LeBron James was too exhausted following one of his greatest games to do much of anything in the second half against Houston the next night.
The Miami Heat hope their leader will be well-rested for a matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, who are coming off one of their more balanced performances of the season.
The Heat visit the Spurs on Thursday night for their second meeting since Miami beat San Antonio in seven games in last season’s NBA Finals.
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James followed his career-best 61-point performance Monday against Charlotte – which also set a Heat record – with 22 points in a 106-103 loss road loss to the Rockets on Tuesday that ended Miami’s winning streak at eight.
The four-time MVP, who acknowledged before the game that he was "extremely tired," had only three points after the break and appeared to drag at times in the second half. He was 1 for 7 over the final two quarters and spent the first half of the fourth on the bench.
"I fought through it in the first half. Second half it just wasn’t there for me," James said. "Got out of rhythm."
Despite his struggles, the Heat managed to cut the deficit to three on Michael Beasley’s 3-pointer with 21.2 seconds left. James, who has been wearing a mask to protect his broken nose, missed a desperation 3 at the buzzer.
Miami never led, but tied it twice in the fourth quarter.
"We were able to push back in the fourth quarter and tie the game up," said Dwyane Wade, who matched Beasley with 24 points to lead Miami. "But we had to exhaust so much energy trying to come back."
The Heat didn’t need any kind of comeback in the first meeting with the Spurs, who trailed by as many as 29 in a 113-101 loss in Miami on Jan. 26.
They also didn’t require a monster game from James. He was solid, scoring 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting, but five other Heat players reached double figures – led by Chris Bosh with 24 – and the team shot over 58 percent (43 for 74).
The Spurs hit 50 percent overall in that game but the NBA’s top 3-point shooting team was done in mostly by a horrid night from long range, missing 16 of 22 attempts. Tim Duncan had 23 points, while Tony Parker had a quiet game with 11 points and seven assists.
Starters Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter didn’t play for San Antonio because of injuries, but all three are healthy heading into this matchup.
Green and Leonard were key in a 122-101 victory at Cleveland on Tuesday. Green scored 24 points and Leonard added 18 as the Spurs won their fourth straight.
They shook off a slow start by hitting 12 of their final 18 3-point attempts and piled up a season-high 39 assists on 43 field goals. In the second half, the Spurs had 24 assists on 25 field goals.
"That doesn’t happen very often," coach Gregg Popovich said. "We’ve been doing that really well all year long, but that’s a ridiculous ratio right there."
The fluid offensive night featured six Spurs in double figures – and Duncan and Parker weren’t among them, combining for 14 points.
"That’s a lot of fun," said reserve Manu Ginobili, who had 11 points. "That means everybody got involved and everybody enjoyed the game. It’s great to be a part of that."
The Spurs won their first regular-season matchup against Miami after James joined the team in 2010, but have lost the last five.