LeBron's regular season a work of art
MIAMI — The final stroke likely has been painted on LeBron James’ 2012-13 regular season. It should be hung on the wall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It was truly a classic. Even James had to acknowledge it likely was the most efficient regular season of his 10-year career.
“I’ve had some really good individual seasons,’’ James said after totaling 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists in his Miami Heat’s 105-93 win Sunday over the Chicago Bulls at AmericanAirlines Arena. “I think as far as efficiency, yeah, if you look at the numbers.’’
Obviously, the playoffs will play a major role in determining how James’ season will be remembered when pages are turned back one day in the NBA record book. But if the Heat can win a second straight title, this should go down as James’ greatest overall season.
The Heat have two games left in the regular season, Monday at Cleveland and Wednesday at home to Orlando. James said he probably won’t play against his former team and there’s no chance he will suit up against the Magic.
So expect James’ final statistics to be averages of 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists and shooting percentages of 56.5 from the field and 40.6 from 3-point range. Both of those percentages are the best in James’ career, as is his rebounding figure. He also committed a career-low 3.0 turnovers and a career-low 1.4 fouls per game while playing as well defensively as he ever has.
James is expected next month to be handed his fourth career MVP trophy. He would join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six), Bill Russell (five), Michael Jordan (five) and Wilt Chamberlain (four) as the only players to have won that many.
“Very efficient,’’ James said of his regular season. “Being able to put myself in a position to be the best player on the floor and my teammates allowing me to do the things I do. My coaching staff put me in position to be successful, and it’s just a testament to my off-season workouts and implementing my off-season workouts to game situations and being very comfortable with my game and just going out and making plays.’’
It has resulted in the Heat's being 64-16 and two games away from becoming the 13th team in NBA history to win 66 or more. One to do it was James’ Cleveland gang of 2008-09, when the Cavaliers went 66-16 and he won his first MVP.
The highlight of Miami’s regular season obviously was a 27-game winning streak, which started when James became the first player in NBA history to have six straight games with 30 points while shooting 60 percent or better. The streak came to an end with a 101-97 loss March 27 at Chicago.
Wouldn’t it figure that James’ last regular-season act was exacting some revenge for that defeat? That also was the night James complained after the game about the Bulls getting overly physical and making “not basketball plays'' on him.
James did call Sunday a “physical’’ and “testy’’ game. It included Heat center Chris Bosh getting a technical for jawing at Chicago forward Carlos Boozer, who later had a hard clear-path foul on Miami guard Dwyane Wade.
James, though, didn’t want to talk about what he had said after the previous game. He had singled out in his comments Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich and forward Taj Gibson for hard hits. Gibson sat out Sunday due to a knee injury.
“We expected that it was going to be a pretty tight whistle early,’’ said Hinrich, whose Bulls had nine of their 30 fouls in the first quarter. But Hinrich said he had “no clue’’ whether James’ comments had resulted in that being the case.
While James might not have been making a big deal out of it, Bosh at least acknowledged it sure doesn’t hurt to beat a physical Chicago team. With the Bulls having defeated the Heat in two of three previous meetings, there has been some talk that teams can have success while mixing it up with Miami.
“We’ve done it before,’’ Bosh of the Heat having won physical games. “Sometimes they want to see the same tricks. So you just have to continue to do what you’re supposed to. We understand that some people are going to look at some things and say, ‘Hey, we can beat them doing this.’ If it’s true or not, we don’t know. But we’re going to play that style of basketball if we have to.’’
Another perceived Heat flaw entering the playoffs is the health of Wade, who had missed six games with knee and ankle problems before returning Friday against Boston. But there didn’t look Sunday to be much concern.
Playing 37 minutes, two more than his seasonal average, Wade looked good with 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting and pronounced himself ready for the playoffs, which begin next Saturday or Sunday against Milwaukee. Along with forward Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier, who both sat out against the Bulls due to nagging injuries, Wade didn’t make the trip Sunday night to Cleveland.
Bosh and James traveled, although both could be watching in street clothes. James doesn’t see much need to go against his former team.
“I'm probably a game-time decision,’’ he said. “I'm probably leaning toward not playing.’’
What’s the point? For this regular season, James’ work is done. Perhaps now he’s ready to take it to an even higher level for the playoffs.
“I’m just trying to continue to push the button,’’ James said of continuing to raise his game. “I want to continue to get better and maximize my potential on the floor … (James strives) to be as close to perfect as possible.’’
This is an international game. So perhaps when all is done, James’ 2012-13 season actually will be on display at the Louvre.