The Miami Heat have problems, especially on the road. The Utah Jazz, a team with more players than anyone on the trading block, including top scorer Al Jefferson, don’t really worry themselves with the problems of champions, or the quest of LeBron James to reach 20,000 career points.
So James too a big step towards entering the club that 37 members, finishing with 32 points and leading a ferocious Miami Heat comeback that took place without Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade on the floor, as Erik Spoelstra was trying out some things in a road trip and generally a period that isn’t going so well for his team, winning only five of their last 11 games.
Maybe it’s a rest issue, but maybe it’s a message to two players who haven’t been at their best lately. Bosh finished with only 1 rebounds and has been having trouble keeping his guys off the offensive glass this season. The Heat lost the rebounding battle 40-23, ranking last in the NBA with 38.6 per game, while opponents average 3.2 more in their games.
Again, the Jazz, one of the best home teams in the NBA (12-4), couldn’t care less. They welcomed those problems and actually didn’t mind giving James the opportunity to score, but clamped down on the rest of the Miami Heat, in another game in which too many of the players seemed inclined to give less than 100% and watch LeBron James try to pull the wagon on his own, which hasn’t been working too well this season.
The Jazz played with two point guards in the lineup, combining for only 4-13 from the field, but the big contribution from the backcourt they got from the bench; Gordon Hayward stepping in and finishing with 22 points, including 3-4 from beyond the arc. Al Jefferson, as usual, led the way with 23 points and 11 rebounds, helped by Paul Millsap who scored 17 and grabbed 9 rebounds.
While the Jazz didn’t run wild in the paint or on the offensive glass (13 boards, 38 points in the paint), it’s their presence that kept drawing in Miami defenders to help while leaving too many players, and especially Hayward in the second quarter, open for shots from around the perimeter. The Jazz hit 8-18 of their three point shots and finished with 25 assists, enjoying a lot of freedom in their ball movement, something the Heat at their best defend very well.
The question that remains for the Jazz is if this kind of aggressive basketball during their good stretches, combining some fine in-and-out passing, can be translated and carried over to the road games, where things haven’t gone very smoothly this season. Their road record is the worst among the top 9 teams in the West and eventually, might be the thing that keeps them out of the playoffs.
For the Miami Heat, it’s not a chicken and egg question; they now it’s their attitude and effort from a lot of their players, including stars like Bosh and Wade, that’s giving them a lot of trouble on their fatigued-filled road journeys. If that issue continues to plague them as the season goes on, home advantage in the Eastern conference isn’t such a guaranteed thing anymore.