Grizzlies 85 - HEAT 118 Recap

MIAMI – It should tell you plenty about the Miami HEAT that even after a 118-85 beating of the Memphis Grizzlies, the postgame message remained the same.

Just as the team, specifically Erik Spoelstra, never got too low during their recent five-game losing streak, there was never a sense of self-satisfaction after their two previous wins. Mental relief, sure, but it has never felt like the team had everything where it wanted it. When they were losing, they had to get better, but now that they’re winning, they want to get better.

Even though the HEAT scored 131 points per 100 possessions, shooting 58 percent from the field, 63 percent from three and assisted on 65 percent of field goals, there remained scattered possessions with covered attempts early in the shot clock and over-dribbling.

“We have to continue to build these habits,” Spoelstra said. “We're doing specific things that had been hurting us, but were doing them better and with more focus and more discipline on both ends of the court.”

This time, however, the occasional loss of discipline never added up to much more than a glancing wound. The shots, even the bad ones, were falling, as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh shot a combined 26-of-42, and more importantly, the offense was never slow to re-gather momentum.

Mostly, because the defense was just that good.

Blocks may be far from a proper indicator of defensive effectiveness, but one first-quarter stretch set the tone of this game in every way imaginable. In less than one minute, with the HEAT only leading 10-8, Wade had four blocks and James added another as the Grizzlies were foiled three times in transition, each time at the rim. From then on, Memphis was, quite literally, looking over its shoulders when it earned open layups, and with the defensive aggressiveness paying dividends, the offense reaped the rewards.

“The ball was moving, our bodies were moving, it was much more cohesive and guys working together to make the game easier,” Spoelstra said.

And for the second-straight game, offense was a term which included the entire team.

The bench’s scoring number of 36 points was inflated due to increased minutes after the game was decided, but there was no letdown as Spoelstra went deeper into his rotation, and the spacing allowed a myriad of drives and kick-outs to function. That’s two consecutive games now where the shooting of Mike Bibby (5-of-5 on threes), Mike Miller (1-of-2) and Mario Chalmers (2-of-3) kept the HEAT’s options open, and though they won’t shoot as well every night, the impact of having those threats on the floor has been plain to see.

And if you consider that the 18-point halftime lead only continued to grow after the break, well, without making any declarative statements, there are very few nits to pick.

“Now we have to continue to try and work these habits and try and get ready for the playoffs,” Spoelstra said.

The HEAT will continue running the gauntlet of playoff-caliber teams this week, with San Antonio coming to town Monday for what Bosh described as a redemption game after losing to the Spurs by 30 one week ago.

“You move on, but you never forget,” Bosh said.

Bosh added that the HEAT took a big step today, in large part because they maintained their intensity on both ends. But, just as a big first half lead means very little if it is lost in the second half, a big step does not translate into fun phrases like turning the corner or reaching another level, especially if they do not sustain on Monday. Because even after wins, as Spoelstra said, the HEAT understand that they must continue to get better.