After surviving a couple of close calls in their attempt to tie and break a 40 year old NBA record, the Miami Heat are finding that later wins are coming a little bit easier, with LeBron James pulling more and more “almost” triple doubles, his personal expertise, as the group around him, even without Dwyane Wade, continues to more than make up for the superstar taking another rest to heal his hurting body.
The next team on the road to late season perfection were the Orlando Magic, who usually put up more of a fight against their state rivals. The Heat won 108-94 to improve their winning streak to 27 games, using strong second and fourth quarters to seal the deal and improve to 56-14, making it a 12.5 lead over the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference.
James finished with 24 points, 9 rebounds and 11 assists, kicking off a 20-2 run midway through the third quarter that put the game to rest after the Magic, playing without Nikola Vucevic who gave the Heat quite a lot of problems in their previous meetings this season, tied things up at 68-68. That was the last time they were even remotely close to troubling the NBA champions.
We are not taking this team for granted. I continue to always say that in professional sports, wins are hard to come by and teams like this are really rare. To be part of a team like this, we do not take it for granted. We did enough late in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter to come away with this win. That was some of our best in that fourth quarter on both ends of the court. Before that, it was a little bit of a sleepwalk.
Making the most of Vucevic not playing, the Heat used post-ups on 18.3% of plays, their highest mark this season. Coming into this game, the Heat averaged post-ups 7.6 percent of the time. Accordingly, only 7.7% of their possessions came in transition, their fourth lowest this season. The Heat are 3-3 this season when they average less than eight percent in transition. Maybe something for opponents to learn on how to slow them down, but they’re a much better team to be halted by just one defensive adjustment.
Another thing that worked very well for the Heat, who showed some terrific ball movement, which is usually the best sign of them being in the game and playing their best brand of basketball, was corner threes, open and good again and again. The Heat were 10-of-16 on corner three-pointers, both made and attempts tied for the second most by the Heat this season. The Heat were terrific in general from the outside with 15-28, as Mario Chalmers (17 points), Rashard Lewis (11 points), Norris Cole (9 points) and Ray Allen (12 points) all hit multiple three pointers along the way, enjoying the Magic defense struggling to stick to their individual assignment without their young center.
Jameer Nelson had a big day for Orlando with 27 points. Tobias Harris was great with 20 points and some good defense on both LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Still, it takes a lot more than two impressive individual performances to steer the Miami Heat from the course they’re on at the moment. The scary thing is? They’re pretty sure we ain’t seen nothing yet.