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Miami Heat finally land their knockout blows in dominant fashion

Miami notches their best performance of the regular season.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Following five consecutive down-the-wire showdowns, one can confirm that blowout triumphs still bring a certain level of ecstasy.

Taking a breather from what’s been a pattern of nail-biters lately this campaign, the Miami Heat resembled the conference-leading version they trotted constantly last season with a second-half bashing of the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night to improve their record to 6-7.

Outside of the win in Portland and escape of Golden State, this was the best we’ve seen this team play in what’s been a roller-coaster first three weeks of the regular season.

The victory was secured by the final minutes that Heat fans even got their wish of watching loveable preseason standouts Nikola Jovic and Jamal Cain play some minutes, with both newcomers hitting 3-pointers much to the delight of the Saturday night Miami crowd, including DJ Khaled and his pillow, plus Heat legend Tim Hardaway Sr.

Following a first half which has been normal for Miami 13 games in – getting off to a lead only to turn sloppy and allow the opponent back in a short period of time – the Heat must’ve taken some secret sauce the team chef cooked up at halftime, as they then opened the third quarter hitting their first 11 shots.

In reality, though, they simply watched film and stayed the course, trusting that the brand of basketball they’ve been playing as of late – winning four of their last six despite injuries to Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro – was a stronger indication of their performance rather than the opponent’s hot shooting.

The team was surprisingly happy with how they were progressing despite a near colossal collapse the last time against Charlotte, and the reason why came to fruition on Saturday.

“There were probably 5 or 6 glitches mentally that led to easy baskets defensively, but for the most part, I thought it was a pretty good energy and I really like the way things were going offensively,” head coach Erik Spoelstra said about the first two quarters, which ended with the returning LaMelo Ball and his Hornets ahead 59-57, thanks to solid outside shooting.

Miami trusted the process. Eventually Charlotte no longer played like they were releasing attempts on NBA 2K’s rookie difficulty. Then Max Strus ignited with his patented jumpshot where he leaps in the air like a kamikaze yet still manages to square his shoulders and take a trustworthy attempt from deep. The Strus got loose, and the Heat had juice.

Entering the final period, it was done.

Adebayo was another standout. At this point he’s like Wi-Fi. It’s just always around that you only realize how much you’d panic without it when it’s not around.

It’s easy to take Bam for granted because he’s often reliable doing the unnoticed, a steadying fundamental piece for this team with whom the groundwork of both sides of the floor are established.

He can play any defensive scheme. He can switch on any player and make it back in time to defend the paint or corral a rebound. He’s the catalyst of Spoelstra’s 2-3 zone defense. He can jolt the offense by bringing the ball down. He can distribute to teammates. He can hit pull-ups. He can drive. He can get to the foul line. He’s constantly a lob threat.

He can make plays like these:

Certain skeptics might always focus on what Bam can’t do when they should be considering what the Heat wouldn’t be able to do if not for him.

Adebayo is a one of one. Let Spoelstra give one reason why:

“He has a lot of institutional understanding and knowledge of what we’re looking for in that. I just think he’s an absolute swiss-army knife defensively. We can literally do any scheme: pick-and-roll, man-to-man, zone, switch, everything.

“If you’re in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year, you should be able to do all of those things. I don’t think all the guys in the conversation can do those things. This team is a little bit different, so we have to do different things, but you have to have a guy like Bam that can be that anchor and have that absolute versatility.”

Lowry and Butler were solid without being asked to do too much. Gabe Vincent was stupendous off the bench, providing the kind of scoring the second unit will need consistently, especially on nights where Herro can’t go.

Even Caleb Martin and Dewayne Dedmon were solid enough in their roles, which is the minimum this team needs out of them so that the heavy hitters can land knockout blows.

On Saturday night, that knockout came in many forms for the Heat. And in a season where the only thing that’s been predictable is unpredictability, it sure looked good for them to win one through domination.

The next test – at home on Monday against a hot Phoenix Suns squad – will come soon enough. Until then, let Jimmy and Max set the current vibe: