Yes, the Miami Heat made Friday night harder than it had to be. After a superb first half of crisp ball movement and stingy defense, Miami carried over the good play into the troublesome third quarter. Miami held a 20-point lead with two minutes left in the third. The Indiana Pacers scored nine unanswered points to close the quarter, and even got to within one point late in the game. C.J. Watson's potential game-tying baseline jumper went in-and-out at the buzzer.
Yes, the Heat still have a long way to go. But you can't get greedy and expect perfection. Not when your favorite team has a losing record at home.
Miami managed to escape Friday night's game against the Pacers with an 89-87 victory. After two straight losses amid injuries emerging as a problem for the Heat yet again, I'll take this elusive home win.
On a night in which an illness sapped Dwyane Wade -- he made some bad decisions on his own, but we'll get to that later -- Luol Deng put together a big, big game. Deng, who was also sick heading into the game, finished with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field, five rebounds and three assists. He helped Miami's offense run smoothly in the first half, making timely cuts to the basket. And the longtime Chicago Bull nailed back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter to keep Indiana at bay. He played great.
Mario Chalmers only scored nine points, but his driving layup with 52.5 seconds left put Miami up three. David West lost the ball underneath the basket on the Pacers' previous possession after an apparent shove, but no referee called a foul. Chalmers took advantage of the discombobulated Pacers defense and made a clutch basket. Chalmers also made a nice and-one early in the third quarter after driving to and around the basket -- yes, it was a lot of dribbling.
Bosh scored 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field, but he should have played better. He bricked two jumpers early in the fourth quarter during a Pacers surge; he should have played much better on a night Wade was ill. In his lone fourth-quarter basket, Bosh made a good move of pump-faking a 3 and then stepping into the line for a more comfortable shot. Bosh was in foul trouble, but he shouldn't have put so much on Deng.
And boy, oh, boy. Part of me wants to give Wade a pass for his abysmal night. He still contributed as a playmaker and as a player in the post. But he missed so many shots he should make in his sleep, including a layup on the break and a floater in the lane late in the fourth quarter. And if he knows he doesn't have it tonight, he certainly shouldn't take a contested turnaround jumper with 1:49 left to go.
Wade finished with just 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting from the field and six turnovers. Wade did deflect an inbounds pass from Indiana with 6.9 seconds left in the game, ticking off a few precious seconds from the clock. But he also needs to get well and play better.
The Heat will visit the Chicago Bulls Sunday at 1 p.m. in Deng's first visit back to Chicago.