[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Honey, THEY'RE STREAKING!"]
Keeping up with the Heat train running full steam is one thing. To do it for 48 minutes is another. A tale of two halves:
The first one:
- Just as the team is overflowing with kinetic energy, a LeBron-Wade fast break ends with a botched alley-oop attempt and a missed shot under the basket. There is a continuous ambivalence regarding such fascinating play in basketball. On one side, the crowd attends games for the excitement that plays like that bring, and on the other side are boring purists like me who believe a bucket is a bucket whether it comes from a 12-pass-sequence-crash-course-ending-with-a-Joel Anthony-putback or a dunk from the free throw line. If the Heat had lost by one, boring wins the debate.
- The Hornets gave basketball rocket science a try after struggling to contain the new and improved Heat offense. In a strategy rarely employed by other NBA teams (unsure why, it’s a no-brainer), the Hornets took advantage of the non-shooting Heat backcourt and sporadically employed some 2-3 zone defense. Why other teams don’t follow the same when Arroyo-Wade-James are on the court is puzzling.
- The starting frontcourt of Bosh and Ilgauskas has been a mainstay so far but most amusing is the backup duo of Juwan Howard and Erick Dampier. The backup duo may average 36 years of age but the slow legs are compensated with veteran astuteness, crafty intangibles and concrete elbows to swing around. Toughest over-35 big men tandem in the league, guaranteed.
- Something both gratifying and entertaining: I’m in love with the master planning during timeouts and quarters to get a high percentage basket on the ensuing possession. The brains, the dry erase markers, the command, the execution - all important in the sequence that should follow. The strategizing in the huddle is a given but somehow there aren’t enough teams willing to throw a blatant zone defense and put those Expo erasers to good use. Such was the special occasion coach Spoelstra implemented at the start of the 2nd quarter, coming out to the hardwood floor ready with a 2-3 zone, ready to counter Monty Williams’ best architecture. Sure enough, the Heat got called for a defensive 3 second violation by Joel Anthony after a mere 17 seconds of playing time in the 2nd quarter. Comical and bittersweet to the few that noticed.
- Showing good reason why the Heat lead the league in fewest turnovers per game (13.3 TOV/G), the team’s 1st turnover did not come until a James intercepted pass with 5 minutes left in the 1st half. A 2nd came with 40 seconds left. Such excellence provoked some research: the NBA record for fewest turnovers per game in a season is 11.6 TOV/G by the Dallas Mavericks in 2002-03. Contesting for the season record is improbable with a new cast, and the Heat finished with 6 turnovers, 5 of them by LeBron James. With the Heat’s style of play and ball security, the record could be possibly broken in the coming years. Anything is po-sa-bull! (Garnet voice/yell)
- Wade scored 24 points (20 in the 2nd quarter – franchise record) displaying his repertoire of offensive (to the opponent, literally) weaponry. The whole enchilada matinee: Euro step floaters, step-back threes, pump fakes for the foul, up and under layups and thunderous dunks. 17 of the 24 points came after he was called for a technical in the 2nd quarter for complaining to the refs about an aggressive foul from Jarret Jack. Dwyane Wade will be Dwyane Wade.
The other half and the end:
- The defense on Chris Paul immediately looked much improved since the last encounter. Big men contested aggressively and rotated as necessary holding the guard to minimal damage. However, his influence and the Hornets’ will were not to be undermined as they valiantly fought their way into a 3 point lead at the half. The Hornets shot 54%, out-rebounded the Heat 25-13 and outscored them 22-14 in the paint.
- LeBron has unknowingly included his name in the All-Star game of H.O.R.S.E after an unbelievable circus shot now playing on a television near you. With 4 seconds to go in the shot clock, LeBron drove to his right, lost the ball, recovered it and shot a high arch from behind the backboard for a clean basket that never touched the rim. It’s easy to forget the amazing abilities of LeBron when you have Wade.
- With Wade there is finesse, with Bosh versatility and in LeBron there is all that power. After a lackluster first half, LeBron took over the third quarter in full Juggernaut mode. James bullied his way to layups, dunks, shots and the foul line, making it clear to the Hornets the new and improved Heat does not rest in its onslaught. Like the previous teams, it would ultimately prove too overwhelming for the woeful Hornets, taking a 12-2 run in the chin from the Heat, never to recover.
- Marco Belinelli, the Italian killer who shot lights out against Miami at their last meeting, was not so accurate this time around going 1-for-7 from the three point line. Emeka Okafor was far from his best, limited to 9 points, 6 rebounds and fouling out at the end of the fourth.
- With 3 minutes to go in the game, shot clock technical difficulties caused the need for emergency clocks to be placed in the corners of the court. Luckily the game was mostly over by then, avoiding awkward Move Out of the Way So I Can See How Much Time We Have Left moments in crunch time.
Hot Hot Streak Watch:
- The Miami trio scored 75 points for the 4th consecutive game. Wade finished with 32 on 8-of-13 shooting and an impressive 14-17 from the free throw line. Bosh manufactured his team-leading 8th double-double with 23 points and 11 feisty rebounds. LeBron was "quiet" for his standards finishing with 2o points, 7 assists but netting a +11 in +/-. He wasn’t the highest, Damp was with a game high +12. Kaboom.
The Mavericks’ 12 game winning streak was undone by the Bucks tonight, leaving the Celtics to lead the NBA with a 10-win run, the Heat now at 9 wins and the Knicks at 8. The Heat’s next opponent are the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. The Celtics and the Knicks will face each other on the same day, then Boston follows with a visit to the Hawks and the Knicks will host the Heat. Somebody will come out of this streaking collision unscathed, and it won’t be the concrete jungle of New York.