For the first time in a long time, the Miami Heat strayed away from playing down to their opponent, instead resorting to their commonplace nature of playing like an NBA champion should.
LeBron James sat out the entire fourth quarter and still managed to finish with 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, leading his Heat to a definitive 102-72 victory. Dwyane Wade had a conservative 13 points on eight shots to go along with three rebounds and two steals.
Chris Bosh managed only 12 points and five rebounds, but saw the majority of his contributions come in the first half. Once the third quarter began, it turned into the LeBron and Dwyane show; Chris just happened to have the best seat in the house.
The Washington Wizards were in for a bad day. They were running Jordan Crawford as their point guard, even though he’s not a point guard, because of regular starter A.J. Price’s injury. The Wizards were already playing without John Wall. They had no choice but to play either Crawford or Shaun Livingston as their starter.
Crawford finished with six turnovers, leading the way for a Wizards team that coughed up the ball 21 times. Naturally, the Heat took advantage, especially in the third quarter when that championship defense was put on full display. After allowing only 14 points in the first quarter, the Heat gave up a mere 10 points while scoring 29 0f their own to enter the fourth quarter with a 33-point lead.
The 36 points the Heat allowed in the first half was the least amount of points they have allowed in the first half this season.
Plus, the Heat were just mad. They were mad that they were embarrassed by the Wizards in a four-point loss that began a skid of three losses in five games and they were frustrated from the extremely winnable game they dropped at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. Miami held a four-point lead with a little more than two minutes remaining, but missed all four three-point attempts before falling at the hands of a game-winning layup with .9 seconds left.
This time around, however, the Heat weren’t going to get into a position where the game would inevitably be decided in the final seconds. Miami hasn’t been running through the lower-tier teams as they have over the past two years. Instead, they’re finding legitimate competition from the likes of the Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the San Antonio Spurs playing without three starters and their sixth man.
It was a completely different story for Miami Saturday night. The Heat scored the first four points of the night and didn’t look back, building up a lead that stood at 23-7 at one point. Miami went into the second with a 12-point advantage and saw the lead seldom fall below ten. Washington simply didn’t have the ball movement that allowed the team to defeat the Heat in their first meeting.
The Wizards had a season-high 31 assists in their first game against Miami. They had only 16 Saturday, five less than the amount of turnovers they had.
Washington only had two players score in double figures: Bradley Beal with 19 points on 18 shots and Cartier Martin who hit four three-pointers to finish with 18 points. No one else on the team scored more than eight points.
Meanwhile, the Heat had four starters score in double-figures with the lone exception being Mario Chalmers, who finished with nine. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night came from Udonis Haslem. Starting at power forward, Haslem made his first two mid-range jumpers and managed to hit two more before finishing with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting to go along with seven boards.
The lone miss? An airball that missed the rim by at least two feet. But that’s besides the point.
Bench contributions were at a minimum, but it wasn’t needed. The Heat were forcing turnovers play-after-play in the third quarter, which led to a balanced effort from the starters in the third. The best the bench could muster was six points from Shane Battier, who converted 2-of-6 from deep, and Ray Allen who finished with six points and converted 2-of-3 from deep.
LeBron saw his streak of 20-point games in dire jeopardy midway through the third quarter. With his team up big, James only had 15 points and knew that he was most likely not going to play in the fourth quarter. After being relatively passive, James took matters into his own hands with back-to-back jumpers before converting his 21st point on a fastbreak layup courtesy of a pinpoint pass from Ray Allen.
James’ streak has now reached 27 games. He has yet to score less than 20 points any game this season.
The Heat are now 15-6 and have retained sole position of first place in the Southeast Division. They are two games back of the first-place New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference, with a home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday.