Hornets 84 - HEAT 96 Recap

MIAMI, December 13 – Minutes into the second quarter, Dwyane Wade leaked out on a New Orleans’ miss, catching an on-target outlet. After speeding down the floor, he met Jarret Jack at the rim.

The result? A hard foul from Jack and Wade calling for a flagrant foul from officials. Instead, Wade earned himself a technical foul, but from that point, the game was on.

“I’ve been on the other side a bunch of times, and it’s not cool,” Chris Bosh said. “It’s cool now. When he gets that edge he, I don’t know, he’s really good.”

Before that meeting in front of the rim, Wade had scored seven points. In the rest of the half, on an array of jumpers (two triples) and drives into the paint (13 attempted free throws), he dropped 17, finishing the second quarter with a franchise-high 20 points and 32 for the game.

“He let his game do the talking for the rest of the game,” LeBron James (20 points, seven assists) said.

In some games, a flurry such as Wade’s might have handed the HEAT a commanding lead, but in their 96-84 win over the Hornets, it was just enough to even the playing field, and keep Miami within one at the half.

For that first half, this felt like the most normal game the HEAT had played. There were no outstanding storylines – other than avenging an early season loss to the New Orleans Hornets – just two good teams playing strong basketball. Each squad topped the 50 percent mark from the field, both combined for seven total turnovers and each was carried, offensively, by one player, whether it was Wade or David West (15 points in the half).

But if the first was two teams competing on the same level, the second was one simply putting its talent on display and wearing out the other.

“It took our complete commitment and focus and effort defensively,” Erik Spoelstra said.

As the HEAT produced much better containment on Chris Paul (11 points, 5 assists) than they had in their previous meeting – nothing fancy, just quicker, more instinctual rotations – the Hornets were forced to manufacture offense elsewhere. In the first half, that had been West, but he could not maintain the same pace.

“You hope that you build up enough habits and principles with your defense,” Spoelstra said, “that if you continue to grind it and not panic . . . it will open up some things for us in the second half.”

“We knew that eventually, we would wear on them, our defense would wear on them,” Wade said.

It also helps when, fresh off enjoying a scorcher of a quarter from Wade, turn around and hand the ball to James, who went on a tear just as it seemed he had been a little quiet, earning and-one’s at the rim and hitting a ridiculous behind-the-backboard fadeaway shot on his way to 14 second-half points.

But the difference, in what may have been his finest performance as a HEAT to date, came from Bosh. No, it wasn’t a 35-point, or even a 17-rebound, game, but Bosh has never made so many qualitative contributions, winning 50-50 balls, diving to the floor, throwing outlet passes and clearing space in the middle.

Better yet, after David West had gotten the better of him on the boards in the first half (with 9 boards before the break), Bosh pushed back, holding West to three boards and pulling down eight of his own as the HEAT outscored by Hornets by eight the third quarter, and held them to nine in the final period.

Because it was their ninth consecutive win, this game might be remembered as just one in a long stretch. But, it was also the sort of win that makes long stretches possible, the sort that, had the HEAT lost, they would have had reason to.

“This was a tough minded win, its good because there was a lot of built in excuses,” Spoelstra said. “To come back from a road trip, you don’t have two days in between. Even just the flow of the game, it wasn’t our style.

“It was a good mental toughness win.”

One that was also the HEAT’s ninth straight by double digits, which says as much about a team as Wade or Bosh pushing back or James expertly picking his spots within the flow of the offense. It says Miami is putting together complete games and, maybe, showing what they can really do.