It’s quite a rarity these days when Dwyane Wade steals a big chunk of the spotlight from LeBron James, scoring twice what the MVP scored and then some, but the bottom line – a 10th consecutive win and a growing lead in the Eastern Conference is the important thing.
The rest? Numbers. LeBron James scored 16 points, his lowest scoring output since January 10th against Portland, but it was a very different game. The Philadelphia 76ers couldn’t do much on both ends of the floor to disrupt the Heat, while James finished with his 35th career triple-double, adding 10 rebounds and 11 assists, while Wade led the scoring with 33 points and an end result of 114-90. It was also his 472nd consecutive game with double figures, the sixth longest streak in NBA history.
A little bit about how good the Heat have been lately? They’ve won 10 games in a row, including the Thunder, Bulls, Clippers, Lakers, Hawks and Rockets in the list of beaten foes. The margin? They’ve won 7 in a row by 10 points or more, and began the streak with a win in Toronto by 15 points.
After all, despite all of the excitement in Philadelphia with the NHL/NBA doubleheader, it wasn’t a fair fight, and hasn’t been for quite some time. The home fans did cheer Spencer Hawes when he rejected James in the first quarter, but when the Heat were already leading by more than 20 points in the third, they were rooting for some highlight plays on the other side. It’s always better to take sides with the winner. Philadelphia have lost their last 12 regular season games against the Heat, flaunting just one playoff win in the 2011 series between the teams.
But back to the Heat, who seems to be hitting the right form at the right time. Much has been made of their rebounding problems; of their rotation issues when it comes to putting on the best defensive unit possible. There were also some questions regarding the effort on away games, as such teams like the Indiana Pacers have made it very difficult for the Heat to look like champions, past or future, by shutting them down while allowing James to do things on his own.
I think we’re better than last season because we understand each other a lot more. Everyone is coming together as a team and we feel comfortable with each other. I think we’re starting to play like we know we’re capable of playing. It’s shown in this win streak. Even with the break, we’ve continued to play well. I think if we keep playing at this type of level, the sky is the limit for us.
Ray Allen is scoring in double figures again, which is more than good news. Early in the season, it looked like Allen was the man getting the Heat out of jams, as defenses focused on James and Wade in clutch moments, leaving Allen, one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, to do his thing. Now, he doesn’t have to be clutch, but James is playing at such a level on both ends of the floor that it makes things much more easier for Allen, and for everyone involved.
In a couple of months, the true test will begin. James will take a little bit more on himself, naturally, but the basis and recipe for success remains – getting the most out of his teammates not named Wade and Bosh, while they respond accordingly to the rising challenge. It worked to the best effect last season, and at the moment is doing the same.