The Miami Heat didn’t score 119 or more for a third time, but they did show us that they are still capable of running an efficient offense AND playing excellent defense.
The Brooklyn Nets, now losers of 11 consecutive to the Heat, stood little to no chance in putting a scare in Miami, especially with their top perimeter defender in small forward Gerald Wallace sitting out. With Wallace out, the Nets were left to starting Keith Bogans at shooting guard and moving Joe Johnson to small forward to defend LeBron James. In an effortless 30 minutes, James recorded 20 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, one steal and two turnovers in the Heat’s 103-73 win.
In five games, that is the third double-double of James’ season. If not for his team annihilating their opponents, he may have a few triple-doubles. James entered the fourth quarter against Brooklyn needing only two assists, but was shut down for the final 12 minutes since the Heat were up 23 and guys like Dwyane Wade and Rashard Lewis were keeping the lead strong.
Wade led all scorers with 22 points on 14 shots, while racking up five assists, two rebounds, two blocks, one steal and one turnover in 32 minutes. Rashard Lewis made up for a poor offensive showing from Chris Bosh, having another excellent outing off the bench with 13 points in 19 minutes, including two dunks.
Dwyane has been quietly getting back into his groove. The shooting guard that received offseason knee surgery has had early struggles, but has been dynamite in past matchups against Phoenix and now Brooklyn. Wade is attacking the rim and, possibly even more encouraging, is hitting jumpers at a consistent clip, bringing up memories of 2006. If Dwyane has worked on his jumper, it prolongs his career a few years since he won’t have to attack the rim at all times to get involved.
Having Ray Allen has also helped. Allen is playing heavy minutes and couldn’t be happier since he’s playing the time that any other starter would play. In 27 minutes against the Nets, Ray finished with nine points, three rebounds and an assist, while converting 1-of-2 from beyond the arc.
The Heat were wildly efficient from the three-point line again, converting 10-of-24 from beyond the arc and using their perimeter shooting to spark the blowout that ensued in the third quarter when Miami pushed an 11-point halftime lead to 23 going into the final frame. Miami received three three-pointers from Shane Battier, two from LeBron, and one apiece from Mario Chalmers, Rashard Lewis, Mike Miller and James Jones.
The Nets were on another planet in their three-point shooting, making only 3-of-21 from the land of three.
It wasn’t easy for everyone Wednesday night on the Heat, though. Bosh struggled with eight points on 2-of-10 shooting, visibly frustrated with the surplus of layups that were rimming in-and-out throughout the first half. He only recorded four rebounds, but also had three steals and a block. The game Bosh had against Brooklyn on the offensive end was inconsistent with how well the center has performed in the past, which includes a recent outing where he needed only ten shots and 25 minutes to score 18 points.
His work on the offensive end was disappointing, but his defense stymied Brook Lopez, arguably the league’s top offensive center, into a forgetful eight points on eight shots.
Speaking of defense, it was quite a sight to see the team return back to those roots of constantly forcing turnovers that lead to fastbreak points, closing out on three-point shooters, and forcing the opposition into difficult jumpers through rotations. The Nets only managed 38 percent shooting from the field, 14 percent from beyond the arc, and only attempted 17 free throws. They also turned the ball over 17 times, including seven times alone from All-Star point guard Deron Williams.
Williams led the Nets with 14 points on 15 shots. He, Kris Humphries (11 points and 11 rebounds), and MarShon Brooks (12 points off the bench) were the only Brooklyn players to score in double-figures. Outside of Brooks, the Nets bench combined to shoot 5-of-22 from the field.
Miami also had only three scorers in double-figures, but also received a lot of scoring from those players, while also receiving contributions from just about everyone who stepped out on the floor. Adding Allen and Lewis to this team has given the Heat a scorer to work with a member of the Big Three at all times. That’s something you didn’t get from previous lineups where Battier or Chalmers were probably the best scorers alongside Wade, James or Bosh.
Lewis has been the most unlikely of contributors. The forward who had been plagued with knee injuries over the past two years wasn’t expected to contribute this early on. Yet, here he is with his third game scoring in double-figures and his fourth game converting at least one three-pointer.
The presence of two veteran shooters, as well as the new-found ability of Chalmers to penetrate and hit the open man under the basket for easy scores, has resulted in the Heat becoming a terrific offensive team. Through five games, the Heat lead the league not just in scoring, but in field-goal percentage, and are also second in field-goals made, tied for second in three-pointers made and third in three-point percentage.
Fundamentals and chemistry have taken over and that’s sour grapes for the rest of the league. Outside of their poor performance against New York where they appeared to just be ready to get it over with, the Heat have been the league’s best offensive team and it’s not even close. Their win against Brooklyn where they only allowed 73 points also proved that they still have the defensive capabilities to make life as difficult as can be on that end of the floor, as well.
That was the last home game for awhile for the Heat. They start a six-game road trip that begins with a visit to the 2-1 Atlanta Hawks on Friday.