LeBron James

Title defenses keep getting harder, and the rough start this season for the Miami Heat is an indication of how difficult the road is going to be. LeBron James led his big three to a night when all of them scored more than 20 points each in a win over the Washington Wizards, but more importantly realized that moving the ball non stop is their most important asset.

Sometimes, great teams need a reminder here and there in the form of two rather surprising consecutive losses to the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets. It’s not like the Heat were blown out of the water: They lost by four points to the Sixers and one point to the Nets. However, it did show some alarming signs of how complacency and offensive stagnation can keep this team from reaching the heights of the previous two years.

Although it wasn’t a perfect game in a 103-93 win over the sinking Wizards, the Heat played the kind of basketball that made them so successful in the Big Three era. The ball didn’t stop moving, which led to open court offense and open three point shots, taking advantage of their two best ways to score. They scored 42 points off the Wizards’ 25 turnovers, finishing with 32 assists and hitting 11 three pointers, connecting on 40.7% of their attempts.

LeBron James scored 25 points and added 5 assists. Chris Bosh followed with 24 points and 7 rebounds, while Dwyane Wade added 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists as the three combined to shoot 61% from the field. It’s almost impossible to beat the Heat when the three of them work so well together, and the Wizards, trying to adjust to life after the departure of Emeka Okafor, weren’t the team to challenge that concept.

The Heat assisted on 86% of their field goals, something that hasn’t happened for them in over 15 seasons. Their defense, which might be giving up big points but is still doing better than last year, when they were hearing so much criticism of their slipping defensive form, kept the Wizards from getting into the paint, forcing John Wall and Trevor Ariza to keep taking bad shots. The two combined to shoot only 8-of-28 from the field, as the Wizards look like a team that’s a little bit lost and trying to find its way back to where it should have been when this season began.

As for the Heat, it’s a long season. Numbers about wins and losses so early in the season and their historical significance when it comes to repeating (three-peating this time) as champions don’t have anything to do with what happens on the floor. However, the level of basketball and the ability to avoid mind laziness on the court after achieving so much will determine if they are a team of historical significance, or a passing episode.

We understand that it’s easy for everyone when we move the ball, share the ball and we play like that. The intensity was better and the consistent ball movement was better than it’s been. You can feel it, and it’s special when it happens. It just makes the game so much easier.