Again. Even though this should have been a routine win for Miami.
Though the Rockets have put forth some impressive efforts thus far this season, no one expected them to remain competitive against a Heat team that had just suffered a horrid loss at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies.
But they did.
And as has become the norm for Miami when the going got tough, it turned to LeBron.
As what has also become the standard, The Chosen One delivered.
Stat Line: 38 points, 10 rebounds and six assists on 60 percent shooting.
To put it bluntly, Monday was not the Heat's night.
Miami got off to an early 17-point lead that the Rockets nearly erased by halftime.
By that point, the Heat's commanding lead had been cut to four and James only had six points under his belt. After watching this team fall apart in Memphis merely 24 hours prior, a second-straight lost seemed imminent.
Not on James' watch.
LeBron took over in the second-half, scoring 32 points and emerging as the Heat's end-all down the stretch. Every time it looked as if Houston was ready to pull away, every time they made a huge three in the closing minutes, James answered with an assault of his own, scoring 11 points in the final six minutes.
His ultimate dagger came with the Heat down by one late in the fourth. He drove toward the basket, got a great look at the rim and threw the rock in to put the Heat ahead for good with less than 20 seconds to go.
After Jeremy Lin threw up an air ball on the other end, Miami just needed to make its free throws to secure the victory, thereby ensuring LeBron's efforts were not wasted.
Dwyane Wade couldn't, though. He missed both of his attempts. Chris Bosh, however, could. He was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound off Wade's second miss and sank two free throws to put the game out of reach once and for all.
And after swarming James Harden on the other end and forcing him into a contested three as time expired, James was able to breathe. Finally.
It wasn't as if this was a trap game. LeBron and company were blown out just the night before, so their thirst for redemption should have never been more prevalent.
But after building an early lead, they put it in cruise control, allowing the Rockets to push the pace and receive far too many open looks at the basket.
The result was almost disastrous.
If not for James, Miami would have left the Toyota Center in Houston with a second-straight road loss and been subject to an onslaught of questions that tainted their status as reigning champs. That wasn't an option for James.
The King did what all champions do—he put the outcome of the game on his shoulders and carried the Heat the rest of the way.
If he wasn't creating space for his teammates, he was scoring. If he wasn't on the offensive end, he was playing suffocating defense and rebounding the ball at a high rate. And if shots weren't falling or Houston was making another run, James kept his team's heads up.
Simply put, he was relentless in that second-half.
He imposed his will to win on the rest of his team. He took the pressure that was on Miami and threw it in the face of the Rockets.
He won this game for the Heat.
"We don't take him for granted," Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra said of James (via Matt Miller of NBA.com) after the game. "We know how valuable he is."
And now, so do the rest us.
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