LeBron James didn’t need some super effort to bring the Miami Heat back to their winning ways. Neither did Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. The combination of pretty much everyone playing well and the awful Dallas Mavericks led to the Heat winning 106-85, making it 15 consecutive wins at home.
They were dying to get back from their terrible road experience. The double digit losses to the Thunder and the Pacers were the first back-to-back double digit defeat for the Heat since James and Bosh joined the team. As usual, while the Heat were mostly occupied with charity events and having fun on stage, most of the talk was how they, again, aren’t up for a title. How Oklahoma are the better team. How Kevin Durant should really win the MVP award.
The Thunder did earn an impressive win over the Lakers in LA, probably making people think again about how the Lakers are title material and how Mike Brown’s benching policies are affecting his team. But for Miami, who are 36-13, to be so far behind the Thudner (39-12) in terms of title chances? I think people got ahead of themselves. Like too many teams this season, there’s a huge difference between home and away. Just like the Mavs.
Dallas already got routed by the Heat on Christmas, showing us that they’re not going to repeat this year. It’s not the same problems that sort of disappeared last season when the playoff began, and team toughness, experience and Dirk Nowitzki took over. The Mavs are too slow, and one big effort takes out too much of them. There’s no one to rely on to step up, even proven players like Lamar Odom, going through the worst patch of his career. Jason Kidd shooting 35.2% is equally terrible.
The Heat’s bench, that part of the team hiding behind the glamour and flair of the big three needs to step up, and it did against the Mavs. Udonis Haslam finished with 16 points, while Norris Cole added another 10. Even without Mike Miller, there was enough offense to back up James, Wade and Bosh.
The moment the Heat raised their game in the second half, meaning defensive pressure, the game was over. There is no team in the league that can tackle the Heat on the open floor. The Dallas Mavericks don’t have the tools to draw the Heat into some half court possessions game. The speed and aggression on the ball kills them. On the other hand, it’s very unlikely these two will meet again until the 2012-2013 season.
Was this the game that proved how good the Heat really are? Partially. It showed how good they can be, and what makes them tick. On the ball pressure, and risks that pay off. They always go for the steal and rely on quick feet to make up for missed opportunities. Against team like the Mavericks, it should work every time. Against the real opposition, Chicago and the Thunder, who pose a much more complicated and difficult challenge, they’re going to need more on both ends of the court.