Miami Heat Index: Chris Bosh

Heat Reaction: Grading Pacers-Heat

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
10:09
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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Wade's absence leaving Heat out of rhythm

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
1:33
AM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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MIAMI -- About two hours before the start of Friday’s game, Dwyane Wade pushed himself through a rigorous workout on the AmericanAirlines Arena court that offered the only recent glimpse of progress amid his most extensive injury absence of the season.

The Miami Heat certainly could have used a few of those shots on a night when they ultimately ran out of firepower in a 122-121 double-overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. In a game that saw the teams combine for 243 points, 192 shot attempts in 58 minutes and 21 lead changes before the final buzzer, there was another number that resonated when all was settled.

Wade missed his 24th game of the season on Friday, including his fifth in a row as he continues to work his way back from a nagging hamstring strain. Wade’s teammates and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra continue to temper their level of concern about Wade's status, but there has been no indication as to when the team’s second-leading scorer might return to action.

Before he carried the Heat for nearly 48 minutes and led Miami with 34 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four steals and a block in the loss, LeBron James said he’s seen enough from the workouts to believe Wade could be back in the lineup relatively soon. James revealed that in addition to the hamstring injury Wade suffered late in the March 26 loss to Indiana, he also is still dealing with soreness from the strained Achilles he sustained in March 19 loss to the Celtics.

The Heat (52-23) have seven regular-season games remaining, with Sunday’s matchup against the New York Knicks the first of six consecutive against teams that are battling for playoff position.

“He’s been looking better and better every day,” James said of Wade, who has not spoken with the media in recent days. “Obviously, testing out that Achilles is something he didn’t want to push too far, or the hamstring. So he’s been strengthening and conditioning. I think he’s getting back to where he needs to be, and probably within the next week he should be back on the floor.”

Both the hamstring and Achilles injuries are in Wade’s left leg. The majority of the games he’s missed this season have been the result of his continued recovery and rest regimen from an offseason procedure to heal his right kneecap of multiple bone bruises.

Relegated to a navy suit jacket, white shirt and tan pants, all Wade could do Friday night after his workout was stand near the bench and watch a win slip away from the Heat on multiple occasions. The Heat led 115-111 with 3:27 left in the second overtime period, but the Timberwolves used a 10-3 run, sparked by Kevin Love’s relentless play on both ends of the court, to take a three-point lead.

Minnesota (38-37) made enough free throws the rest of the way to hold off the Heat, whose final shot to win it failed when Ray Allen was forced into an errant jumper while defended by Love. James said it took him a few moments after the game to get over his frustrations from not getting the ball for the final shot. James expressed a similar sentiment after Spoelstra called a play for Chris Bosh to get the last shot with two seconds left in the 84-83 loss to the Pacers.

“It’s a little frustrating, being in this position again and not being able to get the last shot,” James said. “It happened in the Indiana game and tonight as well. It’s a little frustrating, but I’m over it.”

The Heat scored 29 points off 18 Minnesota turnovers and won the rebounding battle 52-46. But the Timberwolves eventually outlasted the Heat with a balanced offense that had six players score in double figures, led by Love’s 28 points and 11 rebounds.

The Heat believe these are the kind of games that will get them prepared for playoff intensity, but there’s still some level of concern about the team’s overall rhythm with so many key players rolling in and out of the lineup. Allen had 10 points in his first game back after missing five with a flu-like virus.

The Heat won’t rush Wade back, but the sooner he’s available, the sooner they can develop some sense of continuity for the postseason. Wade’s teammates expect him to need a few games to get back into the flow after missing so much time.

“He’s got to get his rhythm, and that’s going to be the main thing,” point guard Mario Chalmers said. “Hopefully, he’ll hurry up and get out there. I think we can figure it out. But as a player, you always want to have that rhythm going into big moments like the playoffs. With D-Wade, he’s a big rhythm player, but it’s easy for him to find his rhythm. So we’re not too much worried.”

Bosh said there are too many unsettled aspects of the Heat’s game to feel overly confident about their level of play the past few weeks. As competition gets tougher, Miami can’t afford to be short-handed. They also don’t want to risk trying to figure everything out once they’re in the playoffs.

“We need everybody,” Bosh said. “As far as rhythm and timing and the sets we run, team chemistry, we need some games under our belt for that. You always have to be concerned. Every team around the league is concerned. If you don’t have any concern, you’re probably going to get beat in the playoffs, quite frankly. I want us to play our best basketball. We have a lot of improving to do. We still have a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long way to go. And it’s not going to be easy at all.”
LeBron James and Chris Bosh discuss grabbing the East's No. 1 seed after their win against the Raptors and the Pacers' loss against the Spurs.

New East leaders looking to stay in front

April, 1, 2014
Apr 1
1:31
AM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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MIAMI -- Chris Bosh was leaving the locker room at halftime of Monday’s game when he stopped and leaned back to catch a glimpse of a hallway television monitor on his way to the court.

The Miami Heat star forward passed by just in time to see how badly the Indiana Pacers were struggling at home some 1,200 miles away against the San Antonio Spurs. Whatever Bosh had just heard from coach Erik Spoelstra during his halftime talk with the team had faded toward the back of his mind.

At stake now was a different reality for Bosh and the Heat.

"I saw that they were down [by] like 14," Bosh said of his halftime peek at the Pacers. "It was more incentive for us to take care of business tonight."

Despite all of their recent issues -- which included starting a 19th different lineup because Dwyane Wade was forced to miss his 22nd game of the season Monday -- there was still an opportunity to seize for the Heat.

Miami then tightened the defensive reins and held the Toronto Raptors to just 32 points on 40.6 percent shooting in the second half to close out a 93-83 victory. The win for the Heat (51-22), coupled with the Spurs' blowout of the Pacers (52-23), moved Miami by mere percentage points into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time this season.

Less than a week ago, a dejected Bosh sat in his locker after the Heat’s 84-83 loss in Indiana essentially dropped the Heat three games behind the Pacers with a dozen to play. Bosh, pointing toward the fourth and final regular-season matchup between the teams on April 11 in Miami, was adamant that night the race for the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage throughout the conference playoffs was not over.

"We’ve got a date with them later on," Bosh said last Wednesday. "And we still have a schedule to play, and they do as well."

Since then, the Pacers have lost three in a row.

The Heat have won three straight.

So basically, Miami spotted the Pacers a win in Indianapolis last week, essentially a three-game lead in the standings and a handful of nights with Wade and Ray Allen unavailable due to an injury and illness, respectively, and still ended up snatching away the top spot in the East.

The Heat now control their destiny over the final two weeks of the regular season, and it’s not a team that forgot just how much that means as they pursue a third consecutive championship. The Heat beat Indiana in Game 7 of the conference finals last season in Miami, then rallied from a 3-2 deficit against the Spurs by winning the final two games at home to capture the title.
[+] EnlargeHeat
Robert Mayer/USA TODAY SportsFirst, Chris Bosh and LeBron James beat the Raptors. Then, they saw their team move into first in the East.

After hearing from afar the Pacers frequently talk about how vital it was for them to claim -- and maintain -- the No. 1 spot in the East this season, Bosh spoke from experience and wisdom Monday.

"When the Pacers were talking, 'Hey, No. 1 seed, home court,' I was like, 'It’s August. Let’s calm down a little bit,'" Bosh said of Indiana’s publicly stated goal from the outset of the season. "We know how it is. It’s a marathon. That’s one of the conversations you have to have amongst yourselves. And it’s a reason to go out there and play hard every day. But, you know, saying to everybody, shouting it from the mountaintop, that’s not our style."

Not anymore, at least.

The Heat like to believe they’ve come a long way since the fireworks and pyrotechnics that provided the backdrop from that highly publicized -- and criticized -- pep rally to commemorate the official free-agency signings of Bosh, Wade and LeBron James in the summer of 2010.

And after scoring a game-high 32 points against the Raptors on Monday, James also showed a mature perspective to avoid making too much of one night of prosperity in the regular-season standings. The Heat aren’t too far removed from their worst stretch in the season, when they lost seven of 11 games at one stage and finished 10-8 in March.

James, a four-time league MVP, two-time Finals MVP and two-time champion, was asked how it felt for the Heat to finally overcome some of their recent struggles to move into first place in the conference.

"It doesn’t feel like anything," James said. "The standings are what they are. We want to play the best we can. The fact that we are in first place is pretty cool, but we have so much work to do. We have guys that need to get healthy, so we haven’t even talked about it. And we probably won’t talk about it."

Meanwhile, the statements were a bit different coming out of Indiana.

The Pacers have lost five of their past six, went 8-9 in March and rank as the league’s lowest-scoring team for the month. Players have addressed friction in the locker room and on the court, with center Roy Hibbert telling reporters after Monday’s 103-77 loss that the Pacers haven’t been worthy of the No. 1 seed.

"Good for [Miami]," Hibbert said of being overtaken in the standings. "We don’t deserve it."

Hibbert then raised concerns about some of the team’s deeper issues.

"We’ve been in a downward spiral and we’ve been splintering a little bit," he said. "We’ve had plenty of players-only meetings and plenty of sitdowns as a team with coaches, and we’ve had some upper management in here, so I don’t know. Maybe we should all go to group therapy or something."

While the Pacers might sound like a team falling apart, the Heat are still trying to come together and establish some semblance of continuity heading into the playoffs. James said before Monday’s game that he’s grown tired of worrying about the constantly changing lineups and rash of injuries that have kept as many as four primary rotation players out of action in recent games.

That’s one of the reasons the Heat didn’t feel as if they accomplished much Monday. They remain very much a work in progress despite being 73 contests into an 82-game season.

"Our work now is just beginning," Bosh said. "We know we can still lose [the No. 1 seed]. That reality is there. What’s most important overall is making sure we take care of the next game. We do that, we’re in the driver’s seat."

That position still isn’t quite a comfortable fit just yet.

A five-game homestand that continues with visits from the Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and New York Knicks this week should give Miami a chance to build rhythm and momentum, but next week features a brutal stretch of four games in five nights against playoff hopefuls Brooklyn Nets, Memphis Grizzlies, Indiana and Atlanta Hawks.

"What I do like is the process of it," Spoelstra said. "We were all extremely frustrated -- you could read it on our faces, body language after the Indiana game. What can you do? You’ve got to get together, address it, try to improve on it. It was painful, but we had to put it behind us and take care of business."

Despite swapping positions Monday, both the Heat and Pacers know the top spot in the East will likely be decided by one more business meeting next week in Miami.

Heat's woes grow after 7th loss in 11 games

March, 23, 2014
Mar 23
1:39
AM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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NEW ORLEANS -- The fact that LeBron James took his normal window seat in the left corner, alone in his own thoughts, at the very back of the team bus late Saturday night wasn't the least bit surprising.

It was when and how he did it that told the story of another frustrating night for the Miami Heat.

Even on a freshly sprained right ankle to go with his lingering sore back, James was the first player to leave the Heat’s postgame locker room, head through security checkout and onto the transport waiting in the docks of the Smoothie King Center.

His head buried beneath the hood of his sweatshirt, James sat for what would be about a 30-minute wait as the last members of the team dragged themselves out of the arena after the Heat stumbled through a 105-95 loss to the lottery-bound New Orleans Pelicans.

The scene was symbolic.

James is hurt, tired and frustrated as he waits on this team to get its act back together. And after seeing the two-time defending champion Heat lose for the seventh time in their past 11 games at a time when they’re supposed to be gearing up for another postseason run, enough was enough.

“It’s too many excuses; everything is an excuse,” James bristled as he rushed through his postgame session with reporters before fleeing the locker-room scene as other Miami players were still showering. “We do something wrong, it’s an excuse. We don’t get a stop, it’s an excuse. We turn the ball over, it’s an excuse. What we’re doing right now ain’t good enough.”

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsLeBron James hurt his ankle and then saw his team lose 105-95 to the lottery-bound Pelicans.
For the second time this week, and 12th time this season, the Heat (47-21) found themselves staggering back to their feet after being decked by a team with a losing record. After scoring 43 points and tweaking his back during Monday’s four-point win in Cleveland, James figured he could take a rare night off and rest for just the third time this season.

The Heat then lost the next night for the second time this season to Boston, another lottery-bound team in the midst of a rebuilding process. After that setback, Dwyane Wade said the “jury’s still out” on this Miami team; Chris Bosh told reporters “it’s not troubling, it’s upsetting” how the Heat were playing -- and that they were running out of time to get things turned around before the playoffs.

Miami retreated home and caught a huge break against Memphis when center Marc Gasol left the game in the second half with an ankle injury. The Heat ended up escaping with a 91-86 victory before catching a plane to New Orleans for their fourth game in five nights.

Yes, that represents a particularly tough stretch for any team trying to conserve what it can for the postseason. And that’s especially the case for the Heat, who have played the equivalent of four NBA seasons over a three-year span that has included three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.

But as James repeated over and over in short-burst answers Saturday ...

“That’s an excuse, too."

He was then asked about the Heat’s constantly changing lineups; Saturday's was Miami's 18th different starting group this season as Wade and Greg Oden sat out to rest their knees.

“We’ve always had lineup changes,” James said of the Heat, which went through 15 different sets of starters during last season’s 66-win campaign. “Guys who are on the floor need to produce. It’s that simple. It’s very frustrating. We’re all frustrated. We just got to all get on the same page. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’ve got to figure it out.”

The Heat aren’t accustomed to these desperate and surly searches for answers. The locker room Saturday had a unique feel to it, something along the lines of frustration this team hadn’t experienced since early in the first season of the James, Wade and Bosh experience, in 2010-11.

New Orleans on Saturday night felt a lot like Dallas that night in November 2010 -- Bumpgate night -- when James and coach Erik Spoelstra forcefully ran into one another during a heated timeout on the way to a loss to the Mavericks dropped the Heat to 9-8. That meltdown led to an extended, closed-door session among players. Even the coaching staff was locked out of the postgame locker room that night.

But there’s one key difference this time around: communication.

It flowed freely and intensely that night in Dallas.

According to Bosh, that’s hardly been the case during this current tumultuous stretch.

“I haven’t heard nothing, just nothing,” said Bosh, who took his routinely constructive criticism to a new depth Saturday. “We just show up and do whatever. [After] a loss, nobody’s upset. [After] a win, nobody’s happy. There’s no passion. There’s nothing. If you’re frustrated, say you’re frustrated. Give reasons for that. We just need some dialogue around here. We’ve been keeping things in for a whole season now. And we’re running out of time. We need to let it out and have some urgency.”

Bosh responded to his own challenge.

“We’re going to have to draw the line in the sand somewhere,” he said. “We don’t talk about it. We’re not expressing ourselves in the locker room or on the court. So I figure I’ll be the first one to say it. We suck. And if we don’t play better, we’ll be watching the championship at home.”

If the Heat were as defensive and emotionally charged on the court Saturday as they were in the locker room, the result might have been different. Instead, second-year star Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans took a bunch of random Pelicans -- players many casual fans likely don’t know or might have forgotten were in the league -- and hammered Miami. And New Orleans (29-40) did it with three of their best teammates -- Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson -- sidelined by injuries.

Davis finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds -- both game highs -- plus three steals and two franchise records. He became the first New Orleans player to score at least 28 points in eight consecutive games, and also the first to post at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in three straight contests.

Some of Bosh’s words might ring hollow because Davis was largely the responsibility of the Heat’s front-line players. But Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen had no answers for his youth, athleticism and skill level. And Davis’ versatility would have created a matchup nightmare for the unavailable Oden.

About 90 minutes before the game, Spoelstra said Davis would soon be a league MVP candidate.

“I probably shouldn’t have said that,” Spoelstra quipped after watching Davis underline the endorsement with his performance. “He’s a very good, young player that can do virtually everything on the basketball court. His age belies his game.”

When Davis wasn’t outworking the Heat’s big men, Evans was driving past Miami’s guards and either scoring in the lane or setting up teammates for easy baskets. Tack on another team that shot at least 50 percent from the field against Miami’s once-vaunted defense.

Seven of Miami’s past 11 opponents have shot between 49 and 52 percent from the field. And add another opponent that shot well above its season average from the 3-point line -- the Pelicans shot 51.2 percent from the field overall, and 41.2 from beyond the arc.

James was long gone from the locker room by the time those numbers were presented. Bosh, at least, wasn’t done with his assessment.

“No offense to the Pelicans, but we’ve been losing to sub-.500 teams for a month now,” Bosh said. “Defensively, we can’t stop a nosebleed. This team got everything they wanted. The only person that’s going to help us out of this is the person staring back in the mirror. Until we recognize that ... we’ll keep getting the same result. We need that competitive drive back. We don’t have it.”

Somewhere between Bosh’s extensive, brutally honest evaluation and the triteness from James that spoke volumes stands a stinging, sobering reality for the Heat.

With 14 games remaining, they’re a team headed toward the playoffs playing their worst basketball of the season. The communication and accountability have slipped. The losses have piled up. The excuses, as James points out, are many.

The productive reactions are few.

The Heat headed home for Monday’s game against Portland, and a marquee showdown awaits Wednesday in Indiana against the Pacers, who hold a three-game lead over Miami for the No. 1 seed in the East.

James didn’t want to address the extent of the ankle injury he suffered in the game when he inadvertently stepped on Andersen's foot while driving to the basket. James crumpled to the court near the baseline and had to be helped back to the Heat bench.

He refused to come out of the game and closed with 25 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

“Put another injury on my list ... it is what it is,” James said dismissively. “I’m not using it as an excuse. I don’t have time to take off. We don’t have time to take off.”

James then took off in a different way.

Straight toward the bus.

Nice shot, Coach Bosh

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
3:24
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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Chris BoshSam Forencich/NBAE/Getty ImagesChris Bosh made three clutch 3s in the fourth quarter, none bigger than the one with 0.5 seconds left.

PORTLAND, Ore. — It wasn't the play Erik Spoelstra had in mind for Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat trailing the Portland Trail Blazers 107-105 and 7.7 seconds remaining.

"My call at the end of the game was more conservative," Spoelstra said. "I drew something up to get him on the move and he said, ‘No, I want it for the 3.' So he overruled it and became a prophet."

Spoelstra's original blueprint had Bosh receiving the ball from Dwyane Wade at the foul line extended, the midrange spot from which Bosh led the NBA last season in field goal percentage and has made a good living. A successful shot would've tied the score and likely sent the game to overtime. Then Bosh did the math.

"I kind of figured that it was going to be a long 2, and I didn't want that," Bosh said. "I knew I would be open and have more space if I popped for 3. In that situation, I wanted to go for the win," Bosh said.

The way Bosh saw it, this was the game's decisive possession and his attempt would ultimately win or lose the game for Miami. That being the case, Bosh wanted a more rhythmic shot.

"My momentum was going to be taking me away and I was going to have to stop, set and there wasn't much time. I wanted to come kind of downhill a little, to step into it."

The play would begin with Wade on the attack. That's the Heat's preferred offensive mode when LeBron James is sidelined, as he was Saturday night after straining his right groin in an overtime loss at Sacramento on Friday. Guarding Wade was the Trail Blazers' rangy forward and best on-ball defender, Nicolas Batum.

"We had Dwyane on the move," Bosh said. "He was able to go right. I kind of set a little brush screen a little bit and popped back. He kept being aggressive. They put two on the ball."

This is the point where Wade had to make a decision. Had he continued on his path to the rim when he encountered both Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge (Bosh's man) in the paint, it wouldn't have been the first time he fought traffic to get a big bucket. Yet Wade knew the degree of difficulty would be high -- and he knew Bosh was open behind him.

"My mindset was to turn the corner and be aggressive," Wade said. "In my peripherals, I saw LaMarcus coming, or one of the bigs, so I knew I was going to have to make a tough shot. I saw Chris was open, so I just threw it back."

A 3-pointer with the game on the line and James resting isn't an unprecedented situation for Bosh. Last March in San Antonio, Bosh hit a go-ahead 25-footer from the top of the arc after hooking up on a pick-and-pop with Ray Allen. In a crazy triple-overtime win at Atlanta in January 2012, Bosh got the ball from Mario Chalmers on a pick-and-pop to tie the game in regulation.

On Saturday, Wade was the assist man, though he won't win any style points. The pass was treacherous, a knuckleball in the dirt that Bosh had to pick up on the short hop.

"He threw a crazy pass a little bit," Bosh said with a broad smile. "I'm not going to lie, but I was able to see it. Nobody was in the vicinity so I didn't have to rush."

Bosh's shot fell through the net and sucked the oxygen out of a stunned Moda Center with 0.5 left on the clock and the Heat leading 108-107.

"It was a cold-blooded 3," Wade said. "It was cold-blooded."

Incredibly, the Trail Blazers came within a whisker of winning the game when they orchestrated a beautiful inbounds play with that half-second. From the left sideline, Batum floated a perfect inbounds pass to Aldridge just in front of the rim. In one motion, Aldridge caught the ball two-handed and tossed it toward the basket, missing wide left as the horn sounded.

"It was exactly what we wanted," Blazers guard Damian Lillard said.

With time expired, the Heat erupted in celebration, one that was uncharacteristically boisterous for December, but given the context entirely understandable. Miami threw a game away in Sacramento on Friday. The Heat beat a team with the best record in the league Saturday on its home floor, all without James, who was on the bench in earth tones -- camouflage tee, tan jacket, brown leather pants.

And then there's Bosh, who finished with a game-high 37 points and 10 rebounds. Not only did Bosh hit a game winner, but he called his own shot from beyond the arc -- even as he was about to share the floor in a two-point game with the league's all-time leading 3-point shooter in Allen and the best slasher of his generation in Wade.

"He already hit two 3s," Spoelstra said. "He was feeling it. He wanted it, and as soon as he said it, I said, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.' It was much better than what I had planned."

Heat Reaction: Grading Heat-Blazers

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
1:39
AM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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Heat Reaction: Grading Heat-Kings

December, 28, 2013
12/28/13
2:21
AM ET
Gutierrez By Israel Gutierrez
ESPN.com
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Friday fireworks for LeBron and the Heat

December, 21, 2013
12/21/13
1:02
AM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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MIAMI -- It was Sacramento Kings rookie Ben McLemore’s “Welcome to the NBA” moment.

In Friday's first quarter, Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers set a high screen for LeBron James to strategically force a mismatch. This wasn't just any mismatch. Chalmers was being guarded by Isaiah Thomas, who stands all of 5-foot-9.

Predictably, James turned Thomas into a traffic cone and barreled toward the rim, where McLemore stood in his way. McLemore, bless his heart, had rotated over from the weak side and tried to take a charge in James’ path.

You can probably guess what happened next. James skied over him with a patented tomahawk, flattening McLemore and sending the nearby Heat bench into a screaming frenzy as James towered over the rookie. No charge called.

“It sucks that it was him,” James said after the game. “Because I like him. That sucks.”

After the game, McLemore was in good spirits, laughing off the play. James and McLemore go back to the rookie’s high school days in Missouri.

“I just went over there to try and take the charge,” McLemore said before letting out a smile. “And he dunked the ball.”

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesNext time, Ben McLemore may think twice about contesting a LeBron James dunk attempt.
There’s a lesson underneath the highlight reel. You see, the play showcased a classic dilemma in the game: Do you bravely challenge a player launching for a dunk? Or just let him roll through -- maybe the cowardly thing to do in some eyes -- to avoid the potential humiliation?

McLemore made his choice, but not without second-guessing himself.

“Afterwards, I thought maybe I should have just fouled him,” McLemore said. “Knowing it was LeBron, I knew they weren't going to call (a charge), but I was just playing to my defensive principles. Even though they didn't call it, I didn't let that mess my game up.”

In the eyes of Kings head coach Mike Malone, McLemore made the right play, the more admirable one. McLemore could have given up and let James score an uncontested bucket. But instead, McLemore made a play, trying to cover for his teammates who blew the pick-and-roll coverage.

“Some guys would duck and get out of the way because they do not want to be on the ESPN highlight tape,” Malone said. “But Ben is a competitor and he hates to lose. I’m proud of Ben.”

After much pondering, Shane Battier thinks it was a rookie mistake. As one of the foremost charge-takers in NBA history, the Heat forward has been in McLemore’s spot countless times.

What did the expert think of McLemore’s choice?

“You get out of the way,” Battier said. “Even if you go for the foul, you’re going to hurt yourself. At some point, you just cut your losses and do the fake trip and or something and say, ‘Oh well, I tried.’"

Battier continued his lecture.

“That’s a skill, a learned skill,” Battier joked. “I don’t expect a rookie in his first 20 games to understand that. That’s the biggest difference between the NBA and college: the speed of the game. You have to understand what you can get away with. So he’ll learn. It was a learning experience.”

James’ dunk will be replayed over and over, but it also symbolized the game. The Heat scored a season-high 122 points against the porous Kings defense and won easily, by 19 points. The defensive intensity of Friday’s matchup was on the level of the All-Star Game. Maybe lower.

Put it this way: The Kings shot 58.1 percent from the floor and lost by almost 20. In fact, a team hasn't shot that well and lost by that much in over 25 years.

Not since April 5, 1986, when the Phoenix Suns shot 61.1 percent and lost by 19 to, ironically enough, the Kings. How’s this for perspective: New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson was starting for the Kings at shooting guard.

All in all, James’ dunk on McLemore was just one of 20 dunks in the game, the most in any NBA game this season. Believe it or not, Ray Allen dunked for the first time this season. And then dunked again, marking the first time he’s dunked twice in a game since Feb. 10, 2011, against the Los Angeles Lakers.

“Ray looked good getting up there,” James said. “I was watching ‘He Got Game’ last night and he dunked a lot. Jesus Shuttlesworth was out in full effect.”

With the victory, the Heat move to 20-6 on the season, tying the best 26-game start in franchise history, set last season. It was the 13th straight game that the Heat have scored at least 100 points against the Kings, setting a franchise record for consecutive triple-digit games against an opponent.

The Kings aren't an NBA-caliber defense just yet. This was the second game in a row that they've hemorrhaged at least 120 points to the opposing team, dropping their record to 7-18. Since Rudy Gay's arrival, the Kings have allowed 111.8 points per 100 possessions, which would rank dead last in the league. The offense has barely improved. Gay had seven turnovers in his fifth game in his new uniform and the Kings shot 41.7 percent from the free-throw line.

Despite 27 points of his own, DeMarcus Cousins barely slowed Chris Bosh, allowing the Heat big man to score a season-high 25 points on 11-for-16 shooting. After the game, Cousins sat at his locker, eating a plate of chicken fingers before leaving the room without speaking to reporters.

Needless to say, Malone wasn't pleased with the Kings’ performance and proceeded to rail on his team’s defensive effort.

“We have nobody that is protecting the basket,” Malone said outside the Kings’ locker room after the Heat scored 70 points in the paint. “I question how many guys that we have on this team who will take pride in their defense. I think a lot of guys are worried about their numbers and the offense, but they are not committed to defense. That’s apparent every night you watch us play.

“Every day in practice, every shoot-around, every team meeting and every film session, all we talk about is our defense. Obviously the message isn't getting through. They’re not accepting it or they’re unwilling to accept it, I’m not sure what the problem is; but I have to find five guys (Saturday night) in Orlando that are willing to compete on the defensive end of the floor.”

Moments before Malone’s rant, James videobombed Bosh’s postgame TV interview by wheeling Dwyane Wade around like a wheelbarrow in the background.

Two different vibes for two different teams.

Just another Friday night in Miami for the two-time defending champs.

Heat Reaction: Grading Kings-Heat

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
11:03
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Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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Heat using big-picture approach with Pacers

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
12:03
PM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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LeBron James and Paul GeorgeAP Photo/Michael ConroyWill LeBron James be able to slow down the fast-rising Paul George in Round 2 of Heat-Pacers?
MIAMI -- Over the past several years, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has often secretly enjoyed playing the long game against opponents he expects to see in the postseason.

It’s not exactly unheard of. But Spoelstra's plotting is often more extreme than the garden-variety chess match. He has changed his starting lineup, for example, twice in the middle of the NBA Finals.

He’ll hold back certain lineup combinations, plays sets, and this season he's even kept a certain 7-foot, former No. 1 overall pick under wraps until he feels the time is right.

That is one of the luxuries of having a team expected to make a deep playoff run, and when perhaps only one serious contender stands between you and a fourth straight Finals appearance.

That makes it hard to predict exactly what will be seen Wednesday night, when the Heat and the Indiana Pacers face off for the second time in eight days (ESPN, 7 p.m.). After last week’s Heat game plan in Indianapolis led to a 90-84 defeat, it would seem that Spoesltra would want to take this chance to test out a few more strategies.
[+] EnlargeSpoelstra
AP Photo/Michael ConroyErik Spoelstra is careful about tipping his hand to the Pacers.

But that may be tough, considering that the personnel for this matchup is somewhat of a mystery. LeBron James suffered a mild ankle sprain Monday night and, though he would usually play through it for a big game like this, he purposely didn't commit to anything after missing Tuesday’s practice. His history of ankle sprains is varied -- sometimes he’s been able to play through them and sometimes he’s needed to sit for a game or two.

Meanwhile, the Pacers are openly waiting for Greg Oden to be used against them, but the Heat have given no indication that Wednesday will be that moment. And Michael Beasley (hamstring) has not practiced or played in 10 days.

“The key for us against this team is to get to our identity,” Spoelstra said, leaning on one of his favorite phrases. “We have to play our game.”

That means playing fast and small and to force defenses to cover more ground than they prefer at a quicker pace than they prefer. The Pacers have an unwavering method as well, which is to slow the game down and to play with big lineups that favor an interior game and not to bend to the opposing teams’ style by changing their lineup.

Chris Bosh said there are holes to exploit in the Pacers' strategy, but the Heat certainly failed to do that in their first meeting of the regular season. What it did show, however, was Miami's willingness to use some creative wrinkles that didn't much resemble how the Heat operated against Indiana in last season's playoffs, an indication that Spoelstra might indeed be in the mood to do some experimenting with these matchups.

In that game, Spoelstra decided to deploy James to defend Paul George from the outset instead of saving that move until the fourth quarter, as was his standard. James held George scoreless early and the Heat built a lead, but James became gassed and didn't seem to have the energy for the duties later. George ended up having a big second half, scoring 15 of his 17 points while working mostly against Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen.

Spoelstra also tried using what Pacers center Roy Hibbert called a "big-big" lineup, playing Chris Andersen and Chris Bosh together in the second half instead of using smaller shooters like Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem around Bosh. That enabled Hibbert to roam less and stay in the middle, which plays right into the Pacers' wheelhouse. The Heat managed just 37 points in the second half.

The expectation is that the Heat would take a different approach this time around. They can preserve James' energy for later, especially if he’s less than 100 percent. They can commit to give Battier -- who has been in a shooting slump and hasn't even attempted a 3-pointer in the past two games -- longer minutes. Perhaps they can even go to Haslem, who hasn't played much since suffering a back injury last month but was a key contributor against the Pacers last postseason.

Either way, tiebreaker scenarios leading into the playoffs are in play here. If the Pacers score a victory Wednesday they will take a commanding two-game lead in the race for the No. 1 seed with only two regular-season matchups left (March 26, April 11). The repercussions of that may seem far away but this will be crucial eventually, especially with these two teams so far ahead of the pack in the Eastern Conference.

Spoelstra, though, may have to weigh just how much he will want to dip into the bag for it. Especially when it comes to deciding whether to risk playing James or to make lineup changes that could have more value down the line.

“As the season goes on, we’re always going to be looking at what they’re doing; they’re going to be looking at what we’re doing,” Bosh said. “These games are important because who knows what it’s going to come down to. So we want to come out and win this game. It’s going to be an interesting thing.”

Chris Bosh gets back on the boards

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
1:02
AM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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Chris BoshIssac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesChris Bosh wasn't strictly hanging out on the 3-point line, as this jam during Saturday's win shows.
MIAMI – Chris Bosh admits the pressure was on.

His Miami Heat teammates and coaches could only cover up for the disappointingly low rebounding numbers and his preference to hang out on the perimeter for jumpers for only so long.

So after the Heat returned to Miami after ending a four-game road trip with a loss to Indiana Pacers, there was a day off followed by two practices sessions that resembled something close to training camp. Among the team’s primary focuses was to get Bosh back to a big man’s game.

“They’re putting that pressure on me,” Bosh said. “So I just have to figure it out, with their help a little bit, and get into a good rhythm, and just keep building.”

Bosh was able to establish a solid foundation from which to build after his most complete game of the season in Saturday’s 114-107 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers. On a night that featured several notable performances from the Heat, Bosh’s 22 points and season-high 12 rebounds highlighted the start of a five-game home stand for a team that spent the past few days regrouping from an uneven trip.

For Bosh, this was about getting back to the basics of being an impact player in the post. The spotlight was clearly on Bosh after the Heat were pummeled inside during their previous two losses to Chicago and Indiana. In the setback against the Pacers, center Roy Hibbert dominated the second half of the game and doubled Bosh’s overall production in points and rebounds.

While the Cavaliers certainly aren’t the Pacers, Cleveland does present the sort of frontcourt size with Andrew Bynum, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson that has been problematic for the Heat. So to see Bosh respond from the outset with aggressiveness on offense and a sturdy presence defensively was enough to leave coach Erik Spoelstra looking for this to be the start of something sustainable.

After all, the Pacers are looming again with a visit to Miami on Wednesday. But before then, there will be an opportunity for Bosh to build from Saturday’s effort in Monday’s game against the Utah Jazz. The key for Bosh is to continue to embrace the fundamental elements of his game.

Bosh insists his overall approach didn’t change on the way to shooting 10-of-17 from the field and providing the perfect interior complement to LeBron James’ near triple-double and Dwyane Wade’s relentless attacking style. What Bosh did adjust, however, was the way he mixed up his game. After taking midrange jumpers early in the game, Bosh really got going in the second quarter when he sliced through the lane for a ferocious, two-handed dunk in traffic.

“Any time you get easy buckets like that, it definitely gets you more involved,” Bosh said. “Just seeing the ball go through, especially emphatically like that, it’s a good thing. I just try to make sure I build off that when I do it. [Spoelstra], he’s been trying to get me in more of those situations. They’ve been on me to roll, get more rolls to the basket, figure out when to roll and when not to roll.”

Sorting through that predicament hasn’t been an easy process for Bosh, whose shooting touch and versatility has allowed him to create matchup problems for bigger, traditional centers to create favorable options for the Heat on the way to winning consecutive titles. But on those nights when Bosh’s rebounding dips to critically low numbers because he’s hovering along the perimeter, he’s the easiest and biggest target for finger-pointing.

Miami annually been one of the worst rebounding teams in the league since Bosh, James and Wade became teammates in the summer of the 2010. But Saturday was the latest example how the Heat overcome those limited shortcomings with the collective contributions of their Big Three.

The Heat got past the Cavaliers not only because Bosh was at his focused best, but also because James contributed 25 points, nine assists and nine rebounds to go with 24 points, six assists and three rebounds from Wade. And Miami still wasn’t safe, because it squandered all of a 19-point lead in the second half and trailed by as many as five points late in the fourth quarter before rallying at the end.

“That’s something we have to look back on film and kind of really dissect and see where we’re falling short a little bit,” Bosh said of the Heat’s stretches of sporadic play. “We don’t want to pick up any bad habits. We have to be honest with ourselves, look at it and move on from there.”

That process of accountability led Bosh to realize he needed to get back to his own fundamentals.

“I just wanted to do a good job of doing my job,” said Bosh, who is averaging 14 points and 6.1 rebounds this season. “[That’s] making sure I’m boxing out, being where I’m supposed to be on defense. I just want to be more consistent with my rebounding, just making sure I’m in the right spot at the right time.”

That’s the blueprint for Bosh.

And this was an occasion when he completed all of his tasks to expectations.

“I really liked his pie chart, and how many different ways he impacted the game, really on both ends,” Spoelstra said. “It started off as an offensive rebound, the ball was tipped and he was going after it. On a free throw, he was aggressive, putting his head under the rim having opportunities to get some easy ones. And then, because of his matchups, he was finding open shots, open space right in his comfort area. He has a lot on his plate to help us with his versatility, but he pretty much did all of that tonight.”

James summed it up more efficiently.

“When [Bosh] gets a double-double, we are pretty much unbeatable,” James said of Bosh’s second double-double of the season. “He had his legs. He looked great.”

The goal now is to keep Bosh involved and engaged, which is something that starts within.

“I’ve been talking about it,” Bosh said. “Against bigger teams, it’s so easy to float around on the outside and get the outside shot. That’s what I can do. But keeping them honest, mixing it up and keeping them guessing, that’s something I’m working on right now. With this homestand, I’m just trying to make sure I come out with good energy every game and put in the necessary time in the weight room, on the court and in the film room -- just doing what I need to do to stay sharp.”

What a difference a week makes for Miami

December, 7, 2013
12/07/13
2:03
AM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS –- It was all good just a week ago.

Then, the Miami Heat were in the process of extending their winning streak to 10 games. LeBron James was dunking flawlessly, dominating games with his efficiency and touting the Heat’s supporting cast as the deepest he’s had since he arrived from Cleveland three years ago.

This time last week, Chris Bosh seemed to have shaken out of an offensive slump after rescuing the Heat from a 14-point deficit against Charlotte by scoring 13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and grabbing nine rebounds in the win. And Dwyane Wade was in the midst of arguably his best flow of the season, having negotiated his knee soreness to score at least 20 points in four consecutive games.

Considering how matters have gone for Miami the past few days, last week seems more like last season.

That’s how quickly things change for the Heat, who are now in a deep search for answers as they head into Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves looking to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season. After getting hammered in the paint and on the boards in consecutive double-figure losses to Detroit and Chicago, the challenges don’t get any smaller for the Heat -– literally or figuratively –- as they try to gain traction in their latest stop of a frigid four-game road trip.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty ImagesLeBron has been one of the few mainstays in the Heat's lineup.
Heat players had the day off Friday coming off their worst loss of the season in Thursday’s 107-87 setback against the Bulls. But there was hardly a sense of idleness surrounding the Heat as they look to address some interior issues from the past two games, in which they've been outrebounded by a total of 34 boards and have allowed a combined 104 points in the paint.

Those disturbing numbers had the Heat taking inventory ahead of facing the Timberwolves.

“It’s a recurring thing with our team, and we have to do a better job with that,” James said of the Heat’s recent struggles in the paint. “We would love to shoot 50 percent every game, but it’s going to be times we need to gut out a win. Teams have done a much better rebounding job than us. It can be an effort thing; it can be a lot of things. But we just have to go out and go get them. I’m going to do a much better job with that, get more rebounds. But it’s a group thing for our team.”

As Miami examines every aspect of its rebounding woes -- from working on fundamental techniques to perhaps tweaking personnel groupings and schemes -- the next chance to regroup will come against the shorthanded Timberwolves, who expect to be without league-leading rebounder Kevin Love, who has been away from the team because of a death in the family.

After Saturday’s game, the trip continues with a rematch against the Pistons on Sunday and ends with Tuesday’s showdown against the Indiana Pacers as the teams with the best records in the East meet for the first time since last season’s conference finals.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra suggested a lack of consistent toughness is among the reasons why his team has been pushed around the past two games. And, considering the competition, matters could get worse before they get better if the Heat don’t fix the problem quickly.

“We are going to look at film of the last couple of games and see where the opportunities are,” Spoelstra said. “However, there are a lot of things to do before changing lineups. We have to look at other things like rebounding, putting two hands on the ball and playing defense.”

That seems simple enough, even for a team that’s won consecutive championships despite ranking among the league’s worst in rebounding each of the past two seasons. But complicating matters has been the lack of lineup continuity. Wade is expected to be available Saturday after missing Thursday’s game with flu-like symptoms and sitting out Tuesday with right-knee soreness.

But even if Wade returns against the Timberwolves, he’s likely to be out of the lineup again Sunday in Detroit as a precaution to avoid pushing the veteran guard through games on back-to-back nights. Miami is also expected to have Chris Andersen back after the reserve center was away from the team Thursday to deal with a personal matter.

James said it’s been difficult to establish cohesion amid so much unevenness from game to game.

“But what are you going to do about it?” James rhetorically asked after the loss in Chicago. “When guys are out, (other) guys have to step in. As far as continuity, you would love to have your set rotation. But things happen. It’s been a challenge for us, because it’s been more off than on with us since the season started. But it’s better early than, hopefully, late.”

Only James and backup point guard Norris Cole have played in all 19 games with season. Spoelstra has either had to alter his starting lineup or tweak his playing rotation at least once a week since the Oct. 29 season-opening win against the Bulls.

Rebounding is one concern. Roster reliability has been another.

“We just have to do a better job with our schemes, of helping guys out, help rotating,” James said. “We just want to get healthy. That’s our concern. We want to play with what we've got. And we haven’t been able to do that consistently.”

And that’s led to inconsistent results, which explains the odd ebb and flow of the Heat’s season.

Bosh, whose uneven play has been a microcosm of said season, is confident Miami will soon settle into a productive groove again on both ends of the court. He insists the team won’t get too distraught amid this week’s turmoil, just as it didn't grow overconfident with last week’s success.

“When random situations happen during the season, we have to be ready for it,” Bosh said. “We are looking forward to bouncing back, and it’s a huge challenge for us on the road right now. We have a chance to really make some ground up. We always expect to win, no matter who we put on the floor. We’re going to have to just get back to playing our game and let everything else take care of itself.”

Heat Reaction: Grading Heat-Raptors

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
11:02
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
Archive



Style rankings fuel fire in LeBron, D-Wade

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
5:30
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
Archive
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade typically don't find themselves at odds much -- at least not publicly.

But Friday was an exception.

On the court, James and Wade represent one of the most dynamic and productive tandems in the league. But when it comes to fashion, they're competitive rivals. GQ Magazine stoked those fashion flames this week when it named James the best-dressed athlete of 2013, with Wade slated ninth.

The distinction for James comes during the same week Wade launched a signature brand of neck-wear as a follow-up to a line of socks he released earlier this month. Both James and Wade have graced covers of fashion magazines across the world in recent years.

But the GQ honor brought out their competitive fire after Friday's practice.

“What do I think about it? They got it right,” James said when asked about being selected for 2013. “(Wade) should be higher. D-Wade has great style, too. He's a lot different than I am, as far as style. But we take that very serious, man, to be able to clean up and look presentable anywhere we go.”

Whereas Wade tends to trend more flashy with is fashion, GQ appreciated James' subtlety.


He's No. 1 in a lot of areas in life, but that ain't it. But congratulations to him -- and whoever he paid to get that. I've got to talk to my guys at GQ.


-- Heat guard Dwyane Wade, on LeBron James being named best-dressed athlete

According to the article on the magazine's website:

“It's because when LeBron struts into a room swathed in Purple Label, he has the swagger to pull it off. When wearing the simplest black suit, he understands that tailoring is key, cutting everything close to his nearly seven-foot frame. For LeBron, it's a world of custom Tom Ford suits and Gucci shoes, but none of this made-for-me stuff gives you great personal style unless you have the keen eye of someone determined to look good all of the time. He's got an opinion that I'd ask for anytime.”

After Friday's Heat practice, James compared his style off the court with the versatility of his play.

“I'm a little all over -- my style is like my game. I'm not just one-dimensional,” James said. “I can pass, I can shoot, I can rebound, I can defend. I can do everything. That's what my style is.”

Wade offered a different view.

“He's No. 1 in a lot of areas in life, but that ain't it,” Wade cracked. “But congratulations to him -- and whoever he paid to get that. I've got to talk to my guys at GQ.”

Progress report

The status of Wade's health has been a hot topic around the Heat in recent days. Meanwhile, there have been very few updates regarding any progress center Greg Oden has made as he tries to work his way back into NBA shape after a three-year absence due to knee problems.

Oden has preferred to work quietly and out of the media spotlight, and has granted very few interview requests since the start of the season. But Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Friday that Oden has made advances recently, specifically in the weight room by strengthening his legs. Spoelstra would not reveal specific details, but Oden is trying to regain muscle around knees that have endured multiple surgeries.

“The biggest key with Greg is for everybody to still think big-picture and not to be rushed by somebody else's expectations,” Spoelstra said. “Our plan with him was a little more specific, to really get the balance and strength of his legs up to par, where our training staff and medical staff feel that he can take the next step. That is the priority.”

Along the way, Spoelstra said Oden has been able to work in general conditioning and some basketball work with the team. Oden's only action in a game came during a four-minute stint against the New Orleans Pelicans on Oct. 24 in the Heat's next-to-last preseason game.

Oden has spent the regular season on the inactive list, even in times when the Heat were shorthanded elsewhere on the roster and could have dressed him in uniform. But Spoelstra said he doesn't want to be tempted to play Oden before he's physically ready to contribute in a consistently meaningful way.

So patience remains the priority.

“He is making very good progress, as well,” Spoelstra said. “He's getting stronger. He hasn't lifted like this before, ever in his life.”

Health watch

Wade (knee) is expected to start Saturday against Orlando. Spoelstra said all players participated in Friday's practice and did not list any injury concerns that could affect Saturday's game.

Did you know?

Spoelstra launched his website, coachspo.com, with a question-and-answer session with fans Friday afternoon. Spoelstra said the site is designed to offer fans an inside look at parts of his life on and off the court, and will include video footage.

Quote of the day

"Just keep doing the same thing. The main thing is not thinking about it. Just let the game happen, pick my spots and keep the game simple. The more I simplify the game, the more it works for me." -- Chris Bosh, on shooting 78.2 percent from the field his last three games.

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