LeBron James

The Miami Heat haven’t been playing well so far this season, and after LeBron James called out their defense in an interview, things were bound to get better very quickly, coming at the expense of the Milwaukee Bucks, not looking remotely close in a 118-95 win for the NBA champions, as the MVP got plenty of help from Mario Chalmers and even Michael Beasley.

Above all was LeBron James, who took the criticism against the Heat’s slow start personally. He finished with 33 points on 13-of-21 from the field, enjoying the fact that Larry Sanders was out with an injury, driving hard to the basket on almost every opportunity, but doing well from beyond the arc later, finishing with 4-of-7 for three.

Mario Chalmers put in a big hand and two incredible assists that stole the show. One was an alley oop pass we usually get to see between James and Wade, and the other was a between-the-legs of Khris Middleton assist to James, who played only 30 minutes.

The Heat have scored over 100 points in all their games so  far, but their defense has been worrying them. They limited the Bucks to 41.8% from the field and most importantly 35% from the field during the first three quarters, when Miami actually used its best players before sending in the second and third stringers on to the court.

LeBron James was at his best in the third quarter, when the long shots started dropping. He scored 17 points in that period, matching the entire output by the Milwaukee Bucks, also missing Ersan Ilyasove and in general looking like a team that wasn’t trying to hard to beat the odds that were clearly against them.

Mario Chalmers is a player that doesn’t always get the credit he deserves for fitting in very well in this group of superstars, but he has played a significant role over the last three years, and from time to time it even shows up on the stat sheet. With James in finishing mode, Chalmers and Wade got plenty of chances to be the de facto point guards in the game, as Chalmers finished with 7 assists to go with his 15 points while Wade added 8 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, while Miami shot 58.2% from the field, improving to 5-3.

Happy with the win? Probably, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is too content with where they are right now, knowing that most of their wins have come against easy-to-beat teams, and there’s still some time to go before they feel pleased about their defense and overall execution. LeBron James getting over his back injury that bothered him during the first two weeks might be just as important – both to team spirit and to the overall ability.

It wasn’t perfect. There were still some areas we definitely need to improve on, in terms of the details and discipline. But at least the effort, the effort, the activity was better, the disposition right from the beginning and it carried through once we got into the rotation. Guys were much more focused and bringing that competitive spirit.