LeBron James is an NBA MVP front-runner after the Miami Heat won Saturday without Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade in the lineup. The Heat beat the Toronto Raptors 120-103 behind the leadership of James, and suddenly he has to be included in every discussion about the 2010-11 NBA MVP.
With team leader Wade out with a migraine and Bosh still out with a left ankle sprain, the undermanned Heat were in trouble on Saturday night. It’s not as though the Raptors are one of the elite teams in the NBA, but any franchise that is missing two of its three best players has a tough time winning games. When James and Bosh were out, Wade was unable to lead the team to victory, so it again looked like a rough night ahead with James in and Wade out.
Miami Heat fans might be talking about this game for a while because not only did it show that James is capable of leading this team, but it finally revealed the emergence of Mike Miller. Miller was brought in this past offseason to be a deadly threat from three-point range, likely to see many more open shots with teams keying in on Wade and James. An injury kept him sidelined at the beginning of the season, and Miller is finally seeing substantial action on the floor. On Saturday night, Miller saw a start beside James on the court.
Miami jumped out to an early 32-17 lead, sparked mostly by a very energetic James doing everything necessary for the team. He showed some of that leadership that had made him a fan favorite in Cleveland, and he could have won over a whole new group of fans with his performance Saturday night. James ended up shooting 14 for 29 from the field, netting 38 points, 11 rebounds and six assists for the night. He also chipped in two steals and a block, all while only committing one turnover for the game.
As for Miller, he shot 12 of 20 from the field, including six three pointers, on his way to a 32-point night. He also grabbed 10 rebounds to help the cause, creating another great tandem for the Heat, and showing that they have another weapon ready for when the roster is back to full strength.
The rest of the league has to be very worried about what took place in this game because it allowed Miller to not only shine, but prove that he could score when the defense knew what was coming. When Bosh and Wade are back the court it will only get easier for Miller, and now he will have that confidence to shine.
For James, he improved his season averages to 25.9 points per game, 7.2 rebounds, and 7.2 assists. Those numbers put him in the MVP race, whether he feels he should be in it or not. Winning this game as the only one of the three superstars in the lineup furthers that case, and it would no longer be a surprise for him to win the award again.