Being the NBA champions and playing like it are two different things, but with LeBron James playing the best basketball of his career, the Miami Heat, winning nine games in a row, are looking not like a team with the best player in the world, but the favorites to repeat if things carry on at this pace.
The latest victims? The Chicago Bulls, who did keep the Heat at 86 points, their lowest scoring production this season in a win, but the Heat made the Bulls look terrible as well, coming away from Chicago, where they have struggled over the last few years, with an 86-67 win. As usual, it was about LeBron James, mostly at least, as the NBA MVP led the way with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists, with another impressive shooting night of 11-15.
It was James’ 17th game of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, with only David Lee of the Golden State Warriors having more (19 so far). We’re putting together some good basketball right now We’re defending. We’re creating turnovers. We’re winning the turnover game offensively. We’re the best shooting team in the league, so if we don’t turn the ball over, we get good shots at the rim, we could also have a good chance to win.
The Heat have turned a corner, it seems – their defense is clicking again, winning three straight road games, all in double figures. The streak began with an impressive 110-100 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, followed by the Hawks on the previous night and now the Bulls, limiting them to only 67 points. Winning nine games in a row, only two of them came in a difference of less than ten points.
This time, it was about the defense making Chicago look bad, very bad. The Bulls are one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA with Noah, Boozer an Deng on the offensive glass, so the Heat simply prevented Chicago from putting up shots. The Bulls turned the ball over 26 time while shooting a terrible 37.3% from the field. This was the most for the franchise since turning the ball over 29 times against the Wizards on December 4, 2004.
They had 17 turnovers and made 15 field goals in the first half. This marked just the eighth time this season a team recorded more turnovers than field goals in the first half of a game this season. The last time it occurred was on February 2 when the Hornets committed 13 turnovers to just 10 made field goals in the first half against the Timberwolves.
Their 67 points? The Bulls recorded fewer than 70 points in a game for the second time this season, all coming in the last three games. It’s the first time since the 2003-04 season that the Bulls have recorded fewer than 70 points in multiple games in a single season.
But beyond the Bulls’ problem of doing anything resembling a decent offense, the Heat are simply clicking on all fronts. While the Bulls didn’t make it easy for the Heat on the half court offense or even when it came to transition, they still gave up 24 points off their turnovers, and couldn’t stop the Heat from shooting above 50% from the field.
In a long season filled with ups and downs, starting to come together after the All-Star game seems like the most important thing. After somewhat taking it easy through some of their road trips, the Miami Heat are now giving it their best on both ends of the floor, regardless of how good James is playing at the moment.