Lakers 88 - HEAT 94 Recap

MIAMI – The Miami HEAT got their close win against one of the league’s best teams, beating the Los Angeles Lakers, 94-88, to snap a five-game losing streak.

There is certainly value in it, the victory, as a mental cure-all, a salve for all the noise. But it’s fleeting, a momentary respite to be erased by the next tip, same as every other win this season that exists primarily in record but not in practice.

What will last, however, is how Miami won.

They won with Chris Bosh backing up his own words in the biggest way. After asking for the ball in better locations following the loss to Portland, Bosh was aggressive from the get-go, getting a layup and a dunk in the game’s early minutes. He was quickly sent to the bench with foul trouble, but where some players let an abnormal rotation disrupt their rhythm, Bosh sustained throughout, scoring 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting.

Erik Spoelstra called plays to get Bosh in the low block more, but it was not as if all the answers were handed to him. Different strategy can help a player, sure, but the player will always have to help himself. So, even in his normal spots in the high post, he made quick decisions, moved the ball and drove. Without the ball, he set screens and flashed hard to the ball. And when his team saw him working, not just sitting and waiting for outside circumstances to produce results, he was rewarded.

“When you ask for the ball, you get it, you got to do something with it. Chris did,” Dwyane Wade said.

“That made us look for him more.”

They also won with the bench having its best performance in weeks. Just 22 points out of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mike Bibby and Mike Miller, but that’s also all it took. Two open threes from Miller, the same from Bibby, and the entire floor changes.

It changed for the worse during Miami’s 13-point third quarter. Spacing collapsed and LeBron James and Wade were left to their own devices as the offense deteriorated around them. But from that came the most impressive thing of the night – the HEAT self-corrected.

Maybe it was Bibby hitting those threes in the fourth quarter that fixed things, or maybe the team just caught itself teetering over the edge, but from a fourth-quarter possession where James curled off a screen at the right elbow and hit a cutting Bosh with a bounce pass for a layup, everything turned around.

Miami missed its next four field goals, but they were earned and open, and the principles had returned. After falling short in the same situations, tied in the final five minutes, five of Miami’s last six buckets came at the rim, as the HEAT scored, and won, as a team.

“That’s a stubborn group in there, to keep on grinding away and continue to put ourselves in that position, where you can fail, or succeed,” Spoelstra said.

“The ball was moving and guys were working in unison to help make each other better.”

And they all sacrificed, whether it was moving away from the ball just to fill an open space and force a defensive reaction or tipping a loose ball to a teammate, there was a common goal. There was no better example than Wade, who had a hardly-perfect night on paper, shooting 9-of-23, but donated his energy and legs to the defensive cause, hand-in-facing every Kobe Bryant jumper as Bryant shot 8-of-21.

“This was an opportunity for us to really just keep our composure and execute down the stretch,” Bosh said. “Get stops when the pressure is on, make plays when the pressure is on.”

When it was time to close, he closed, scoring eight in the fourth, but he did not put the ball through net for the play of the game. Instead, he ripped Bryant with 1:29 left and the game knotted at 88, and tossed the ball ahead to a streaking James for the go-ahead layup.

“We haven’t been doing enough, of late,” Wade said “We haven’t gotten the defensive stops, we haven’t gotten the loose balls.”

Until tonight, they hadn’t been winning, either, which is why the weight will feel a little bit lighter tomorrow. The win gets the HEAT over the hump – as Wade said, they had been losing games in the exact same fashion – but it’s the performance, everything that made the win what it was, that could continue to carry them.

“We’re not just going to be happy or satisfied because we won this game,” Bosh said. “We have to keep striving to get better.”