It didn't take very long for the Heat to put to rest any concerns about them not being able to pick up right where they left off before the All-Star break. That being said, I bet the Sacramento Kings wish that the break was at least one day longer. Miami came out with guns-a-blazin, jumping out to an early double-digit lead that they would never relinquish.
LeBron James finished the 1st quarter outscoring the Kings 9-2 over the last 2:04, giving the Heat a 35-16 lead after just 12 minutes. They shot 72% while holding the Kings to just 29%, and Miami out-rebounded them 18-7. From then on the game just seemed like an extension of the All-Star game as the Heat rolled all over Sacramento.
There were no signs of tiredness or jetlag or any of that stuff for the Heat All-Stars. The Big 3 all had their usual solid night of dominance and James Jones dropped in three 3-pointers for the first time in almost a month. The play of the night came late in the 4th quarter when Dwyane Wade totally faked out DeMarcus Cousins and tossed the ball over his shoulder, without even looking at the rim, and got nothing but net.
One of the more interesting stories of the night was Erick Dampier replacing Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the Heat starting lineup. According to Erik Spoelstra, Dampier is the new starting center for the Heat. What that means for Biz Z is not quite clear to me yet, but I imagine it will depend more on matchups then anything else. I don't expect him to be relegated to a Carlos Arroyo-like ‘end of the bench' role, but only time will tell.
The ironic part of this move was that in last nights game, Dampier didn't take a shot and finished with no points while Joel Anthony went 3-for-3, scoring 6 points. I really like the move to start Damp though. His skill set fills the Heat's need at center better then anyone else on the roster and it appears that Erick is in mid-season form and ready to do whatever is asked of him.
We'll just have to wait and see how things pan out, but with games coming up against Chicago, New York and Orlando in the next week there will be plenty of opportunities for Dampier to show exactly how useful he can be in this very important role for Miami. As we all know, the most important things for the Heat to get from the center position are strong efforts on both ends of the floor inside the paint.
While Damp wasn't called upon to do anything major on offense last night, he did an excellent job defensively on DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings rookie had been averaging just under 20 points per game over the last couple weeks, but was held to 0-for-11 against the Heat when being covered by Dampier. For at least one night, Miami's latest starting center did a great job, and hopefully it's the first game of many that we'll be saying that.
- LeBron James was looking to dominate from the get go, and did just that. He finished with 31 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists while turning the ball over just 3 times.
- Looking fine on his apparently not-so-injured ankle was Dwyane Wade. He made some very nice looking plays en route to a 23 point, 8 rebound, 7 assist, 2 steal, 1 block and just 1 turnover night.
- Oddly enough, Wade didn't take a single free throw. That made this game the first time in Dwyane's career he scored at least 20 points without hitting a foul shot.
- Chris Bosh led the Heat with 9 boards, 4 steals and 6 foul shots (all made). He also added 22 points.
- The Heat is now 19-2 when the Big 3 combine to score at least 75 points.
- Sacramento was pretty awful from downtown (4-of-14) while the Heat were slightly better (7-of-18).
- Miami took only 11 free throws as a team, making 8.
- Last night was Erick Dampier's 750th start in the NBA, but only his first with the Heat.
Next up for the Heat is a back-to-back set that starts in Chicago on Thursday night. I am really excited to finally play the Bulls again, and this time with a squad at full strength (remember, no LeBron last time).