After the way LeBron James treated the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center, they might want to start chiseling his bust on Mount Rushmore immediately.
James was absolutely spectacular, scoring a season-high 42 points and dazzling the sellout crowd of 20,461 while leading the Miami Heat to a 117-106 triumph over the Mavs. Along the way, King James converted 16 of 23 shots and also picked up nine rebounds and six assists while reminding everyone that he’s still the game’s best all-around player.
“He was great in all areas,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “Hey look, he’s great, we know he’s great.
“He had a bundle of points on us the last time, but he was even better tonight.”
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James tagged the Mavs for 39 points when the two clubs met Nov. 15 in Miami. That was his season high until Tuesday, when he unleashed another barrage of points on the Mavs, who lost their first game after the All-Star break and fell to 32-23 on the season.
“I thought we played extremely hard and I thought our heart was really in the right place all night,” Carlisle said. “We just had some untimely misses, some untimely turnovers that really hurt us, and they’re a team that takes advantage of those and they make you pay an exponential price, and that’s what happened in the fourth quarter.”
Vince Carter made a 3-pointer, was fouled by Ray Allen and completed the four-point play to give the Mavs a 95-92 lead and get the AAC rocking with 7:47 remaining in the game. From there, James took over and showed why he is among the game’s greatest players.
James went on a personal 8-0 run, which included back-to-back 3-pointers following turnovers by Shawn Marion and Carter. James added a dunk and a pair of free throws, and a dunk by Chris Andersen completed a 14-0 run by the Heat, which soared ahead 106-95 with 3:20 left.
All of that quick action by the Heat took the wind out of the Mavs and left the crowd — which included Dallas Cowboys players Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams — gasping for air.
“We had a couple of turnovers in there that really got things going the wrong way and we just couldn’t recover,” Carlisle said of the Heat’s game-changing rally. “That’s about as simple as I can put it.
“Miami does as a good a job of anybody at forcing turnovers.”
The two-time defending NBA champions turned 16 Mavs turnovers into 24 points and won despite being outrebounded by a sizeable 50-28 margin.
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists; Carter added 15 points and seven boards; and Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon and Brandan Wright each scored 12 points.
But when the Mavs — who led 85-84 after three quarters — badly needed a basket to stop the flurry of points by Miami, no one stepped to the plate to deliver any points.
“I felt we had a good run in us,” Carlisle said. “We made a terrific run in the third quarter, and then it was just trying to keep it going and keep traction, and we had some untimely struggles.
“We played hard all night. We didn’t defend as well [in the first half] as we did in the second half.”
The Mavs actually got some energy when they grabbed four offensive rebounds during one trip up the court early in the fourth quarter, which ended with a pair of free throws by Devin Harris.
“We battled out there,” Marion said. “They were able to capitalize on our turnovers, but for the most part I thought we did the job out there.
“Everybody competed, helped each other and was communicating when we needed to. We just had some costly turnovers and they were able to hurt us.”
Now the Mavs will embark on a three-game road trip that starts Friday in Philadelphia. They’ll do so knowing they allowed the Heat to shoot a sizzling 57.1 percent from the field.
“We’ve got to regroup and we’ve got to look forward,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got a very important trip coming up, and from here we all know how important all the games are.”