HEAT 96 - Bobcats 82 Recap

January 3 – This was the sort of contest that defies traditional analysis. It doesn’t require extensive tracking of the Miami HEAT’s pick and roll defense, nor are many advanced metrics required to tell the story. This was, in essence, raw talent exerting itself over the opponent in the form of a 96-82 win.

At the end of the first quarter, the HEAT trailed the Charlotte Bobcats, 28-23, as Stephen Jackson and Company took advantage of some lackadaisical defense. It wasn’t quite as lopsided a quarter as Golden State opened with two nights prior, but with the Bobcats shooting over 60 percent, the feeling was the same: the HEAT were clearly playing below their standards, and the Bobcats couldn’t miss.

Enter Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

The criticism of this HEAT team, rather the criticism of the idea of this HEAT team, has long been that two players so used to handling the ball, so used to being in control of every facet of a team’s offense, simply cannot function as effectively on the same court together. It’s been proven before, and pundits had little reason to believe it couldn’t happen again.

Slowly but surely, that trend is officially being bucked.

Where earlier in the season Wade and James were often caught taking turns dominating the ball, with the other relegated to standing around on the wing, waiting for a spot-up jumper, against the Bobcats they were bundles of kinetic energy, with the ball or not.

“They’re also getting a better idea how to play off each other,” Erik Spoelstra said. “How to make it easier for each other and be active participants when they don’t have the ball in their hands.

“They are enjoying this new frontier, this new development in each of their games.”

Sometimes – as when Wade scored on three consecutive possessions in the second quarter with James on the bench – it was just one man imposing his will on the game. But later in that same quarter, when the HEAT were holding Charlotte to 15 points, and throughout the game, they used eachother, with James closing out the half with three-straight buckets, each of them assisted by Wade.

“We both know where the offense is coming from and we’re just trying to be aggressive at the same time,” James said.

The second half began just the same, with Wade earning a layup off his own movement, and a pass from James. And with the defense allowing just 16 points in the third, James’ flurry of five long jump shots in the span of three minutes – all off perimeter isolations – leaning, falling, fading shots that many players are lucky to make one of, it was all but time to call it a night once the fourth quarter began.

They weren’t alone, of course. Joel Anthony may have been just as important in swinging the game in Miami’s favor, his two points, three blocks and 11 boards hardly indicative of his activity level.

What was more telling was that none of Charlotte’s interior players scored more than eight points, with Tyrus Thomas, Kwame Brown and Boris Diaw combining for 18 points on 7-of-22 shooting.

“He was relentless on the boards tonight. Even ones he didn’t get he was tipping,” Spoelstra said.

But so were James and Wade, who totaled 20 boards between themselves, not to mention 69 points on 46 shots. Shots that, were they missing, may have been lamented for poor shot selection.

But that’s where certain types of traditional analysis can sometimes fail. It wasn’t about what shots they were taking and making, it was about what they believed they could take and make. Because now that each is more comfortable doing things that are new to them, the swagger is back. And sometimes, that’s all a game has to be about.