A night of firsts for the 2008-09 Heat: its first road win, its first winning streak, its first national TV game. That this team responded to the big stage and stiff challenge is a massive understatement.
Start with Dwyane Wade, who took advantage of the Spurs' slew of fringe perimeter players to post 33 points on 14-25 shooting and narrowly missed a triple-double with 10 boards and 9 assists. He also broke even with 3 apiece of steals and turnovers and stayed miles away from the overcompensating foul trouble that plagued him early. This is what a comfortable Wade looks like, and it will merit MVP consideration if Miami makes the postseason.
Wade's brilliance overshadowed rookie Michael Beasley's coming-out party as a major frontcourt force. Beasley put up 20 points and 8 boards, took and made 10 free throws, held his own on defense, committed just a single turnover and avoided foul trouble despite sharing a lane with Tim Duncan. A pitch-perfect complementary to Wade's dominance.
Chris Quinn continued to make his case to supplant Marcus Banks in the rotation once the latter returns from injury. Quinn hit 5 of 6 3-pointers and made just enough non-shooting plays that his game didn't look like a fluke. Banks hasn't been awful, but the team seems to have more cohesion with a point guard rotation of Chalmers and Quinn, both of whom play a purer brand of point than Banks.
That said, Erik Spoelstra stuck with his successful approach to Wade's recent disillusionment, calling on Wade to initiate the offense and frame the possession rather than jogging around waiting for something to materialize. Obviously, it's a good idea. Wade has point--guard bona fides, and the offense should run through him as much as possible. The arrangement eases Chalmers' burden as well, and Quinn looks llke he can handle the chores outright while Wade sits.
Back to the frontcourt: Udonis Haslem is making those silly Jamaal Tinsley rumors from this summer look absurd. The vet continued to excel in his hybrid forward-center role or whatever we're calling it this week, hanging up a tidy 15-and-10 double-double. And again, Shawn Marion does not and will not have a role on this team.
I can't ignore that this victory was aided significantly by some oddities on the Spurs' part: Tony Parker went out early to injury; Tim Duncan played well but not dominant; and the Spurs appear to be conducting the early-season equivalent to the D-League open tryout that was the second half of the 2007-08 Heat season. Guys like Desmon Farmer, Anthony Tolliver, and first-round pick George Hill are getting a ton of burn in the absence of Manu Ginobili, and they aided Miami's defensive cause by conveniently missing a ton of open jumpers. Only the more established Ime Udoka and Roger Mason Jr. punished the Heat for ignoring the perimeter, knocking down a combined 8 of 16 threes.
Kudos to the Heat for not completely sitting on the early lead it built. San Antonio made something of a run, as all teams will do, but Miami did well to withstand it.