Rockets 119 - HEAT 125 Recap

MIAMI – “That was a fan’s delight, a coach’s nightmare,” Erik Spoelstra said after the Miami HEAT’s 125-119 win over the Houston Rockets.

That’s another way of saying it was a fun game to watch, but it was technically, and defensively, lacking.

It will be a fun game to discuss, even years from now, too, because of the historical number the HEAT put up. Not only did LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh each total at least 30 points and 10 rebounds, the first time a trio has done so in regulation since 1961, but they were also the first do put up at least 20-and-10 in consecutive games since 1975.

When numbers such as those occur, the game becomes a memorable moment, the sort of event people will proudly say that they were at following an answer to a trivia question years from now. The game becomes so synonymous with those numbers that what actually transpired on the court will be forgotten as the numbers, the headline, melts over the description. And rightfully so. History is history for a reason, and it happens far less often than a regular-season basketball game.

“It’s a true testament to the true reason we all came together, and that was history,” Wade said.

But in the context of this season, the HEAT, against the league’s third-most efficient offense, were as unlike themselves on defense, allowing 116 points per 100 possessions, than they’ve been in weeks. Granted, Spoelstra called Houston one of the most skilled offensive teams they’ve played this season, but Miami was routinely playing catch-up to Rick Adelman’s offensive sets, struggling with the screens being set in front of them – where Kevin Martin did his damage with 29 points – and the cuts being made behind – where Luis Scola’s ball skills were a nightmare, as he dropped 28.

Normally it can simply be a matter of adjusting to an offensive scheme that can do so many things to catch you off guard, but the HEAT never quite adapted in this one.

Instead, they brought offensive execution that was better than Houston’s better and made their timely defensive stops above the rim, the HEAT getting blocks from Joel Anthony, Mike Bibby and two from Dwyane Wade on driving layups in the fourth quarter.

If you can’t stop the other team from getting good looks below the rim, just stop the ball from getting above it.

As for the execution, there was no better example of it than in the final minutes, with the HEAT leading by three. Though Miami had trailed for chunks of both the second and third quarters, they had resisted the urge to play hero ball and take individually-earned jumpers, instead relentlessly attacking the point (64 points total down low).

It was only fitting they did the same in the fourth. After James wound the shot-clock down, stalling near half-court, Wade and Bosh ran an off-ball screen near the right block, with Bosh curling up to the elbow and Wade popping out to the perimeter as James waited patiently.

Bosh then set another screen for James at the top of the key before diving down the middle of the paint. As James came off the pick, he dribbled hard at Wade, handing the ball off as Wade shifted his momentum downhill.

The defense, literally, tripped over itself trying to keep up as Wade scored at the rim, with Bosh in perfect rebounding position. Miami led by five.

Conveniently, the defense found itself for the next possession, swarming on Kyle Lowry (25 points) along the baseline to force an airball on a running jumper. All that was left was getting Bosh his final few free throws to clinch the game, and reserve a little chunk of history.

But now, the HEAT keep their eyes on the immediate future, with a four-game road trip coming up, still a half-game back of the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference.

“I already know what my No. 1 key will be going in to this road trip and that will be going back to our identity,” Spoelstra said.

That identity Spoelstra is referring to is the defense, but ideally, come the playoffs, when Miami gets back to that defense, they’ll find a way to bring along tonight’s offensive execution as well.