1. A Night To Celebrate For LeBron, Heat
OAKLAND, Calif. -- LeBron James' teammates plotted and waited in the locker room, ready to jump him when he rounded the corner.
It took a while, because James had to go through a series of television interviews. First he had an extended sitdown with ESPN's crew, and then he walked across the floor to do the same for the Heat's TV network. It took several more minutes to get through hundreds of fans that huddled around the tunnel at Oracle Arena, believing James might toss his shoes, pieces of his uniform or wristbands into the crowd, as he often does.
Not on this night. His shoes and his uniform were going into a special bag.
"I'm keeping all of this stuff," James said. "Maybe I'll give it to the Hall of Fame after a while."
It took almost 10 minutes for James to finally get back into the arena's tunnel, where he had to go through another receiving line of congratulations from familiar faces, from top Nike officials who had flown in for the special night to Heat president Pat Riley, who made a rare regular-season road trip.
Finally, James made it into the locker room expecting to see teammates icing down or heading into the showers. Instead, a flash mob awaited and piled on James like he'd just hit a game-winning home run.
"Everyone got one in," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "A punch, a jab, an elbow, whatever they could get it before he started hitting back."
Then they gave him the game ball, another piece of memorabilia James stashed away.
"It was awesome," James said with a smile.
It was some memorable night for James, reaching 20,000 points and 5,000 assists in the same game, actually the same half. It was a blowout win, a 92-75 victory over the Golden State Warriors that probably was like hundreds of other games James has played in his life. But it won't be something the players who were in that locker room will forget.
"We all witnessed history tonight," Dwyane Wade said. "It's a great feat and I'm happy to be part of it."
All of it might've happened at a fortuitous time for the Heat. They weren't just struggling on their current road trip (they were 1-3 before Wednesday), but they were displaying numerous signs of frustration. There were thinly veiled complaints about everything from roles to playing time to shots, the classic cocktail of unrest.
James' historic night coincided with perhaps their finest performance on the road this season. The Warriors had been 13-2 against Eastern Conference teams and were 12-5 at home. There was the factor that Stephen Curry turned his problematic right ankle chasing down a loose ball at the morning shootaround, a turn of events that probably contributed to the Warriors' general state of malaise throughout the game.
Nonetheless, the Heat displayed little of the emotionless stupor that seemed to have afflicted them since Christmas, when they congratulated themselves on a nice win over the Oklahoma City Thunder and settled into a going-through-the-motions phase.
When the Heat don't play with much vigor, their nightly game plan of playing "positionless" -- aka undersized and fast -- basketball can melt quickly. But there's a reason Spoelstra devised and is mostly sticking to the strategy through the recent thin times. If engaged, playing that way empowers the Heat's array of talent.
Coming off perhaps their lowest point of the season so far -- Monday's loss in Utah marked by Wade and Chris Bosh's fourth-quarter absence -- Miami acted in a manner befitting their championship status.
They attacked the Warriors defensively, applying pressure and leaping into passing lanes from the game's first moments. The prey was ripe. The Warriors, out of sync and in a slump, readily buckled to the pressure and looked nothing like the team that won in South Florida last month. After three quarters the Heat were up 30, Golden State had 19 turnovers and were shooting 36 percent. Five different Heat players scored in double figures.
That was the kind of game that became customary in the playoffs last year, where it was noteworthy if the Heat missed a defensive rotation or ever didn't look like they had a huge edge in athleticism. It is also something that has been largely missing this season.
There were a lot of reasons for the Heat to reach for this level: it was a potentially big night for the MVP; it was on national television; they wanted to get revenge on the Warriors; they wanted to answer recent adversity. Whatever worked, they seemed to remind themselves what they were capable of.
Now to see if it sticks around or waits for spring to arrive.
"We've trying to get to that consistency," Spoelstra said. "It's not easy, we don't have any excuses for why we haven't gotten there yet. But we have plenty of opportunities. And we hope we can put to rest everything that happened the other night."
2. Around The Association
Recap | Box score
MVP: LeBron James. On the verge of two significant statistical milestones, the reigning MVP was fully engaged from the get-go. Setting the tone for Miami on both ends, James finished with 25 points, 7 rebounds and 10 assists.
X factor: Stephen Curry's absence. Golden State's potential All-Star tweaked his oft-injured right ankle in morning shootaround and was forced to sit this one out. His team's 21 turnovers and 36.3 percent shooting was hardly coincidental.
That was historic: James had his 5,000th assist several minutes after the opening tip, and became the youngest player in league history to reach 20,000 points after a dizzying second-quarter scoring flurry. All hail the King.
Recap | Box score
MVP: DeMarcus Cousins. The big man had a big game, producing on both ends of the floor in the win. Cousins finished tied for a game-high with a +9 plus/minus to go with 21 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Defining moment: John Wall had a chance to give the Wizards a two-point lead with fewer than 30 seconds to play, but missed a pair of free throws. Moments later, Tyreke Evans hit the first of his two attempts from the line to seal the one-point win.
X factor: Wall, who double-doubled with 14 points and a game-high 10 assists. Wall made drawing defenders into the paint look easy, which helped a wide-open rookie Bradley Beal have a career-night -- 26 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal and 1 block.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Kyrie Irving had 31 points and five assists to lead the Cavaliers to a slog of a victory in the Rose Garden. Though Irving coasted through portions of the game, it would be hard to overstate how much he carried his team.
Defining moment: The Cavaliers had a dismal fourth quarter offensively, scoring one field goal in the first six minutes. They ended up pulling it out with Irving's heroics and a few made free throws, but their putrid offense let the weary Blazers back in.
That was an education: Damian Lillard was 0-for-4 from the floor heading into the fourth quarter, and he wasn't the only Blazer suffering from playing in overtime Tuesday night. Portland had to learn what would happen riding its starters on a grueling back-to-back, and it seems it did.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Tim Duncan. The Big Fundamental continued his age-defiant level of play, posting 19 points, 8 rebounds, 5 blocked shots and 4 assists against the Grizzlies' physical frontline.
X factor: Boris Diaw. Often accused of over-passing and hesitating too much, Diaw was much more decisive against Memphis, scoring 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go along with three assists.
Defining moment: In the third quarter, Marc Gasol attacked Tiago Splitter in the lane. Splitter blocked Gasol's shot and out-hustled everyone for a fast-break dunk, emphasizing the gear at which the Spurs played with in the second half that Memphis couldn't match.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Dirk Nowitzki had a calming 10 points in the fourth for Dallas, which is exactly what Dallas needs in games like these. Calm. He had 19 points and eight rebounds for the game.
Defining moment: With about 14 seconds left in the game and Houston down by three, Jeremy Lin passes and miss-connects with a cutting Chandler Parsons for the team's 16th turnover. Turnovers killed Houston.
X factor: You wouldn't believe it if I told you, but I'm going with Mike James. He closed the game on his last night of his 10-day contract and was a game-high +17 when he was in the game.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Russell Westbrook. He scored 32 points on 20 shots in just three quarters, dished four assists and didn't turn it over. He thoroughly dominated Ty Lawson and shredded Denver's pick-and-roll coverage all night.
X factor: Extra possessions. Denver had 19 box-score turnovers, plus two more on shot-clock violations, which led to 28 Thunder points. Oklahoma City also grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, which led to 15 second-chance points.
Defining moment: In a 13-second third-quarter sequence, Westbrook nailed a pull-up jumper off the pick-and-roll, Lawson turned it over, and Kevin Durant led the break and lobbed it up to Serge Ibaka, who flew in from the right side and slammed it home while getting fouled.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Greivis Vasquez's numbers weren't pretty (5-for-16 from the field), but he made play after play down the stretch, attacking the basket, drawing fouls and hitting shots, with Avery Bradley as his primary defender. He finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds in 40 minutes.
X factor: On his way to leading all scorers with 18 points, Hornets forward Al-Farouq Aminu went 12-for-13 from the free throw line. He averages 1.6 attempts per game.
That was rare: Boston came into Wednesday night's game as the seventh-most-accurate free throw shooting team in the league. Against the Hornets, the Celtics missed 10 of their 16 attempts.
3. Wednesday's Best
Carlos Boozer, Bulls: This is the type of Booz that Chicago fans enjoy with great aplomb. He had a season-high 36 points and 12 rebounds, leading Chicago past Toronto 107-105 in OT. Booz cruised to his 21st double-double, tops this season in the East.
4. Wednesday's Worst
Ty Lawson, Nuggets: The normally good Ty was not. Two points, one assist and four turnovers while Russell Westbrook went wild explains how Denver's six-game winning streak was snapped in a 117-97 OKC win.
5. NBA Video Channel
6. Tweet Of The Night
7. Quote Of The Night
8. Father-Son Night
9. Stat Check
LeBron James scored his 20,000th point and handed out his 5,000th assist Wednesday night, in his 726th career game. Only one player in NBA history reached those two milestones in fewer games than James: Oscar Robertson did it in 671 games. Jerry West (789 games) is third on this list.See more from Elias
10. Dunk Of The Night
Most valuable player: Carlos Boozer continued his run of strong play, scoring a season-high 36 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, while fighting through foul trouble. The Boozer that has shown up in 2013 is what Chicago fans have been waiting for.
X factor: Chicago's starting line of Joakim Noah (16 points, 14 rebounds) and Boozer dominated Toronto's big men. Ed Davis, Aaron Gray and Amir Johnson combined for just 16 points on 7-for-21 shooting. The Bulls outscored the Raptors 54-36 in the paint.
That was just another loss for the Raptors when their opponents hit the century mark: Toronto fell to 0-19 this season when they allow 100 points or more.
MVP: Jeff Teague. After being passive for several games, Teague decided to bring his aggressive side to the court in ATL. Teague finished with career-high 28 points, and added 11 dimes as well. He definitely took over the game in Josh Smith's absence.
X factor: Zaza Pachulia almost had a triple-double, setting a career high in assists in the process. The Georgian big man had 13 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists.
That was anti-isolation: With Joe Johnson making his first appearance in Atlanta after the trade, the Hawks put on a great passing display and wound up with 33 assists on 45 field goals. Johnson, meanwhile, finished 4-of-15 shooting.
MVP: J.J. Redick. He ran the Pacers dizzy off picks, set up his teammates and was the most efficient scorer in an offense that made 12 of 21 (57.1 percent) shots from behind the 3-point arc.
X factor: Nikola Vucevic. The Magic center easily could have gotten the game ball given his team-high 16 points and 15 rebounds. Most impressively, he was the biggest presence down low in a game in which his opponent started two former All-Stars in the paint.
That was blowout city: The Magic took a 16-point lead by halftime and held a 19-point edge with under three minutes left in the game. It was only due to garbage-time oddities that the final score wound up (somewhat) respectable.
Bruce Bowen and Israel Gutierrez discuss the Lakers and Heat as they head into their Thursday night matchup, LeBron closing in on 20,000 points, the NBA in Europe and more.