The basketball hasn’t been tremendous from the Miami Heat of late, but results of their rivals and LeBron James taking over against the Toronto Raptors in a 93-83 win moved them back on top of the Eastern conference.
The Indiana Pacers keep losing and looking awful in the meanwhile. The Heat are now holding the lead in the East on their own for the first time this season. James scored 32 points in a tough win against a team that made it difficult in the second half but couldn’t score themselves, while Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen are still not playing, and the same feeling of a short roster and slightly tired legs all around continues to surround the Heat.
James wasn’t perfect. He turned the ball over six times and needed some treatment on his aching back. However, the Heat need all of him, injured or not, to win that top spot in the East. Maybe feel that without it, Miami aren’t going to have a shot at the three-peat, and their record on the road this season 22-16 suggests that might be true.
There are reasons to feel optimistic – the Heat are on a five game home-stand against Eastern teams, with all of them except for Brooklyn, a team the Heat have failed to beat this season, on paper looking like much weaker opposition. But sometimes it seems this group is more concerned with getting their injured players back into some sort of rhythm – an issue for the Heat this season, especially for some guys who are supposed to be key figures coming off the bench.
Chris Bosh played a big part in the Heat creating separation in the fourth quarter onto the double digit win, finishing the game with 18 points despite a poor night from beyond the arc (0-of-4). The Heat in general didn’t move the ball that well or shoot the deep ball successfully, but they found a lot of success driving into the paint, scoring 46 points under the basket and going to the line 22 times, making 18 shots.
In comparison, the Raptors stayed away from the rim, going to the line only 10 times and making just five shots. The Heat’s defense kept players away from the basket and made Kyle Lowry make too many mistakes, turning the ball over five times while shooting only 4-of-11 from the field.
Chris Andersen had a good game off the bench from 13 points, and has been one of the Heat’s top 3 players while both Wade and Allen have been out – probably the Heat’s most consistent performer outside of James and Bosh. He didn’t miss a single shot from the field or the free throw line, adding 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
Something still feels slow and sluggish with the Heat, but they’re in pole position, something they’ve been striving for all season long. With players coming back from injuries, we might also start to see a bit more convincing basketball, and even a chance to give LeBron James some much needed rest if possible.
The standings are what they are. We want to play the best we can and the fact that we are in first place, I think that’s pretty cool but we’ve got so much work to do. We’ve got too much work to do. We’ve got guys that need to get healthy. We haven’t even talked about it. We probably won’t talk about it. We’ve got to play the season out.