Prior to Friday’s game, Lionel Hollins was marveling about LeBron James, especially about the reigning MVP’s ability to avoid off nights.
“Maybe tonight will be one,” the Memphis coach said, grinning, hoping.
It was.
Still, Miami prevailed anyway, 98-91, avenging one of its losses from earlier this season, and extending its overall winning streak to 13.
“I thought that was one of our better wins of the season,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The win was achieved even as James, the November, December, January and now February Eastern Conference Player of the Month, missed eight straight shots over more than 34 minutes of game action, and scraped out 18 points on uncharacteristically errant 4-of-14 shooting. That included a 3-pointer with 24.2 seconds left, over an outstretched Tayshaun Prince.
This Heat win was as much, or more, due to his teammates.
Dwyane Wade continued his efficient recent play, connecting on 9-of-16 shots for 22 points with eight assists.
Shane Battier, who was so instrumental in the Grizzlies’ playoff run in 2011, after they had lost Rudy Gay to injury, was exceptional in every way. Against a team that had won eight straight in the wake of the trading Gay to Toronto, Battier battled the bulkier Zach Randolph for position, stroked four 3-pointers in five attempts, grabbed two critical late rebounds and even set up Chris Bosh for a late layup with a surprising dribble-drive.
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