With every Miami Heat milestone becoming another stamp on the resume of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, this one had an unusual feel.
The team's 62nd win, a franchise record, came on the backs of the team's group of veteran role players, as Miami (62-16) defeated the Washington Wizards (29-50) 103-98 on the road. The win clinched at least a share of the best record in the NBA.
Miami is also the first defending champion since the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls to have the leagues' best record.
It's been that type of season.
Ray Allen led Miami with 23 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the field. The veteran sharpshooter also had six rebounds, four assists and three steals, flashing a well-rounded game. The Heat got a balanced effort, however, with Shane Battier (15), Rashard Lewis (17), Mario Chalmers (13) and Mike Miller (14) all getting in on the offense.
Miami's surprisingly been able to continue to get good looks on the perimeter with sharp ball movement, despite the absence of it's star players to create space. Chalmers, Battier, Lewis and Miller combined for 15 3-point makes on 29 attempts. The four players all attempted at least six 3-pointers. The Heat were 17-of-41 overall from beyond the arc and 33-of-75 from the field (44 percent).
For much of the game, Miami ran general pick-and-rolls with screens from Chris Andersen, who played a season high 27 minutes. Miami was then able to kick the ball out for good looks when the defense sunk into the lane, and Miami whipped the ball around on the perimeter and found clean looks.
It was a very impressive performance, not because the Heat made 3-pointers, which is a single game result, but because the process that led to these three's was executed extremely well, considering the lack of talent (relatively) on the floor.
But come to think of it, it's probably the only game plan this team can go to without it's stars in the lineup. Without consistent penetration (Allen and Chalmers can do this in a pinch) and a legitimate post -up option, this team is loaded with 3-point splashers who just need clean looks to deliver, and they made the most of their limited resources with timely passing. It's probably not sustainable, but late in the season and playing loose, they're making it happen.
Washington's defense played pretty poorly, but the Wizards got 17 points and 11 assists from John Wall, and they got 23 points from A.J Price, but a late fourth quarter run gave Miami a 98-88 lead with a few minutes left, and it held.