Updated: January 17, 2013, 10:05 AM ET

1. A Night To Celebrate For LeBron, Heat

By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- LeBron James' teammates plotted and waited in the locker room, ready to jump him when he rounded the corner.

It took a while, because James had to go through a series of television interviews. First he had an extended sitdown with ESPN's crew, and then he walked across the floor to do the same for the Heat's TV network. It took several more minutes to get through hundreds of fans that huddled around the tunnel at Oracle Arena, believing James might toss his shoes, pieces of his uniform or wristbands into the crowd, as he often does.

Not on this night. His shoes and his uniform were going into a special bag.

"I'm keeping all of this stuff," James said. "Maybe I'll give it to the Hall of Fame after a while."

It took almost 10 minutes for James to finally get back into the arena's tunnel, where he had to go through another receiving line of congratulations from familiar faces, from top Nike officials who had flown in for the special night to Heat president Pat Riley, who made a rare regular-season road trip.

LeBron James, Carl Landry
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesLeBron James, youngest to 20,000 points.

Finally, James made it into the locker room expecting to see teammates icing down or heading into the showers. Instead, a flash mob awaited and piled on James like he'd just hit a game-winning home run.

"Everyone got one in," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "A punch, a jab, an elbow, whatever they could get it before he started hitting back."

Then they gave him the game ball, another piece of memorabilia James stashed away.

"It was awesome," James said with a smile.

It was some memorable night for James, reaching 20,000 points and 5,000 assists in the same game, actually the same half. It was a blowout win, a 92-75 victory over the Golden State Warriors that probably was like hundreds of other games James has played in his life. But it won't be something the players who were in that locker room will forget.

"We all witnessed history tonight," Dwyane Wade said. "It's a great feat and I'm happy to be part of it."

All of it might've happened at a fortuitous time for the Heat. They weren't just struggling on their current road trip (they were 1-3 before Wednesday), but they were displaying numerous signs of frustration. There were thinly veiled complaints about everything from roles to playing time to shots, the classic cocktail of unrest.

James' historic night coincided with perhaps their finest performance on the road this season. The Warriors had been 13-2 against Eastern Conference teams and were 12-5 at home. There was the factor that Stephen Curry turned his problematic right ankle chasing down a loose ball at the morning shootaround, a turn of events that probably contributed to the Warriors' general state of malaise throughout the game.

Nonetheless, the Heat displayed little of the emotionless stupor that seemed to have afflicted them since Christmas, when they congratulated themselves on a nice win over the Oklahoma City Thunder and settled into a going-through-the-motions phase.

When the Heat don't play with much vigor, their nightly game plan of playing "positionless" -- aka undersized and fast -- basketball can melt quickly. But there's a reason Spoelstra devised and is mostly sticking to the strategy through the recent thin times. If engaged, playing that way empowers the Heat's array of talent.

Coming off perhaps their lowest point of the season so far -- Monday's loss in Utah marked by Wade and Chris Bosh's fourth-quarter absence -- Miami acted in a manner befitting their championship status.

They attacked the Warriors defensively, applying pressure and leaping into passing lanes from the game's first moments. The prey was ripe. The Warriors, out of sync and in a slump, readily buckled to the pressure and looked nothing like the team that won in South Florida last month. After three quarters the Heat were up 30, Golden State had 19 turnovers and were shooting 36 percent. Five different Heat players scored in double figures.

That was the kind of game that became customary in the playoffs last year, where it was noteworthy if the Heat missed a defensive rotation or ever didn't look like they had a huge edge in athleticism. It is also something that has been largely missing this season.

There were a lot of reasons for the Heat to reach for this level: it was a potentially big night for the MVP; it was on national television; they wanted to get revenge on the Warriors; they wanted to answer recent adversity. Whatever worked, they seemed to remind themselves what they were capable of.

Now to see if it sticks around or waits for spring to arrive.

"We've trying to get to that consistency," Spoelstra said. "It's not easy, we don't have any excuses for why we haven't gotten there yet. But we have plenty of opportunities. And we hope we can put to rest everything that happened the other night."


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