December 6 The Miami HEATs string of impressive wins continued Monday night as they took out the Milwaukee Bucks, 88-78, to earn their fifth win in a row and hold yet another opponent below 40 percent shooting.
It was a win much like Saturdays at AmericanAirlines Arena, when the HEAT jumped out on the Atlanta Hawks with their new levels of energy and cohesion and withstood a late run with all the poise of an experienced, veteran team.
Only this time they did it on the road.
That was good start to this road trip, coach Erik Spoelstra said. It was a mental toughness win for us that Im not sure we wouldve been able to pull out early in the year. Things did not necessarily go our way during the course of the game and we didnt allow our frustration or dislike for the flow of the game to affect what really mattered.
Though the Bucks have been one of the lowest ranking teams in terms of offensive efficiency this season and rarely made the HEAT make more than one defensive rotation in a given possession that fact hardly discounted just how effective Miami was in keeping its opponent to long jumper after off-balanced shot.
And despite early foul trouble from LeBron James, the HEAT controlled an 11-point lead in a slow, 89-possession game at halftime thanks to Dwyane Wades relentless attack in the middle (7-of-10 from the stripe).
The Bucks were always going to make a run, however, and it came in the second half on the strength of Corey Maggette doing what he does best, scoring in bunches (20 points) and at the line (7-of-9 free throws).
But Miami never wavered, nor, in particular, did its primary scorers. Following Ersan Ilyasovas jumper with 6:28 to play that made it a three-point game, the HEAT responded first with an open jumper earned from up-faking a closing defender from James, an isolation jumper from Wade at the top of the key, and a gorgeous, righty-to-lefty reverse driving layup from Bosh that put Miami back up nine with less than three to play.
A few stops later, and the HEAT were on their way to Utah with the most momentum theyve had all season, thanks in no small part to Wade (25 points and a career-high 14 rebounds) who was there for Miami with a bucket, like the two off-the-bounce hits late in the fourth. But, with credit due James Jones for a number of drawn charges and to Erick Dampier for both clogging the lane and sliding laterally to cut off a number of slashers, Carlos Arroyo was the difference.
Already the third-best shooting point guard in the league from beyond the arc, 48.1 percent, coming into the game, Arroyo hit another pair of three on his way to 18 points on 6-of-6 shooting. Though normally a spot-up shooter this season, with more than 70 percent of his shots coming from assists, Arroyo showed a different side of his game Monday, taking players off the dribble, drawing fouls and finishing through contact.
Our trust has gone a long way, Spoelstra said. Its come a long way in terms of just moving the ball and hitting the open guy and not worrying about anything else.
Though trust is just one of many buzzwords that could be used to describe the difference a week has made for the HEAT, with a five-game winning streak in tow featuring both blowouts and fourth-quarter clinchers, its as apt a descriptor as any of them. Every night, Miami has trusted someone different to come through, and for five games in a row, that trust has been rewarded.