Wizards lose but Heat fails to impress
The first thought that came to mind after this game had nothing to do with the Washington Wizards. So forgive me for a minute while I take some time to simply say, the Miami Heat isn't all that good right now.
I know the Heat is 10-8 and you are what your record says you are, but I could not believe how unimpressive it was despite possessing two of the league's most exciting players in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and one of the best power forwards in Chris Bosh.
I'm not saying the Heat won't figure it out and eventually become the team that many predicted. Miami will likely be able to knock off mediocre teams like the Wizards all season but as someone who got so mesmerized by their immense star power, I feel a little bamboozled right now after watching the SuperFriends in person for the first time. All that talent, and they looked really average in a 105-94 win over the Wizards.
This was not a game that I expected the Wizards to have any shot of winning, since they were battling injuries and on the road. The Heat was coming off a drama filled weekend that should've produced an emotional romp over a weakened opponent. Instead, Miami played ho-hum basketball and didn't show much fire until Hilton Armstrong was ejected for shoving Joel Anthony and Kirk Hinrich threw an elbow at James Jones and both players picked up technical fouls.
Erik Spoelstra is catching all the heat for this slow start, but while he could be more creative offensively, he is not the problem -- or rather, the biggest problem, for Miami. He didn't lead the Heat to 47 wins last season with Wade, and little else, by accident. He knows how to coach, even as James and Wade appear to be "chilling" on him.
I don't want to get all Tracy McGrady on James and Wade -- McGrady called the combination "terrible" -- but the heart of Miami's troubles is that those two don't seem to have much chemistry on the court together.
They don't simply defer to each other, for fear of stepping on toes, both players look completely uncomfortable dominating the offense unless one is all alone on the floor, possibly with Bosh. Wade praised James after he scored a game-high 30 points. "That was the LeBron I fell in love with as a basketball player. I haven't seen it. I just want him to be him."
And, James also congratulated Wade on scoring 26 points -- but he kept it in perspective. "We have to find a balance between when we're both on the court and who's going to be aggressive."
They had a great hookup when Wade rebounded a Cartier Martin miss, then pushed the ball up the floor and tossed a no-look pass to James, who flipped the ball in over his head. But other than that, it seemed like the only way it was going to work is if James takes one half and Wade takes the other. That's still more than most NBA teams can depend on, but that approach seems forced -- and won't lift the Heat into truly elite status any time soon.
So, while I might not agree with Armstrong, I didn't laugh out loud when he said after the game, "I think we're going to get them next time."
The Heat simply isn't a team to be feared -- yet.
It would've been interesting to see how the Heat contended with a healthy John Wall, since Miami has been torched by talented, speedy point guards all season. Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Jason Kidd have all exposed Miami's weakness at that position and if you had his playmaking and ability to push the tempo to the Wizards and the game probably would've been a little more competitive in the fourth quarter, when the team looked gassed. But Wall missed his second straight game with a bruised right knee and has missed six of the 16 games with injury this season.
Gilbert Arenas had solid game with 23 points, seven assists and five rebounds, but he runs a team in a different fashion than Wall, since he is often looking more for his own shot -- and with the Wizards lacking scoring options, Arenas had to assume that role against Miami.
The Heat's inability to slow down effective big men also held to form as Andray Blatche scored a season-high 26 points and matched his season-high high with 14 free throw attempts. After the game, Blatche didn't treat the performance as if it was special. "It wasn't nothing different than I always do," he said. "I always try to attack the rim and things was working for me. My shot was falling. That's pretty much it. It wasn't nothing spectacular."
Wade dominated the second half, when he scored 22 points, but Blatche admitted that "the game changed" after Armstrong tried to prevent an easy layup by Anthony and pushed him with two hands. "I didn't try to hurt him - at all," said Armstrong, who is probably staring at one-game suspension similar to the one Elton Brand received last week for his two-hand shove of JaVale McGee.
The Heat quickly extended a 12-point game into a 20-point game in less than three minutes. Hinrich then got mixed up with Jones, who took exception to an elbow Hinrich used to get some separation before making a pass. "I wasn't trying to hurt him or anything. There's a couple of times in the game, where I felt if I had been stronger, I wouldn't have turned it over," said Hinrich, who had a team-high three turnovers. "I was trying to be strong with the ball."
After the game, James regurgitated some of those physical wars with the Wizards, which should surely lead to more boos when Miami comes to Washington on Dec. 18. "Tonight, with the Wizards, I used to that, too," James said with a smile. "The hard fouling stuff. I've been around that block."
Hinrich and the Wizards really believe that they should've come away with a win. "I feel like we could've done a lot of things a lot better," he said. "We've been having trouble on the road, getting blown out. We didn't get blown out. It was a very close game. We just have to get better."
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