The Miami Heat, after two consecutive losses, really needed this kind of game. A chance to clamp down on someone defensively, while LeBron James didn’t need a superstar kind of effort on his own, getting the kind of help he expects to see from Dwyane Wade much more often.
It wasn’t perfect, like nothing has been this season for the defending champions. Their defensive awakening only began after allowing 33 points in the first quarter. The Heat just kept up the same pace on offense in the second quarter, while the Hornets were limited to only 15 points. Their head coach, Monty Williams, kept complaining that his players were getting fouled, but in truth they couldn’t really handle the intensity in which the Heat finally began showing on defense.
We’ve got to defend. It’s that simple. When we defend, the game’s that much easier for us. The Heat kept the Hornets at 44.9% from the field after the visitors began the game making 10 of 12 from the field. They were only 9 for 31 the rest of the night, getting outscored 33-10 to finish the second quarter. In 10 minutes of perfect Miami Heat basketball, the game was pretty much over. Dwyane Wade led the scoring with 26 points, LeBron James followed with 24, 5 rebounds and 7 assists.
You could see the motor was better. We didn’t do everything right. We still had a handful of breakdowns. But the commitment on the defensive end was better than the past two games.
The Miami Heat gave up over 100 points in five of the last six games, even their wins. It was a complete breakdown in their two consecutive losses to the New York Knicks and even more shockingly, the Washington Wizards. Everything wrong is magnified when it happens in Miami, even after they won a title. Two consecutive losses become a mini crisis, and the players start buying in to the disaster issue. Spoelstra has been through too many of these in the past few years, and knows how to take them in the right proportions. The level of energy showed by the Heat on defense against Hornets was a sign he said and did the right things.
What now? Consistency. In their defending and in their half court offense. Every team looks good when they have to feed off turnovers and long rebounds, making the road to the basket much shorter. One of the things that put the Heat above the Celtics and Thunder last season was their half court offense evolving, with LeBron James taking over it completely, and Dwyane Wade stepping out of the way, to a certain degree.
The Horents (5-14, 2-6 on the road) are the worst team in the Western conference so far, but they’re not an easy out, with or without Anthony Davis. But it’s a another step in bulding anothr winning streak, in finding the kind of rhythm that makes them put the same kind of effort on defense and the same kind of thinking, instead of getting lazy, when the offense isn’t as easy to operate. Defense makes the Miami Heat what they are, and they know it. The problem is that not just LeBron James needs to fully invested in making it work each night. As amazing as he is, he needs some help.