Kings 97 - HEAT 117 Recap

MIAMI, February 22 – In describing how the Miami HEAT can reach yet another level, Erik Spoelstra’s go-to phrase of the past few weeks has been, “Greatness is consistency.”

In that case, Tuesday’s wire-to-wire, 117-97, blowout of the Sacramento Kings was the perfect building block.

The best thing the Miami HEAT could do against the Sacramento Kings was make sure it was all about Tuesday night. And in doing so, set the table for the toughest stretch of the season. So, they put All-Star Weekend behind them, put Thursday’s matchup with the Chicago Bulls on hold and took care of business from the tip, winning the first quarter, 35-16, on 72 percent shooting.

“Me and [Dwyane Wade] talked before the game and said, ‘Let’s go out and dominate this game and not give them any sense that they can play with us,’” LeBron James said.

As swiftly as the HEAT took control of the game, what was more impressive than their first-quarter showing was that they sustained their energy throughout, tying the second quarter, winning the third and losing the fourth – when the game was all but decided – by three. And per James’ plan, the Kings never appeared to believe they had much of a chance as they were consistently slow in rotations and often content with perimeter looks on offense.

Even better, Miami maintained its performance level just two games – albeit with a long break in between – since relinquishing a 41-19 first-quarter lead to the Indiana Pacers.

“We wanted to focus on just us,” Spoelstra said. “Trying to reach another level and pushing ourselves to a consistency. Reaching higher.

“For the most part, tonight was an energy game. We played the right way.”

Leading the “right way” way, if you will, was James. As much as it can seem like a narrative crutch to mention a player’s change in body language, or look, it fits tonight as James was clearly of a singular focus.

“LeBron really had a different look in his eye at the start of the game,” Spoelstra said. “He just had a very different look in his eyes.”

James scored 14 in the first quarter, 31 overall, as he spearheaded an aggressive attack which led to 20 fast-break points. It was the type of performance that informed all involved that at this stage of the season, the HEAT aren’t letting anyone sneak up on them.

“I don’t think we have the type guys that would let this be a trap game because we’re focused on our goals and we know what we have to get better at,” Chris Bosh (22 points, 9 rebounds) said.

The only other noteworthy development was that Erick Dampier replaced Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the starting lineup, but its one that may carry less significance beyond the minor shock value. Spoelstra has always gone with a center-by-committee style of rotation, using Ilgauskas for floor spacing, Dampier against bigger centers and Joel Anthony against more mobile opponents, and Tuesday was no different. Dampier helped hold DeMarcus Cousin to 3-of-14 shooting while Ilgauskas did not play, but Spoelstra said afterwards that he already has an idea of which upcoming games Ilgauskas will play a major role in.

Whether one of those is against Chicago, when the Bulls could finally have a healthy frontcourt of Carlos Boozer and Joakin Noah, remains to be seen, but for now the HEAT can rest assured knowing that their center tri-fecta is always ready, and that they just turned in one of their most consistent victories of the season.