by Brian Mahoney
AP Basketball Writer
NEWARK, N.J. (AP)—LeBron James left the Nets stunned and their coach speechless.
The only people who knew how to describe what they were seeing were the New Jersey fans.
|ONE MAN GANG—Miami Heat’s LeBron James gives his shoes to Daniel Smith, 7, at the end of the game against the New Jersey Nets, April 16, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
James scored Miami’s final 17 points in a furious one-man rally, finishing with 37 as the Heat pulled out a 101-98 victory over the Nets on Monday night.
In a game the Heat never led until the final 51 seconds, James willed them to their 10th straight victory over the Nets. With Dwyane Wade resting, James scored those 17 points over the last 4:48 of a game that immediately goes into his personal collection of memorable finishes.
“We were able to grind away and not let it go mentally, and that guy, No. 6, he was pretty good going down the stretch,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He was sensational. Obviously, he made every big play offensively. I believe it was 17 straight to close the game. That’s what an MVP does and we needed it at both ends. But also on a night like this, you can come up with a lot of excuses to not bring that type of performance, but that’s not the type of DNA he has inside of him. The Nets played well but we found a way at the end.”
Actually, James did.
He wasn’t sure he was going back in as the fourth quarter reached its midway point. But once he did, he pushed past the Nets with an array of layups, jumpers and free throws, pulling Miami within 2 ½ games of Chicago for the Eastern Conference lead.
“We want to win every last game to close it out,” James said. “We don’t want to lose again the rest of the season. Ultimately we can to continue to get better.”
Chris Bosh had 22 points and 15 rebounds for the Heat, carrying them early in the fourth until James checked back in midway through the period and turned what appeared a certain loss into a stunning victory.
“The guy’s just so big and strong. We attempted to double team him twice, and he just overpowered our guys, and then when the third defender came, he beat the third defender; and then, when we fouled him, he still scored. So just an…you know…I’m at a loss for words. I don’t know what to say,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said.
Miami won for the sixth straight time in New Jersey, a road game in name only. James never thought he’d hear cheers on the road again after joining the Heat, but he earned all of them no matter where the game was.
“I enjoyed it,” said Wade, resting his ankle while the Heat improved to 12-1 without him this season. “I am a fan of the game, so I enjoyed it. He doesn’t get any credit for his scoring ability. I enjoy watching him take over a game like that. It’s fun. Obviously being his teammates, it’s even funner.”
The Nets led by 13 points in the third quarter and were still up seven with under 2-1/2 minutes left, but by then James was almost midway through his finishing kick.
He finally gave the Heat a lead with a driving basket that made it 97-96 with 51 seconds left, then followed with a short jumper with the crowd chanting “Let’s go Heat!”
“Good as I thought, good as a video game. He’s a good player, you know,” the Nets’ Gerald Green said. “I thought we had a great chance to beat them anyway even though he played great, but that’s just the nature of this game when you face guys like that every night.”