Wizards 113 - HEAT 121 Recap

MIAMI, February 25 – The Miami HEAT are approaching their toughest stretch of the season, but as of Friday’s 121-113 victory over the Washington Wizards, they aren’t playing like it.

Yes, the week after the All-Star break is often a wonky one in the NBA, with teams coming back together after a layoff, and some being shifted around or broken up at the trade deadline. Those things, with the HEAT playing on the second night of a back-to-back following a tough loss in Chicago, have to be considered.

But the defense doesn’t feel like the defense of December, and the offense doesn’t feel like the offense of early February. That means giving up 114 points per 100 possessions to the league’s fourth-worst offense, 38 to Nick Young, while dishing a mere 14 assists on 41 field goals.

Not to mention Dwyane Wade needing to score 20 points in the second quarter, 41 overall, not to extend a lead, but to dig the HEAT out of a hole.

None of it was sustainable in the day-to-day, it was just enough. And for now, the results made the means acceptable.

“We’ll take this win after this week,” Erik Spoelstra said. “Sometimes you can see some crazy scores after All-Star.

“We move on,” he added.

Nobody will be more happy to do so than Chris Bosh. After shooting 1-of-18 Thursday night, Bosh shot 1-of-5 in the first half, at times forcing his offense more than at any other time this season. Fortunately, there’s always more basketball to play, and Bosh 4-of-7 in the second half, persistent in his attack at the rim while maintaining his defensive impact.

“That’s the best part about the NBA, you play a game, sometimes it disappoints you, but sometimes you have a game the next day,” Bosh said. “You get to redeem yourselves.

“All that’s going through your mind is, ‘Man, I just really need to make a jumper.’”

He eventually did, and the HEAT got by with their horses, along with one contributor who has gone largely unnoticed these past few weeks.

Like most of the Miami players, Mario Chalmers took some time establishing a role in an evolving offense. Starting the season with an ankle injury, Chalmers began the year on the bench, and even upon earning the starting role, looked unsure of how to coexist with the rest of the lineup.

There was no epiphany, either. Just a slow improvement – helped along by a healthy ankle – in both assertiveness and effectiveness. A couple times a game, he would make his impact making a play along the baseline, or with an aggressive assist off a side pick-and-roll. Then, as the rest of the team’s offense became more fluid, he pressured the defense off the ball as well, setting screens and filling open spaces for spot-up opportunities.

Now he’s totaled 40 points, 11 assists and four threes in his last three games and, even if he hits a shooting slump along the way, seems to fit. Any hesitation on the jumper is gone, the risk-taking is paying dividends and he is making those few plays a game that Miami needs its role players to do.

With teams like New York, Orlando, San Antonio, Chicago and the Los Angeles Lakers on the horizon, the HEAT will need that impact, just as it will have to get back to its pre-All-Star ways. Because what was good enough tonight could soon be not enough.