and seven rebounds in 22 critical minutes, particularly on defense. Norris Cole once again hounded Kemba Walker, blitzing the pick-and-roll, making it difficult for Walker ( 13 points) to get on track.
Even James Jones, who has morphed into the Heat's floor-spacer as Shane Battier and Mike Miller did the last two years, got into the act. Jones blocked Michael Kidd-Gilchrist twice on one defensive possession, making an impact despite shooting just 1-of-5 from deep.
• Steve Clifford should have let the Bobcats stay in Miami between Game 1 and 2. ...Because they're not going back to South Beach. No team in NBA history has come back from an 0-3 hole to win a series, but the 'Cats don't need to win the series to force a return to South Florida. That being said, Al Jefferson, though dominating in stretches, can't play the 40 minutes of indomintable ball he would otherwise be capable of if healthy.
After scoring 15 in the first quarter, Big Al managed just five points the rest of the way. The anesthetic shots he's getting for his plantar fasciitis seem to wear off and he's obviously laboring up and down the court.
Kidd-Gilchrist was unable to build on his impressive Game 2 performance in Game 3, finishing with more turnovers (four) than points (three).
Armed with a top-five defense, the Bobcats still have no answer for the Heat's surgical offensive precision. The Heat turned it over just seven times in Game 3. On the other side of the ball, Miami kept Charlotte under the half-century mark until midway through the third quarter, allowing just 39 second-half points after giving up 27 in the first quarter alone.
When this series is over, Charlotte will have the same number of wins in franchise history as when it started: zero.
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