Then they got just what the doctor ordered. Two home games against a Washington Wizards squad that was playing without John Wall and a Detroit Pistons team that had seen better days. Miami handled themselves very well in both games winning by 11 against the Wizards and 25 against the Pistons as they led both games.
It was the day of Dec. 2 that every NBA fan had penciled into their calendars. You might have never had any problem with LeBron James before, but you know that you wanted to tune into TNT at 8 p.m. to see how the city of Cleveland would react to the return of the self-annointed king. This was the biggest 20th game of an NBA season in history as LeBron’s new team was set to take on the team that he had spurned only a few months prior.
Prior to the start of the season, it was expected to be an easy win for the Heat, but following their slow start and chemistry issues, it was entirely possible that the hostile Quicken Loans crowd would have been able to throw LeBron and co. off their game. It was at least expected to go down to the wire as a number of Cavalier players spoke out against LeBron and the Heat.
LeBron was met with boo birds, incessant chanting and fan made signs, but he met the Cavaliers with 38 points, eight assists, and five rebounds to lead the Heat to a 118-90 win, their second largest margin of victory this season. They had led by as much as 38 late in the third quarter and the booing and chanting began to wane down by the end of the first half when the Heat took a 19-point lead into the break.
The hostile environment only motivated and inspired James as he made shots from all over the floor, shooting 15-of-25 on the night. Dwyane Wade supported James with 22 points, nine rebounds and nine assists of his own, while Chris Bosh had a quiet night with 15 points, five rebounds and three assists. For the second time in three games, the big three had combined for 70 plus points.
Nevertheless, they still only beat a 7-10 Cleveland Cavaliers team, a 6-12 Detroit Pistons and a 5-10 Washington Wizards squad playing without arguably it’s best player. However, it’s not about who they beat, but how they win. The fact of the matter is that not only did the Heat handle each of these teams with ease, they led by 20 points in each game, but they began to play like a team. A team that wasn’t reduced to taking difficult jump shots, being painfully outrebounded or being outplayed at nearly every aspect of the game.
No, this looked like a complete team rather than 15 individuals attempting to find their identity. This was the Miami Heat team that was brought together to win a championship. Breaking records will have to wait, but it appears that the lack of chemistry and cohesion might be a thing of the past as this team is finally starting to look like a well-rounded roster. LeBron, Dwyane and Chris are adjusting to their roles on the team and the role players are learning to thrive off of the big three.
It all began to happen after a half-hour meeting between Erik Spoelstra and LeBron James prior to the start of their match-up with the Washington Wizards and a players-only meeting held after their loss to the Mavericks. The issues of how slow the offense was run was brought up and just how lackluster and sloppy this team had been playing for the first 17 games of the season. A few hours later and the Heat were running a much more fluent offense as they began to look like a team that was in the midst of developing a chemistry.
They’re beginning to find a rhythm as they begin to have confidence in each other and learn to share the ball. We can clearly see LeBron and Dwyane beginning to share the spotlight as they begin to find each other for easy shots, as well as finding their teammates for easy shots as well that they weren’t finding earlier in the season. Chris is also learning the art of driving as he begins to find most of his points either off of open mid-range shots or off of a drive.
Are the Heat championship bound after beating three lowly teams? Not at all. Should the Heat be considered an elite team again? Not yet. These three games were used mostly as confidence builders, so that they can begin to find their identity and learn how to play with each other. The Miami Heat are nowhere near where they are supposed to be, but they are beginning to play like the motivated and inspired team that Heat fans have been waiting for.
With games against a Joe Johnson-less Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks on tap, the Heat have more opportunities to build up some confidence and some teamwork before a three game West Coast trip where Miami will play the Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, and Sacramento Kings. The next few games will be huge for the Heat as they might be able to run off a modest sized win streak before their Christmas game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
We’ve seen what the big three are capable of, we just need to see them do it at a consistent rate to ensure the Heat have a successful season this year and in the future.