MIAMI — Michael Jordan starred in “Space Jam.” Apparently, LeBron James now also is out of this world.
After seeing what James has done this week, Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade only could gaze out at the universe to provide an adequate description.
“He’s off the planet right now,” Wade said. “He’s not even the best basketball player on the planet. He’s surpassed the planet to somewhere else. He’s in the galaxy right now.”
James had another game Friday night in which he was hanging around the Milky Way. In a 111-89 drubbing of the Los Angeles Clippers at AmericanAirlines Arena, he shot 9-of-11 for a game-high 30 points while not needing to play in the fourth quarter.
Plug in what James has done in his past four games and the field-goal percentage that comes out makes it appear the calculator is in error. He has shot 43-of-59 for 72.9 percent. Considering James made his final four field-goal attempts last Sunday at Toronto, the first in the four-game stretch, he’s drilled 37 of his last 47 shots for 78.7 percent.
“You look at the numbers, it says that I haven’t,” James said when asked if he’s ever had a shooting stretch like this, including in pee-wee ball. “You go by the numbers, I guess. Have I been in a grove where I felt like I can do so many things? Yeah, I’ve felt that way. But as far as the shooting percentages, the numbers don’t lie. So I guess I haven’t.”
James last Monday shot 13-of-14 against Charlotte, his 92.9 percent being the best shooting game of his 10-year career. James’ 81.8-percent night Friday merely tied for the second-best effort of his career.
So what’s next for James? He was asked if he’s striving for the perfect game in terms of not missing an attempt.
“I would love to do it,” James said. “Who wouldn’t want to go a game without missing a shot? But I don’t go putting pressure on myself, saying, ‘Don’t miss a shot.’ I just go out and play and the results of going 13-or-14 or 9-for-11 or whatever the case may be, has happened.”
The 9-for-11 actually was more impressive than the 13-for-14. In the game against Charlotte, James shot every single attempt inside the paint. And the game was against the woebegone Bobcats.
But Friday’s outing was against the Clippers (35-17), who arrived with the fourth-best record in the NBA. And James shot 4-of-5 from 3-point range.
James also should have gone 9-of-10. After starting out 6-of-6, he did not get a favorable hometown scoring ruling when tied up under the basket early in the third quarter by Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. It was ruled a blocked shot and a jump ball for James’ first miss of the night.
“No, I didn’t,” James said about whether it should have been regarded as a shot. “Whatever. It’s cool.”
Baseball scorers sometimes make adjustments the next day on plays that either are or aren’t errors. Maybe there will be late change and James will be credited for 9-of-10.
Nevertheless, it seems as if one of the toughest aspects of Miami coach Erik Spoelstra’s job now comes during the post-game interview. He must try to come up with new ways to describe James’ play.
“We try to come up with new superlatives every single game,” Spoelstra said. “He’s the best player in the game, and he’s continuing to re-invent himself. If you had to grade shootaround today, he was spectacular. This guy isn’t trying to shy away from work ethic or preparation. He’s getting after it. My film sessions, he treats them like he’s a coach.”
So James on Friday was the MVP of the morning shootaround and of the game at night. It wasn’t immediately clear if James missed any shots during the shootaround.
But James had help at night in the superlative department. The Heat (33-14) played their best game of the season in blowing the Clippers out of the building.
Miami led by as much as 80-57 late in the third quarter. James was given the night off after the third quarter, when the Heat were leading 93-68 and busy shooting 62.7 percent (they finished at 52.9 percent after mostly scrubs went 4-of-17 in the fourth quarter).
Wade helped James out with 20 points and point guard Mario Chalmers had 18 while shooting 5-of-8 on 3-pointers. Wade played despite missing the shootaround with the flu. Center Chris Bosh and Ray Allen also stayed home due to similar illnesses, and both also missed the game.
So the Heat were shorthanded and the Clippers had their entire team intact for the first time all season. Returning from injuries were All-Star starters Chris Paul, who had missed the previous nine games, and Blake Griffin, who had missed the previous two, along with Jamal Crawford and Chauncey Billups.
“We didn’t want them coming in and getting their rhythm back on us,” Wade said.
James made sure early that wouldn’t happen. He shot 3-of-3 in both the first and second quarters and the Heat led 62-50 at halftime.
James even had two blocks in the first half as well as the most crowd-pleasing moment of the night. When the ball went into the fifth row of the stands, a fan threw it back. James then tossed the ball back to the man, who who returned it James as the crowd roared its approval.
There was plenty to cheer about all night for James. In fact, even Paul, who is a good friend, had to marvel at his showing.
“LeBron is unbelievable,” said Paul, who wasn’t, shooting 1-of-5 for three points. “He can play. When he’s shooting the ball like that, he’s almost unguardable.”