The NBA’s big night during the regular season is Thursday, and the Miami Heat are a big part of that scheduling. LeBron James is the biggest piece of that train of thought, but when he and his team are at their best from the first minute they step out onto the floor, these contests aren’t that interesting for the entire 48 minutes.
The Dallas Mavericks outscored the Heat by 15 points in the fourth quarter and still lost by 15, 110-95. It was that easy for the Heat, who were led by LeBron James, finishing with 24 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists despite playing only 31 minutes. Dwyane Wade played only 26 minutes, finishing with 19 points and six assists, most of them to James during the first half. Chris Bosh finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds, as the big three combined for 60 points. They led by 36 points when James and Wade took to the pine seating.
It was the Heat’s first road win since November 17, after a December that has so far been mostly played in South Beach. The build up for the game, like it was last season in Christmas, was about defending champions and desiring champions. The Dallas Mavericks were a one-and-done thing in 2011, carrying everyone to the top of their ability towards the end of their careers, led by Dirk Nowitzki. The Miami Heat were just in the beginning of what is looking like a very dominant stretch of title hunting. Not really close, not by a mile.
I’m just very comfortable and confident in my ability. I put a lot of work into my game. It’s always good when you put in the work and implement that into a game situation. We don’t want to give a team too much confidence at home. We understand this team was short-handed. We wanted to come out here on the road and make a statement.
The Heat have changed something over the last couple of weeks. Since the two losses to the Wizards and Knicks, suddenly things are looking better on defense. A lot more like last season and the year before that, when the Heat were one of the best in the NBA, instead of a mediocre 14th in defensive efficiency.
Since losing to the Knicks 112-92 on December 6, the Heat haven’t allowed more than 97 points, winning five of their six games by an average of 16.6 points. These weren’t the cream of the crop in the NBA, but the effort, and the change in the rotation is evident.
Against the Mavs there was no need for the Joel Anthony-Ray Allen pairing to cover any defensive deficiencies, but bringing back Anthony, a center who’s biggest asset is his quick feet and ability to guard more than just big men in the paint, has changed the identity of the second unit, which was a bit too soft with Allen and Rashard Lewis. The latter is almost erased from the rotation at the moment.
The second change seems to be within the first five themselves. Chris Bosh isn’t as lenient in the paint as he was in some cases this season, allowing too many offensive rebounds. Dwyane Wade, battling opinions of being over the hill, is shuffling and moving his feet much better. LeBron James? sometimes he slacks off to.
But with all the talk about other MVP candidates, James hasn’t had a game with less than 20 points this season, and his numbers might have been better if Heat wins wouldn’t be coming this easily. When he’s good, when they’re good, it almost seems like it’s not fair.