Miami • Aw, hell, the King.
Just when the Jazz had a glimmer of hope Saturday against the defending NBA champions — or the score, at least, suggested they did — the man you figured would intervene did just that.
He made layups frontward and backward; fall-away jump shots fell anyway. Playing their first game in Miami since their unforgettable double-overtime victory in 2010, the Jazz could do little to stop LeBron James as he led the Heat to a 105-89 win. It sent the Jazz (14-14) on to Orlando with a bruised ego, a banged-up point guard and badly at risk of falling to 1-3 on this road trip.
James scored 30 points, flirted with a triple-double (nine rebounds, seven assists) and scored 21 points in the second half.
“I don’t need to sit here and say how great LeBron James is,” a dispirited Al Jefferson said. “He’s been proving that ever since he’s been in the league.”
The scary thing — less for the Jazz and more for the rest of the league — is how effortlessly he seems to be doing it. James became the first player since Karl Malone in 1989-90 to start a season with 24 straight games with 20 or more points. On Saturday, he was 11 of 20 from the field and extended his streak without committing a foul to 27 quarters.
While the people of Miami can sit around and pat themselves on the back for being the benefactors of James’ talents, the prospects facing the Jazz are far less rosy.
Utah has lost five of its last six games, stands at 5-12 on the road and shot just 41 percent against the Heat, and who knows when Mo Williams will be back? The Jazz point guard strained his right thumb in the second quarter when, he said, he caught it on Mario Chalmers’ leg.
In postgame interviews, he compared the pain to an injury in 2008, when he tore a ligament in the thumb and required offseason surgery.
The Jazz fell behind by as much as 20 in the third quarter, and battled back to cut it to 10 after six straight points from Gordon Hayward. They cut it to 90-81 with 5:33 left in the game, but the Heat went on a 15-1 run over the next four minutes to put the game out of hand.
With Williams, the Jazz played the Heat to a 47-43 first half. Without him, they gave up eight straight points in the first minute and a half of the third quarter, which started with a James jumper. Shane Battier then hit back-to-back 3s, and the Jazz found themselves down 12.
While Williams can be hot and cold for the Jazz and his shots occasionally out of rhythm or the flow of the game, the Jazz clearly struggled without him.
“It hurt us,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. “It took our pace and speed down. He’s one of our key guys, and we need all our key pieces — especially against a team like that.”
With Williams out, the Jazz needed someone else to step up, and aside from nine second-half points from Gordon Hayward (who finished with 15 off the bench) it didn’t happen. Jefferson, who entered the game averaging a team-best 16.8 points, finished with six points and 10 rebounds. He scored fewer than 10 points for the second straight game.
“They fronted me,” Jefferson said, “then when I did catch the ball, they double-teamed me.”
The Jazz’s hot hand, Marvin Williams, had 12 points in the first quarter, but bewilderingly played just 15 minutes the rest of the game. He finished with 16 points.
Corbin spent the night trying to find an answer for James, playing both Williams and Paul Millsap on him. But James wasn’t the only problem for the Jazz. The Heat presented predictable issues for the Jazz. Their playmakers — James and Dwyane Wade — can beat nearly any defender off the dribble. If another player slides over to help, it inevitably leaves a man open — usually for 3.
“I feel like that happened a lot in the second half,” Marvin Williams said, “and those guys made big shots.”
The Heat made 11 of 24 3-pointers, including four by Battier and two each by Ray Allen and Mike Miller.
But the man throwing daggers? That was James.
“It’s no mystery,” Marvin Williams said. “Like I said, man, he’s considered one of the best players in this world for a reason.”
Storylines Miami flexes its talent
O LeBron James leads Miami with 30 points and the Heat run over the reeling Jazz.
• The Jazz trail 47-43 at halftime, but give up eight straight points to start the third quarter.