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Heat have best defensive game of season, rout Spurs

Mar 14, 2011, 11:40 PM EDT

Tony Parker Miami Heat San Antonio Spurs Getty Images

Since the first day of training camp — really, from the first day Miami’s triad of stars aligned — it’s been about the Heat defense. That was the question, the answer would determine how far they could go.

Ten days ago, the Spurs beat the Heat by 30 when Miami’s defense couldn’t stop the Spurs at the arc or in the paint. Miami looked overmatched, like a team destined for second-round trouble in the playoffs.

Monday night, the Heat showed the kind of defense that can make them a threat in May and June. They bodied Tim Duncan off his spots in the post, they hung with the Spurs shooters at the arc, they controlled the paint. Miami dominated this game from the start and won 110-80.

Miami showed a contender-level defender for a night, led by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (each had two blocked shots). The Heat defense has been good all season (ranked fifth in points allowed per possession), but they took it to another level for a night against the team that will finish the season with the best record in the NBA. Can they do it consistently is the question.

Miami was the aggressor from the outset and that showed up in who was getting to the free throw line — early in the third quarter Chris Bosh had twice as many free throw attempts as the entire Spurs team. No, Spurs fans, that was not on the refs, the aggressor gets the calls in the NBA and the Heat were the aggressors.

Bosh finished with 30 points, Wade had 29 and LeBron an inefficient 21 (on 19 shots, it was not his best offensive night. The Heat continues to take steps that get them moving, like breaking out the occasional James/Wade pick and roll. The James/Bosh pick-and-pop also is working well.

Bosh was really the force — he has started to demand the ball more and when he did in the second quarter is when the Heat really took charge and made it a runaway. He did it against the Spurs subs, who were the ones seeming overwhelmed this night. One other thing the Heat have stopped experimenting with is the smaller lineups, where LeBron is the four. They have gone back to trying to be big. It’s working.

When the Spurs are getting blown out and it is clear they will not make a comeback, they roll the tents up early, something Timothy Varner of the Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell noticed before and was certainly true tonight. This is a veteran team that will cede the big loss to save energy for future fights and the playoffs.

But they got a good smackdown by the Lakers recently and lost to the Sixers. The Spurs are not playing their best ball, but that could just be the foot coming off the gas a little as they await the playoffs. San Antonio still has a six-game cushion for the best record in the NBA over Boston and Chicago. Nobody in the West is catching them. They can coast a little. If that’s all this is with the Spurs, than it is nothing to worry about.

Monday’s game was not about the Spurs, though. It’s about the Heat, about them getting their footing, finding their way heading toward the playoffs. Finding their defense. Because if they really find that the rest of the NBA should be nervous.

  1. thestudiokida - Mar 15, 2011 at 12:37 AM

    Heat defense struggles when their offense struggles. Seems backwards but it’s true. When they have a smooth offense they get more excited to make stops and get back on offense.

  2. denverhoopdreams - Mar 15, 2011 at 12:42 AM

    ill give it up to them.. they did pretty damn amazing tonight.

  3. passerby23 - Mar 15, 2011 at 1:58 AM

    Maybe it took all that turmoil for this team to get it together. If not for a phantom foul call on Mike Miller against Chicago, they would now have beaten Chicago, Memphis, LA, and San Antonio consecutively.

    I still like the Bulls as the top team in the East, but if they match up with the Heat I think it favors the Heat. I don’t buy too much into the Bulls winning three games against the Heat. They were close and it really should be 2-1.

  4. lunahumming - Mar 15, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    “Monday’s game was not about the Spurs, though. It’s about the Heat, about them getting their footing, finding their way heading toward the playoffs.”

    It’s NEVER about the Spurs though, is it. When the Heat win, it’s about how the Heat won. When the Heat lose, it’s about how the Heat lost. It’s never about the Spurs. No respect. Looking forward to my Spurs having the last laugh.

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