Celebrating his birthday, Dwyane Wade wasn’t really key in the 101-86 win for the Miami Heat over the Philadelphia 76ers, as LeBron James and Chris Bosh did most of the work to end the three-game losing streak the NBA champions suddenly found themselves in.
The Heat finally put in a defensive show you’d expect to see from them, limiting the Sixers to 36.9% from the field, 2-of-20 from beyond the arc and forcing 23 turnovers. LeBron Jameswasn’t far from a triple-double, scoring 21 points, adding 8 rebounds and 10 assists. Chris Bosh was the one who led the way, scoring 25 points and impressing with 5 blocks. The important thing that it felt like the NBA champions were in ‘back to normal’ mode. Bosh finished with a 25-6-4-5 stat line, something only Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning have managed to do in the last 28 years.
It was great to see our energy from the beginning, basically, to the end. That’s what we are. We can’t be nobody else. We’ve got to be us. We didn’t do everything perfect. It’s a long season. Every now and then you simply have to refocus. We know how to fix it. Sometimes, it takes you going through certain things to fix it.
The Heat have been giving up 105.3 points per game since December 20 (13 games), allowing teams to shoot 49.5% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc. All that was erased in a complete performance from them, something we haven’t seen in quite some time, at least on both ends of the floor.
An important factor was having Mario Chalmers back in the lineup. He wasn’t very accurate (3-of-9 from the field) but he did score 10 points, and meant that Norris Cole didn’t have to play 40 minutes. As useful as Cole can be at times, there’s something in the balance of using these two players instead of focusing on just one of them. Cole also had a good game with 13 points coming off the bench.
Wade himself, celebrating his 32nd birthday, had a quiet game with 8 points and 3 blocks in 25 minutes. Single-digit scoring games aren’t that rare for him anymore, as this season has been about balancing his knee issues and keeping him fresh for important games, and especially the playoffs. While the Heat are probably thinking about giving him a lot of rest as we reach the end of the regular season, falling behind Indiana means that there’s a chance they’ll be forced to use him full-time in an attempt to regain home court advantage and the #1 seed in the conference.
How important is home advantage for the Heat? They’re 12-8 this season on the road, but looking at last year’s playoffs is the best example. They beat the Indiana Pacers in game 7 at home to clinch the East, and by coming back home for the two final games in the NBA finals against the San Antonio Spurs were able to come back from 2-3 and claim two quite dramatic victories in games 6 and 7. Without playing it home it might not have happened.