LeBron James had one of his better shooting games of the season, connecting on 11-15 shots for a 24 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists. The Heat were in relative control of this game throughout, leading by as many as 18 but saw their lead diminish to 9 in the 4th quarter.
Dwyane Wade, who has been heavily criticized in the media recently for his "decline", helped slam the door on the Hornets tonight, finishing with a game high 26 points on an efficient 9-12 shooting.
It was the 9th time this season the Heat shot 50% or better. Chris Bosh on the other hand, continues to struggle and look relatively out of sync on offense. Bosh shot just 4-11 for 13 points and missed a career high 3 dunks tonight. Bosh has now shot under 37% in three of his last four games.
Lineup Changes Galore
For the second straight game, Erik Spoelstra started Udonis Haslem at power forward, consequently bringing Shane Battier off the bench. The interesting effect of this lineup adjustment has been the resulted DNP's Rashard Lewis has picked up. After starting three consecutive games, Lewis has collected DNP's two games in a row.
It's VERY refreshing however, to see Joel Anthony continue to get some minutes. Anthony played 8 minutes against the Wizards, 13 against the Knicks and about 14 tonight. It might not be a stretch to link Miami's interior defensive lapses this season with the decreased role of arguably, their best rim protector. Anthony finished with 3 points, 3 blocks and a hilarious MVP chant.
Interesting to note: Haslem (-11) and Anthony (+10) played the same amount of minutes tonight.
The Age on the Wing
In height of their recent two game skid and lineup adjustments, I've realized that Miami's age on the wing could become an issue. Moving Haslem into the starting lineup, relegates a three man wing rotation off the bench of Ray Allen (37), Shane Battier (34) and Mike Miller (32). The two other "possible" wing players, currently with DNP's, are James Jones (32) and Rashard Lewis (33).
The Heat's "athleticism" is only highlighted in their starting unit, with LeBron, Wade and Bosh. When Battier was in the starting lineup, any slowness or lack of agility he had was covered up by the rest of the athletic brilliance of LeBron and company. But when brought off the bench, now the Heat have a plethora of older, slow wing players on the court together.
Miami is small in the front court and one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA, but their lack of young athleticism on the wing could explain why they struggle to "close out" and defend the 3-point line.