SALT LAKE CITY -- To a degree, it was easier to shrug this one off. After all, how often is LeBron James going to be one of the most inconsistent players in the court?
"It was just one of those days," Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of what now is a 1-1 start to this six-game trip, following his forward's struggles in Saturday night's 94-89 loss to the Utah Jazz. "You are not going to play great every night."
This time, James clearly wasn't good enough, closing with 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting, with five of the Heat's 10 turnovers.
The four baskets were a season low, with the 13 points tying his season low. The 4-of-13 shooting represented his season-low field-goal percentage (.308). According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was first time James had scored so few in a loss in nearly six years, gong all the way back to when he scored 13 in a Cleveland Cavaliers loss to the Detroit Pistons on March 29, 2008.
"You have some like this; it happens once or twice a year," James said, downplaying his struggles just as teammates downplayed the loss to the West-worst Jazz. "I'm OK with that. I'll take those odds."
It was a largely languid effort for James, who was most frustrated by his turnovers.
"I'm seeing the right play, just guys are getting their hands on them," he said. "Especially at the end of the third, I saw Norris (Cole) right open by their bench, when we were down two, and a regular old skip pass, and Jeremy Evans stole it out of the air. And (Gordon) Hayward got his hand on two of them, you know, high hands. It's frustrating."
As for the shooting struggles, he downplayed going 1 of 6 on 3-pointers, as his percentage from beyond the arc continues to plummet.
"Obviously, they haven't been going in," he said. "But I feel comfortable every time I take one. Just got to knock them down. I've gotten in a little funk from behind the three-point line, but I'll get back to it."
That's what the Jazz expect, hardly taking credit for stifling James.
"I think LeBron might have held LeBron to 13 points," said Utah forward Marvin Williams, whose five 3-pointers essentially decided the outcome. "There's nobody that can stop LeBron from scoring."
Richard Jefferson, who led the Jazz with seven fourth-quarter points, five more than James in the period, agreed.
"LeBron's one of the great players of all time, the best player in the game and has been for quite a few years," he said. "So if he comes out after a few days off and puts up 13 points and now we're talking about stopping him, let's not."
And with that, the Heat moved to their next stop, Tuesday's game against the Phoenix Suns.
"We had some great looks, including myself, some really open looks," James said. "It was just one of those games. We were out of our rhythm."
Now the search for new rhythm begins, with a testing back-to-back set that concludes Wednesday night against the Golden State Warriors.
"You go through these. You go through losses on the road that, record-wise, people think you shouldn't lose," guard Dwyane Wade said. "But you know, you do. And it builds character."
Center Greg Oden downplayed playing as the first Heat sub off the bench at the start of Saturday's second half.
"I'm pretty sure it was more about my knees not stiffening up," he said of Spoelstra's decision. "But it is encouraging that I got to get in that second half and do something."
It was an uneven 10 minutes, 49 seconds against the Jazz for Oden, who did not attempt a shot, had four rebounds, one blocked shot, one steal and three fouls.
Oden's bulk was needed, with the Heat outrebounded 41-32.
"I try to get in there and clog it up and if I don't get the rebound, make sure my teammates get the rebound," he said.
He believes he is continuing to make strides, now eight games into his comeback after more than four seasons out of the league.
"As long as I can do the things I'm supposed to, which are defensive, that's what they brought me here for," he said.
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