With the reigning MVP enjoying one of the best stretches in NBA history, the All-Star break didn't appear to come at the right time for LeBron James.
James hopes to pick up where he left off and help the Miami Heat win their eighth straight game on Wednesday night when they visit the Atlanta Hawks, who could be playing their final game with Josh Smith.
After averaging 30.8 points on 71.7 percent shooting during his run of six games with at least 30 points and 60.0 percent shooting, James came up just shy of extending his unprecedented streak in a 110-100 win at Oklahoma City on Thursday.
He finished with 39 points and shot 14-of-24 (58.3 percent) from the field, but James was merely interested in the Eastern-Conference best Heat (36-14) extending their longest winning streak of the season heading into the break.
"I just go out and play my game, and that was the result of it," James said. "It didn't bother me and it didn't matter if I got it or not. ... To win is what it's all about.'
That's all Miami has done against the Hawks (29-22) lately, winning the past five meetings overall and the last six in Atlanta.
Chris Bosh had a game-high 24 points and James added 21 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists as the Heat won 95-89 at Philips Arena without a flu-ridden Dwyane Wade on Nov. 9. Wade was healthy Dec. 10 in Miami, making 11 of 13 from the field in a 101-92 victory while James added 27.
Sparked by James' historic stretch, Miami averaged 111.8 points - 8.6 above its season mark - and hit 52.0 percent from the field in its last five games before the break.
The Heat will try to continue that efficiency against an Atlanta team that allowed an average of 104.5 points over a four-game span before tightening things up in a 108-76 win at Orlando last Wednesday.
The Hawks, who won three of four heading into the break and currently are sixth in the East, may look like a completely different team by the time they take the floor Friday against Sacramento. The NBA's trade deadline is Thursday, and Smith has been one of the most-discussed names in the league's increasingly busy rumor mill.
"I'm not worried about any outside distractions, media, hearsay," said Smith, who has spent all of his eight-and-a-half seasons with Atlanta but will be a free agent come July. "I just try to come out and play my game and not worry about anything else.'
Smith has played well despite the rumors, averaging 24.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and shooting 58.2 percent in his last four games.
He hasn't done much lately against the Heat, however. Smith has shot 36.0 percent and averaged 15.3 points in his last six in the series.
Atlanta has reached 100 points in a season-best five straight games, but hasn't scored more than 92 in its last four in this series.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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