From Comcast SportsNetMIAMI (AP) -- It's not the type of streak that LeBron James ever thought about, this run of putting together at least 30 points and 60 percent shooting in six straight games.Still, it's something he'll savor. He's rolling right now, and so are the Miami Heat.James scored 30 points on 11 for 15 shooting to get into the NBA record books, Chris Bosh scored 32 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and the Heat wound up beating the Portland Trail Blazers 117-104 in a wild, momentum-swinging game on Tuesday night.It was the 1,000th regular-season win in Heat history. But on this night, the only history anyone will remember was what James accomplished."I'm at a loss for words," James said in a televised postgame interview. "Like I say over and over, I know the history of the game. I know how many unbelievable players who came through the ranks, who paved the way for me and my teammates. And for me to be in the record books by myself with such a stat -- any stat -- it's big-time."Dwyane Wade added 24 points for Miami, which wasted a pair of 14-point leads -- then put the game away with a 14-0 run in the final minutes. Ray Allen added 14 for Miami.Damian Lillard had a game-high 33 points for Portland, which got 29 from LaMarcus Aldridge and 20 from Wesley Matthews.Just like the Heat, the Blazers also saw a 14-point lead slip away in the game, and then simply got shut down late by a stretch of airtight Miami defense."That was typical Miami Heat stuff," Lillard said. "Transition, finishing strong around the rim, and LeBron picking defenses apart."James has made 66 of his past 92 shots, over the past six games -- and is an absurd 60 for 80, or 75 percent, in his last 188 minutes of court time. According to the Heat, only Adrian Dantley and Moses Malone had done the 30-point, 60-percent streak in five straight outings before James joined their club.Now he stands alone."That's why he is who he is," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "The best player in the game."Added Wade: "Obviously he is doing something that is amazing and special."And on a night where the teams took turns putting together big runs, it was the Heat who had the last rally -- ultimately, the last laugh as well.With the game tied at 99-all, James drove baseline on former Cleveland teammate Sasha Pavlovic for a two-handed slam that he punctuated with a long scream.The Heat immediately responded. Matthews made a 3-pointer on the next Portland possession to give the Trail Blazers their last lead. Miami scored the next 14 points, and when James got loose for a dunk with 2:38 remaining, history was his -- the first stretch of six straight 30-point games on 60 percent or better shooting in each outing."He played a very good basketball game," Spoelstra deadpanned afterward. "That's all you're going to get out of me right now. He competes. He loves to compete. He loves close games. ... And he's leading us, not just with his talent."Bosh made a jumper with 1:55 left to end the run and seal the win, Miami's sixth straight overall.Miami next plays Thursday night in Oklahoma City, an NBA Finals rematch before heading into the All-Star break. The Heat topped the Thunder in the first meeting of the clubs this season, winning in Miami on Christmas Day."It's a game we'll look forward to," Wade said.A glance at the halftime boxscore -- Portland 59, Miami 58 -- would have suggested the opening two quarters were closely contested, back-and-forth basketball.Not exactly.There were deep and dramatic shifts in momentum, with James and Aldridge simply taking over play for long stretches in the early going.Miami started with a flurry, hitting its first seven shots and doing so with James collecting five assists in the game's first 3:52. The Heat led 14-5 after that burst, and were still shooting 75 percent with a minute to go in the opening quarter.They also were trailing at that point. The Blazers were doing anything they wanted on the offensive end."I thought it was a good effort by our team," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "Miami's one of the best if not the best team in the league right now and they are playing at a high level. We matched it for about 44 minutes."More than matched it for a while, too.Aldridge went on a personal 13-0 run over a stretch of nearly four minutes midway through the half, single-handedly seeming to turn what was a 29-24 Portland deficit into a 37-29 Portland lead. And another quick burst, this time a 10-1 run by the Blazers, gave the visitors what was their biggest lead, 57-43 with 4:48 left in the half.Take away Miami's sizzling start, and the Blazers outscored the Heat 52-29 over a huge swath of the first half. Of course, by the break, everything looked just about even. James scored 10 points in a 15-2 Miami run to end the half, and the Blazers' lead was down to a single point at intermission.It wound up as a 34-12 run by the Heat in all, as Miami rebuilt what became a 14-point lead midway through third.Predictably, the Blazers came back. Lillard scored nine points in the final 4:36 of the third, and the Miami lead was down to 86-82 entering the fourth after James waited too long to shoot a beat-the-clock 30-footer that went in anyway.But down the stretch, it was all Miami."I thought one of the biggest differences were the 50-50 balls," Lillard said. "A few went their way. And they made us pay."NOTES:It was the 25th time Lillard scored more than 20 points this season, adding to his rookie-of-the-year credentials. ... Aldridge has at least 11 field goals in each of his past five games. ... The Heat were without Mike Miller, the latest victim of the flu bug that has ripped through the locker room, and lost starting forward Udonis Haslem to a lower-leg contusion in the opening quarter. X-rays on Haslem's shin were negative.
BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.
The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.
That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.
That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.
They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.
“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”
So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?
Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.
Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.
The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.
It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.
“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.
“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”
Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”
“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”
So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.
The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while Dave Dombrowski is collecting stars and talent over at Fenway Park. I dig it.
*Interesting piece about switching teams in the NHL and leaving behind old allegiances when the job calls for it.
*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Harvey Fialkov looks at the connections between the Bruins and the Florida Panthers, and more specifically with the Panthers and the Boston-area.
*A rumor round-up across the NHL including the humorous nugget that the Bruins are looking to move Jimmy Hayes. Yes, they are looking to move Hayes. They are begging some other NHL team to take on the player and the contract for somebody that has one point since last February. It’s not happening.
*Escrow is at the heart of the next negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA, and I really thought it was going to be years before I’d have to even think about the CBA again.
*Tough break for the Florida Panthers losing Keith Yandle for a long period of time after he was injured last night vs. the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the story at Pro Hockey Talk.
*Wild coach Bruce Boudreau talks his “bucket list”, which includes a lot of movies and even a stint as a movie reviewer for the Manchester Union Leader back in the day.
*Sounds like Pat Maroon might want to sit out the next few plays after calling hockey a “man’s game” among other things.
*For something completely different: Yup, I’m pretty okay with the Red Sox blowing up the prospect cupboard for Chris Sale.