In a rare case of a traditional lineup for the Miami Heat, leading to an easier than expected win, even LeBron James didn’t really standout, settling for a “normal” game.
Mind you, normal is actually sub par for James. The three time MVP finished with 24 points, 2 rebounds and 7 assists while getting to guard someone who’s a small forward instead of a big man, as Erik Spoelstra took the loss to the Chicago Bulls, and especially the Heat’s inability to keep anyone off the glass, very seriously.
So how do you begin fixing that? Moving back to a traditional lineup – Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade at guards, LeBron James at small forward, Chris Bosh as the center (although he does prefer the PF position) and Udonis Haslem as the power forward. Suddenly, no rebounding problems, and the defense looked better than it has in quite a while. Sure, playing the 4-28 Washington Wizards, a team dreaming at night about a healthy John Wall, made the adjustments a bit easier to swallow.
The end result is important – The Heat won 99-71, but a look at the rebounding column was just as pleasing for Spoelstra, as Miami finished with a 50-39 win in that category, without needing James to do much in protecting the basket. Chris Bosh grabbed 9 rebounds, Udonis Haslem led the team with 12 while Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen combined for 17.
There were some better in-traffic battles, guys going up and trying to get it with two hands, guys getting up off the ground. That disposition to rebound was better. It’s an effort thing. The defense came alive. We understand that if we want to win, ultimately we have to defend.
Is it really an effort thing? Sometimes it does sound like an excuse made up by the head coach when he doesn’t want to say he put the wrong men on at the wrong time.
Same conclusions each and every time. The Heat must defend; defense brings the wins. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to keep the same kind of effort and energy level for 82 games. You can, if you’re 12-man deep and each and every one of those players can start for someone else in the starting lineup. It’s hard to see that happening in Miami.
The question of energy and effort will surely come up for the champions on the six-game road trip they are about to embark on. Indiana, Portland, Sacramento, Utah, Golden State and the Lakers. I think the Heat will be very happy with a 5-1 from this one, and won’t be too upset coming back with a 4-2 record as well, before getting nearly a week of rest before the final stretch of January.
One thing that doesn’t change is LeBron James and his scoring. He’s now had at least 20 points in all 32 games this season, and he hasn’t scored less than 24 points over the last 10 games. That’s 53 games in a row of at least 20 points if you include last season’s playoff run. If anyone needs a bit of time off, it’s him.