Having the same five starters, followed by predictable substitutions during the game made planning against the Heat a piece of cake. The team broke that mold on New Year's Day with spectacular success.
Starting Tyler Johnson was a stroke of genius by Erik Spoelstra that caught Dallas off-guard. Dallas scored only ten points in the first quarter because they were totally unprepared for Wade's absence, a lack of Justice Winslow as first substitution, and Goran Dragic at the helm. Remember Dragic knows the Mavericks' soft spots very well by frequently playing against them while in the Western Conference.
Tyler Johnson has earned an occasional starting spot with his hustle and getting his "bell rung" several times in the game. One prerequisite for some members of the Heat backcourt seems to be either breaking a jaw or losing a tooth. While their guards may not be the quickest in the NBA, the combination of Goran Dragic, Beno Udrih, Gerald Green, Johnson and Wade make up for their lack of speed by showing no fear in going to the hoop. They are one of the mentally toughest backcourts in the league.
The Miami Heat jitters without Dwyane Wade at the opening tipoff was due to the uncertainty of this health. That benefitted the team, even after he appeared, because they could never let their foot off the gas pedal. Instead Hassan Whiteside used his "bag of tricks" to provide the fuel to lead the team offensively to a resounding victory.
When Wade did enter the game in the second quarter, he was in All-Star form with five of six shooting and seven assists in less than nineteen minutes. The switch between a Dragic-run pace versus a Wade-run pace kept the Mavericks confused on how to handle the situation.
Going unnoticed, Luol Deng totally got into Dick Nowitzki's face giving him no room to operate. Chris Bosh played a quiet leadership role that went unheralded, but you could see players looking to him as a floor general.
Comfort is the enemy of the Heat. By shaking up the status quo enough to remove the safety blanket of Wade starting, the team had the urgency to fill in his void by stepping up their own game. Perhaps Bosh would suffer from nausea in the first quarter sometime in the future, to test who would give the needed bolt of energy at the start in his absence.
Amar'e Stoudemire has not impressed so far, but his talent level is too high to be kept down much longer. Once he get enough reps, he will truly become a "secret weapon." His emergence is simply a matter of time.
Erik Spoelstra deserves most of the credit for the blowout win versus Dallas by not letting them establish any plan of action to thwart the Heat. Usually the Heat begin at a slow pace with Wade, but last night they began with a tenacious feracity. Then Wade came in to change the tempo and kept the Mavericks guessing on what would happen next.
This season the Heat fell in love with stability, which lead to sloppy habits and taking success for granted. Wade won't be coming off the bench regularly, but that tactic shows how breaking a predictable rhythm prevents other teams from making effective game plans versus them. Heat win when their opponent's preparations become totally useless and descend into chaos.