LeBron James 7-17 FG | 6-8 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 21 PTS | -21 He was a one-man band for most of the night. With Dwyane Wade sitting out with flu-like symptoms and Chris Andersen out due to personal reasons, the Heat relied on LeBron to create just about everything in this one, but he can only do so much. He pounded the rim from the opening tip, but his jumper was as frigid as the Chicago air.
Chris Bosh 4-11 FG | 2-4 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | -13 For Heat fans, Bosh's outing probably brought back nightmares of his 1-for-18 night way back in 2011 at the United Center. It was that dismal. I mean, you and I had as many rebounds as Bosh did until 9 minutes, 7 seconds remained in the third quarter: zero. Rebounds aren't everything, but when Andersen isn't in uniform, the responsibility falls squarely on Bosh's shoulders. He crumbled under the weight.
Michael Beasley 7-13 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | -3 Beasley had more good moments than bad. At one point, he blocked Joakim Noah at the rim and then slalomed the length of the floor for a wide-open layup. In another stretch, he routinely got worked in the paint by Taj Gibson and took ill-advised jumpers. The consistency wasn't there, but at least there were highs to counteract the lows. Not many of his teammates could say that Thursday.
Ray Allen 2-4 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | -13 Believe it or not, this was Ray Allen's first start for the Miami Heat. And it may be his last. Allen stepped in for Wade instead of the usual placeholders like Roger Mason Jr. and James Jones, but the Heat were completely out of sorts. If the Heat are going to go "small" against the Bulls, they need Allen and Shane Battier to bring it from deep. They didn't.
Chicago Bulls What's more crucial to the Bulls' success: their relentless defense or Derrick Rose? For a night, the former made a convincing case. With the strong-side attack, the Bulls threw off the Wade-less Heat offense and wiped the glass squeaky clean. The Heat hate playing against the Bulls, and their disdain mostly stems from the unrelenting frontcourt of Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer.
The Heat scored fewer than 100 points for the fifth straight game, the team's longest streak since March 2011.
CHICAGO -- Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade missed the team’s shootaround with flu-like symptoms and is considered questionable for Thursday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Wade will be reevaluated later in the day before determining his status for the game. Heat center Chris Andersen was away from the team to deal with a personal matter and is expected to join the Heat in Minnesota on Saturday for the remainder of the team’s four-game trip.
Wade also missed Tuesday’s game to rest his sore right knee. Wade used his social media account Wednesday night to post a photo of himself receiving electronic stimulation treatment on the knee, with ongoing rehabilitation having kept the star guard out of four games this season.
LeBron James 8-15 FG | 5-8 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 23 PTS | -6 LeBron will be first to explain that when he's in uniform, there are no excuses for his play. But it was obvious he wasn't himself Tuesday against the Pistons as he continues to play through a sore back and other minor ailments. With Dwyane Wade sitting out with knee soreness, LeBron likely felt obligated to push through a sluggish, turnover-plagued start but there wasn't much at the finish.
Chris Bosh 5-11 FG | 4-6 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 14 PTS | -14 This was a night Bosh needed to bring his "Big Boy" game, considering the Pistons came leading the league in points in the paint. But the Pistons came in and dictated early, and Bosh struggled to establish himself on both ends of the court. There also wasn't enough help from backup center Chris Andersen to keep the Pistons from pummeling the Heat in the paint and dominating the boards.
Michael Beasley 9-16 FG | 2-3 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 23 PTS | +3 While James Jones got the start at shooting guard in Wade's absence, it was Beasley who stepped up to fill the secondary scoring load. Beasley provided a boost in the fourth quarter as the Heat used a 20-6 run to get the Heat back into the game after trailing by as many as 18 points. But his season-high scoring output did little to diffuse the Pistons. Still, it was another promising performance.
Shane Battier 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -10 The Heat lost the style matchup because their shooters couldn't do enough to stretch the floor and take advantage of Detroit's big men. Battier, Jones, Bosh and Rashard Lewis were a combined 0-for-10 from 3-point range. Battier, who recently moved back into the starting lineup, has scored just 18 points his past five games and is shooting 25 percent from 3-point range in that span.
Detroit Pistons The Pistons got their first win of the season against a team with a winning record by dominating the game from start to finish. They showed why their revamped roster could be a problem for teams in the Eastern Conference. Fueled by a massing front line of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith, Detroit scored 60 points in the paint against Miami, the most allowed by the Heat this season.
The Pistons ended the Heat's 10-game winning streak by capitalizing on Miami's blunders. Detroit scored 29 points off 19 Heat turnovers.
Andre Drummond and the Pistons are in Miami to take on the Heat, who have won 10 in a row.
1. Fact or Fiction: LeBron, Wade and Bosh will all shoot over 50 percent this season.
Tom Haberstroh: Fact. This shouldn't be a problem for any of these guys with all the space that's afforded to them in Erik Spoelstra's offense. The only question is if the team will shoot over 50 percent, which is looking like a real possibility.
Michael Wallace: Fact. The Heat had the NBA's most efficient offense last season and it has gotten better this season because of the accuracy and unselfishness of the Big Three. James, Bosh and Wade shot career-high percentages last year. They'll be close to those numbers again.
Brian Windhorst: Fact. They did last season and the offense is focused on efficiency so they should again. The question is whether LeBron can go for 60 and Bosh and Wade can stay at 53 like they are now.
2. Fact or Fiction: Andre Drummond will be the second-best player from the 2012 draft.
Haberstroh: Fact. And if Anthony Davis didn't come out strong this season, I might have seen Drummond with the brighter future. Just wait until he's not fighting for space and minutes in a clogged front court. The Big Penguin is just getting started.
Wallace: Fiction. Only because it's way too soon to make anything close to a definitive statement about that crop just yet. Drummond has the biggest upside, but others such as Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes and Bradley Beal all make legit cases for potential silver status behind Anthony Davis' gold standard. But Drummond is a safe bet.
Windhorst: Fiction. Everyone is so enamored with his athleticism for his size. But his skill development has a long way to go before he becomes a franchise player.
3. Fact or Fiction: Tonight is a first-round playoff preview.
Haberstroh: Fiction. Maybe in a normal Eastern Conference, but the Pistons could fight for the East's third slot this season even with their record. Sad. If they can figure out how to leverage their length on both ends and distribute minutes properly, maybe they'll get there. But I see them in the fifth to sixth seed. The Heat aren't dropping that far.
Wallace: Fiction. This Pistons team, despite some early chemistry flaws, will be in the mix for a higher seed than the seventh or eighth spot in the East. So they should avoid a first-round matchup with Miami. Detroit has the pieces in place for a breakout season after years of rebuilding. But it's still tough to trust them.
Windhorst: Fiction. The Raptors are the only team in the division that are performing at the level that most expected. Everything else has been a surprise. You would think the Nets talent would give them traction when they get healthy, especially since the Raps aren't putting much space between them.
When he faces free agency next summer, which will it be? The Kobe Bryant-style deal or the Kevin Garnett/Tim Duncan-style deal? For the Miami Heat and perhaps even for the balance of power in the league, his choice could make a big difference.
“D-Wade is getting that Kobe deal,” James said from the next locker.
Wade, knowing the gravity of this issue, smiled and shook his head. Then he gave a more diplomatic answer.
“When I get into that position, it’s something I’ll think about,” Wade said. “You have to sit down at the time and see what is best for you and for your team.”
Here is the situation. Next summer Wade has an opt out in his contract. He is owed $20 million next year and $21 million in 2015-16. It is reasonable to think that Wade, who turns 32 in January, will not opt out and just collect that money. But Wade could also re-do his contract and, if the Heat agreed, get a four-year deal worth up to nearly $100 million. Or the sides could do a deal for anything in between. Basically, the Heat could ask Wade to take a pay cut and make it up to him by adding years to his deal.
That is what Wade and the Heat will likely have serious discussions about at some point before he has to make a decision on June 30. What Wade decides could have a significant impact on how the Heat proceed into next season. And Bryant’s new deal sets an interesting precedent.
Bryant is taking a pay cut next season from his $30 million salary but he will still be the league’s highest-paid player through 2016. The contract was somewhat controversial because it restricted the Lakers’ cap flexibility even as they plan to rebuild through free agency.
The reactions got to the point where Bryant ended up sniping back and forth with fans on social media. It’s not typical that a franchise player has to defend himself for re-signing with the team. Bryant pointed out that superstars shouldn’t yield to public pressure to take less money to help the franchise out and save the owners money.
In principle, Wade is on the same page.
“As a player, I loved it. Everyone who gets what they get deserves it, great,” Wade said of Bryant’s new deal. “There’s a reason the Lakers felt that Kobe should get that money. There’s no right or wrong.”
But what about in practice?
Like with Bryant, all signs point to Wade remaining with the Heat for his entire career. But the terms he settles on will make a difference to what the team can do over the next few years. Bryant correctly points out that is not the player’s concern. But it’s the reality.
In 2012, Duncan and Garnett both signed deals to stay with their teams where they took large pay cuts but in return got long-term contracts and no-trade clauses. Duncan reduced his salary with the Spurs by $11 million but got $30 million guaranteed over three years and took the San Antonio Spurs out of the luxury tax. Garnett reduced his $21 million salary by $10 million and spread $36 million over three years with the Boston Celtics (he later waived the no-trade clause) to clear the way for the Celtics’ to go on a spending spree heading into last season.
Earlier this year, Dallas Mavericks’ lifer Dirk Nowitzki said he planned to follow in the mold of Duncan and Garnett when he becomes a free agent next summer. Nowitzki is earning $22.7 million this season and said he’ll take a “significant pay cut” to help the Mavs chase free agents.
In 2005, Shaquille O’Neal was set to make $30 million with the Heat. But he opted out of the contract and lowered his salary by $10 million as part of a new five-year contract. With that savings the Heat added key role players James Posey, Jason Williams and Antoine Walker as part of a complex trade. The team won the title the following season.
That is likely the type of plan the Heat would like to work out with Wade. If Wade were amenable, the Heat could gain flexibility if Wade would be willing to do the same and opt out of the $41 million he’s owed over the next two years and take longer deal worth less per season.
“I remember when Shaq did that,” Wade said. “Not everyone is going to do that.”
The difference is all those players were older than Wade when making such concessions. Wade is slowing down because of knee injuries and he’s the oldest of the Heat’s stars but that doesn’t mean he should concede anything at the bargaining table. Bryant, who is 35, is coming off an Achilles tear and he clearly didn’t.
The issue is that starting next year the Heat face becoming the first team to pay what has been called the “repeater tax” for being a luxury tax payer for a fourth time in five years under the collective bargaining agreement that was signed in 2011. It’s complicated but all you need to know is it’s a vastly different financial dynamic than when the Heat signed Wade, James and Chris Bosh and did their budgeting in 2010, as much as tripling the penalty.
Before the season, Heat president Pat Riley said the team pushed for contracts that were signed before 2011 be grandfathered it to the old tax rates. They lost that battle.
“There comes economic decisions and basketball decisions, that's what this is all about right now,” Riley said. “I make basketball decisions, but I am more aware now than I've ever been because of the new CBA and what that brings to my desk every day.”
The Heat are facing pressure to replace aging role players, re-sign some core players and have James’ and Bosh’s potential free agencies to manage as well. With the new tax rules, it’ll be a challenge.
In 2010, Wade, Bosh and James all accepted pay cuts to make room for more talent on the roster. Because of the tax position of the Heat, the organization may ask them to do it again. But this time there is a difference. The players don’t have to fit under the salary cap; spending for players on your roster is unlimited as long as you pay the tax. And, Wade points out, motivations will be different.
“That was something we wanted to do, it wasn’t that we had to do it,” Wade said. “At the time, guys like LeBron and CB were searching for their first championship. So you’re willing to get whatever you can to put yourself in position to win that.”
Back then, Wade gave up more money than James and Bosh to help pay for the team to re-sign Udonis Haslem and bring in Mike Miller. All-in-all, James and Bosh left about $14 million each on the table in 2010 and Wade left $17 million. Wade was the catalyst for it, personally going to James and Bosh to lobby them to leave some.
It has worked out wonderfully. The Heat, despite having to use the amnesty clause to waive Miller to deal with the new tax rates, have won two titles and remain one of the deepest teams in the league and remain title favorites. The Heat are probably going to need more concessions to keep it that way and once again it may be Wade who will be asked to set the tone.
Wade has not decided how he’ll go about it. But he also said that nothing should be assumed just because of what he did three years ago.
“There are different times and different mindsets that you deal with. That was 2010,” Wade said. “I’m not saying that LeBron James or Chris Bosh, if they get the opportunity again, are going to leave $17 million on the table. No one can say they should do that. You have to do what is best for you.”
David Richard/USA TODAY SportsLeBron James was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
LEBRON’S TAKE It’s safe to place LeBron James atop the list of those stunned at how poorly teams in the Eastern Conference have started, despite the hype and expectations entering the season.
Heading into Monday night’s games, only James’ Miami Heat (14-3) and the Indiana Pacers (16-1) were above the .500 mark in the East, and 12 of the 15 teams in the conference had losing records. With several marquee players on the move during the offseason, the East was projected to rival the West among teams expected to challenge the perennial conference powers.
But a combination of injuries, struggles to mesh and other issues have contributed to a disturbingly slow start for teams such as the Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks. Those three teams set their sights on the Heat and Pacers, but were a combined 15-33 entering the week. The Bulls lost Derrick Rose for the season to knee surgery, the Nets will be without Paul Pierce for up to a month with a broken hand and the Knicks are in the midst of one of their worst losing streaks in a decade.
“Obviously, we only worry about what we do, but I’m very surprised where some of the teams are in the East,” James said Monday after the Heat’s practice at AmericanAirlines Arena. “Coming into the season, there were a lot of expectations on a lot of teams. It’s still a [long] season. But early on, it’s surprising. I take pride in being an Eastern Conference player, and hopefully we can hold up our end of the bargain. As a collective group, we’re not doing that.”
Overall, 13 of the NBA’s 16 best records belong to teams in the West. Heat center Chris Bosh said he looked at the conference standings for the first time Sunday and quickly noticed the wide gap between the second-place Heat and third-place Atlanta Hawks, who were 9-9.
“I looked at it. It’s ugly,” Bosh said. “I totally didn't see it coming. I thought the East was going to be a beast this year. I’m sure things will turn around. But then again, maybe it won’t.”
The Heat will look to extend the league’s longest active winning streak to 11 games when they face the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday. Detroit, which upgraded in the offseason by bringing back Chauncey Billups and adding Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, expected a breakthrough season. For now, the Pistons hold the eighth spot in the East with a 7-10 record.
Meanwhile, Miami hopes to build on the best start in franchise history, although Heat players feel they haven’t come close to playing at a consistent level so far this season.
“It’s a great feat, but we don’t strive for that,” James said of the mark through 17 games. “It just happens, and we hear about it. Our record is pretty good, but we know we can play better.”
PROGRESS REPORT While Dwyane Wade isn't ready to push his body through a back-to-back set anytime soon, he’s finding his groove amid a stretch in the schedule that has the Heat playing every other night.
That slate continues when the Heat play their sixth game in 10 nights when the Pistons visit Tuesday. Afterward, Miami opens a four-game road trip Thursday in Chicago. By the time that trip ends, the Heat will have alternated game nights and off days over a span of three weeks.
The Heat determine Wade’s status on a game-to-game basis, but the 11-year veteran has not made mention of any significant soreness since he returned from a week-long absence to treat his still-recovering right knee that underwent shock-wave treatment during the offseason.
Wade said he’s been able to comfortably manage the day-on, day-off recent pace of games.
“It’s great to get that extra day in between [but] it would be even better to get two days in between,” Wade said. “Obviously, back to back, you don’t have a lot of time to cover, especially when you travel. But having the day in between gives you that day off mentally [and] physically, being able to work on your body. We've got an older team. Every day off we have is valuable.”
Wade is averaging 21.8 points, 5.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 62.3 percent from the field in the five games since he returned to the lineup -- which all trump his season averages.
“I just want to continue to play well,” Wade said. “Most importantly, continue to do what I can to help my team when I’m in the game for my 30 or 35 minutes.”
INJURY REPORT Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said every player was able to participate in at least some part of Monday’s light practice. James is battling a sore back, sore ankle and jammed finger but said he’s not yet at the point where he needs to sit out.
DID YOU KNOW? James spent part of Monday hanging out at the grand opening of his wife’s juice bar establishment in Miami before practice. After practice, Wade donated $25,000 to a Miami youth center as part of a campaign to launch his latest signature basketball shoe.
QUOTE OF THE DAY “We actually did less talking and just got out here, went to work on some details on both sides of the court. But it was more about sweating than it was about talking.”
– Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on the team’s search for consistency despite a 14-3 start.
MIAMI – Chris Bosh's struggles during the Miami Heat's recent road trip drove him to initiate soul-searching, postgame conference calls with his wife and close friends.
Actually, they were more like confessionals.
The wife and friends didn't necessarily want to talk about basketball during those long-distance conversations.
But Bosh did.
"Every now and then, you have to get some things off your chest," Bosh recalled of those talks Sunday night after his late spark helped the Heat rally for a 99-98 home victory against the Charlotte Bobcats. "You have to tell yourself why you're not crazy. It works for me. It was good therapy.”
Bosh went out Sunday and had the kind of game that likely changed the tone of those private discussions. He scored 13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter -- nine of them coming on three consecutive 3-pointers from the top of the key -- as the Heat overcame a 14-point deficit in the final period.
Often the overlooked man among the Heat's high-profile Big Three alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Bosh took center stage down the stretch as Miami pushed the NBA's longest current winning streak to 10 games. The two-time defending champion Heat (14-3) are also off to the best start in franchise history through 17 games.
But it's hardly been a smooth and easy ride so far. In many ways, Bosh is 6-foot-11 microcosm of his team.
Up one moment.
Down the next.
And just when it appears they're done, they dominate.
Much like the Heat, Bosh has played in waves and flurries this season. There was that three-game stretch in middle of November when he was shot 70.2 percent from the field -- and was at his video-bombing peak as he pranked James and Wade during their on-court television interviews.
And then came the three-game stretch that led into Sunday, when Bosh missed 17 of 24 shots from the field, was constantly in foul trouble and frustrated on the bench as the Heat kept finding a way to win largely in spite of him.
The low point came Friday in Toronto, where Bosh fouled out against his former team in just 20 minutes and scored a season-low four points. The Heat nearly squandered a 20-point lead in the second half, but managed to hold off the Raptors for a 90-83 win as Bosh watched.
Another phone call followed.
The topic was equilibrium -- the art of ebb and flow.
"I don't even think they were even talking about that," Bosh said of forcing the conversation with his wife and friends into the direction he sought. "I was like, ‘Hey, we won the game, but you know ...' Sometimes, when things are going good, it's a balance. I've always said I believe in balance. I just have to make sure I don't worry about it too much, about the last couple of games. Just keep playing.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before Sunday's game his faith in Bosh hadn't wavered, but that Miami also isn't the kind of team that would script several consecutive plays at the start of the game to get a struggling player into rhythm.
"We're not hunting to get people involved," Spoelstra said. "He just has to stay the course with it. Chris will be fine.”
It didn't look that way early. Bosh missed three of his first four shots, and the Heat's defense wasn't doing much to prevent the Bobcats from slicing into the lane. Miami trailed 48-47 at halftime, would fall behind 79-65 with 8:59 left and still faced a five-point deficit with just under four minutes remaining in the game.
Then Bosh got a fortunate bounce that got him going.
Actually, it was four bounces. That's how many times his 3-pointer from the top of the key kissed the rim before the ball fell through the net to pull Miami to within 89-87. That was Bosh's first made 3-pointer in a span of five games.
His second shot from beyond the arc, near the same spot as the first, cut the Bobcats' lead to 91-90 at the 1:54 mark. And the final dagger was delivered 34 seconds later to put the Heat ahead 93-91. Bosh had scored 13 consecutive points for the Heat. And with each shot he nailed, that conversation Bosh had with himself grew more animated.
The Heat didn't draw up any of those plays to get Bosh a shot. But Wade, who had the assist on all three of those shots from beyond the arc, was determined to find Bosh.
"Once that one that hit every part of the arena went in, he was on fire after that," Wade said. "It was good to see him bounce back after a couple of games where he wasn't able to get his offensive flow and have a big night."
James, who led the Heat with 26 points despite playing with a sore back he aggravated Friday in Toronto, was equally appreciative of Bosh carrying the late load.
"It was crucial," James said of Bosh's performance. "It was just one of those games where we had to gut it out.”
But first, Bosh had to talk things out.
With his wife and friends.
Mainly with himself.
"You have to keep yourself solid, man," Bosh said. "It's tough. You play a lot of games. All of them aren't going to be good. It's a balance. Just keep playing ball.”
AP Photo/AJ MastHeat guard Dwyane Wade has now blocked the most shots by an NBA player 6-foot-4 and under.
MIAMI -- After swatting Kemba Walker's jumper at the end of the first half, Dwyane Wade became the all-time leader in blocks for players 6-foot-4 or shorter, passing Dennis Johnson, who tallied 674 swats in his 14-year career. The NBA first began recording the stat in the 1973-74 season.
It was Wade's second block of the night and both came against Walker, which got me thinking. Among Wade's 675 blocks, which player has been victimized the most over his career?
Thanks to NBA's StatsCube database, we can look it up.
Turns out there are two players whom Wade has blocked nine times in his career, the highest total for any of Wade's victims. Who are those two players?
The first one may not be too surprising: Joe Johnson. They've faced off 26 times in the NBA, which makes sense considering Johnson shared divisions with Wade for seven seasons in Atlanta. It's an impressive feat since Johnson is one of the biggest shooting guards in the game.
But it's not nearly as impressive as the other guy who has been blocked by Wade nine times in his career.
Surprised? So was Wade upon finding out this nugget after Sunday's game.
"All weak side with Dwight," Wade laughed. "I got him a couple times."
Any stand out?
"I got him once in Orlando, a two-hand block," Wade recalled. "I came from behind, he went up and I bammed it with two hands. That felt good. That felt real good."
The video confirms that not only did Wade block him there, he retrieved the ball and drove the other way, coast to coast, for a layup.
Howard isn't the only center that he's swatted a bunch of times. There are two other centers who have fallen victim at least five times over their careers. When asked for their names, Wade immediately got the first one.
That's the thing about Wade. He's not picking on the smaller players.
Get this: Wade has blocked a 7-footer more times (45 total) than players who are 6-feet or shorter (35 total). The average height of a Wade blocked player? 6-foot-6. The tallest player he has blocked? That would be former teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who is 7-3. The shortest? Earl Boykins, at 5-5.
Here's a chart that illustrates Wade's block victims over his career, by height. As you can see, he's not picking on someone his own size.
LeBron James 8-13 FG | 9-10 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 26 PTS | -4 Though LeBron's back acted up on him in Toronto, he got the start anyway after a day's worth of treatment. But it didn't take long to notice that he wasn't himself out there. LeBron generally looked grounded, especially on a missed fast-break dunk in the first quarter. Still, he adapted by unleashing his increasingly scary repertoire of post moves from the left block.
Dwyane Wade 6-10 FG | 5-6 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 17 PTS | +7 With a block on Kemba Walker in the first quarter, Dwyane Wade tied Dennis Johnson for the most blocks for a player 6-foot-4 or shorter (674). Outside of that, Wade's night wasn't particularly noteworthy. His five turnovers contributed to the team's uncharacteristically sloppy outing at home, but the timely feeds to Bosh late were critical.
Chris Bosh 8-13 FG | 3-4 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 22 PTS | -2 If Bosh's recent slump threw off his confidence, it didn't last long. Bosh nailed three clutch 3-pointers on consecutive possessions in the final two minutes to erase the Heat's wide deficit. Bosh had looked completely out of sorts on both ends leading up to that 3-point binge, but momentum is a fickle thing. This looked like a C-worthy performance until the fourth quarter.
Michael Beasley 2-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +1 It was only a matter of time. Beasley's LeBron-like efficiency took a hit on Sunday night as he struggled to make positive contributions on the offensive end. He's still rebounding at an exceedingly high rate, but it was telling that Erik Spoelstra left Beasley on the bench late in this one after leaning on him in crunch time on Friday against Toronto.
Charlotte Bobcats Brutal loss. The Bobcats carried a top-five defense into this game, and they certainly proved their worth in this one. Until Bosh decided to throw a 3-pointer party, that is. The Heat struggled to get open looks throughout and routinely settled for jumpers, which is a testament to Steve Clifford's coaching on that end this season. If they can figure out their offense, the Bobcats will punch their second playoff ticket in franchise history.
The Heat extend their winning streak to 10 games with the win, which marks their third-longest winning streak of the Big Three era.
LeBron James 10-17 FG | 4-6 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 27 PTS | +3 LeBron was dunking and strutting his way through the Air Canada Centre as the Heat built a 20-point lead late in the third quarter. Then, the four-time league MVP fell in love with that midrange jumper and got away from attacking the basket. It opened the door for the Raptors to rally back to within a basket. But James responded with a key layup to stave off the comeback attempt.
Dwyane Wade 9-16 FG | 4-5 FT | 7 REB | 6 AST | 22 PTS | +22 Let's just call this one what it was for Wade -- a game of diminished returns. Great start. Sloppy finish. Wade had a splendidly efficient night shooting the ball and ended up with his fourth straight game with at least 20 points since he returned from a week off to rest his knees. But he gave up as many points as he got, with Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan dropping 25.
Chris Bosh 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | +16 It had the makings of a promising night for Bosh, who got a dunk, a steal and a rebound in the first 90 seconds. But then ... crickets. Well, with the exception of the early foul trouble that landed him on the bench. Bosh eventually fouled out with a season-low point total and was equally ineffective in the previous game in Cleveland, rendering it pretty much a useless two-game trip.
Michael Beasley 3-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | +6 Beasley only took a few shots and didn't necessarily have much of an impact on the defensive end, but Friday was a significant night nonetheless. With the full roster available, Beasley was still a priority in coach Erik Spoelstra's expanded playing rotation. Beasley made all three of the shots he took and was on the floor at the finish after Bosh fouled out. He continues to gain trust.
Toronto Raptors Credit the Raptors for showing some resolve after falling behind by 20 in the second half. It would have been easy to mail it in and move on to the next game. But DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry and Tyler Hansbrough kept fighting and hitting big shots to force a festive finish. But Toronto ruined its chances by missing eight of 10 free throws at one point down the stretch.
With the Raptors shooting just 38.4 percent Friday, they became the third consecutive opponent the Heat have held to under 40 percent from the field.
In a battle of division leaders, the Heat travel to Toronto to take on the Raptors. Yup, the Raptors lead the Atlantic Division with a record of 6-8.
1. Can Miami keep streaking until the Indy game (Dec. 10)?
Israel Gutierrez: Sure, why not? It'll only add to the narrative of that budding rivalry between the two best teams in the East. It won't be easy, though. That Pacers game will be the last of a four-game road trip for Miami, so getting there on a win streak would first mean victories at Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit.
Michael Wallace: No. Playing with that level of consistency and energy for six more games, with four of them on the road, is a bit much to ask. Heat streaks tend to die in Chicago, which looms next week. And if not there, two nights later in Minnesota could be dangerous.
Brian Windhorst: They have a great chance. They will be the heavy favorite in each game, and there's only one back-to-back, next week in Detroit, where there's a good chance Wade will sit. Of course, there's a game in Chicago in that stretch, and the Bulls are always a challenge. They're probably privately hoping they get a chance to end another Heat streak.
2. What are the chances Haslem's rotation removal is permanent?
Gutierrez: Very low. It's unlikely Shane Battier will go the rest of the way at power forward without wearing down at some point. If that happens, Erik Spoelstra will likely turn back to Haslem as a starter. But it has become clear that if he's not starting, Haslem's not playing.
Wallace: Slim. Coach Erik Spoelstra's rotation is known to go away from folks for extended periods, but they always seem to come back around at some point via injury or the ineffective play of someone else. That said, it will be difficult to overtake a healthy Shane Battier, a productive Michael Beasley or a consistent Rashard Lewis at this point.
Windhorst: Nothing at the back of the rotation is permanent. The Heat have a deep team, and they use it. The rotation will continue to change all season.
3. Can the Raptors actually win the Atlantic Division?
Gutierrez: No, the Raptors won't win this division, regardless of what's going on in New York and Brooklyn right now. The funny part is, if this talent (DeMar Derozan, Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas) were on another one of these Atlantic teams, we would have pretty high expectations for them. But there's something about Toronto over the past several years that brings down expectations.
Wallace: It's possible, but I seriously doubt it. There's still faith to some degree that the Knicks will right the ship when Tyson Chandler returns from injury. And there's still plenty of time for the Nets to stop making a mess of themselves. It's way too soon to rely on the Raptors to get this done. Still, a .500 record may be all that's required to do it at the pace.
Windhorst: Probably not. The Raptors are the only team in the division that are performing at the level that most expected. Everything else has been a surprise. You would think the Nets talent would give them traction when they get healthy, especially since the Raps aren't putting much space between them.
LeBron James 9-19 FG | 9-11 FT | 8 REB | 8 AST | 28 PTS Determined to get an early start at setting the table for his teammates, LeBron didn't look for his offense much initially and deferred to Dwyane Wade. But after the Heat trailed by eight early, LeBron quickly got going. His defensive activity led to several transition dunks to push his team ahead. Next, he'll display his versatility at the Thanksgiving table for the team at his Akron home.
Dwyane Wade 10-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 22 PTS The early energy and activity was there for Wade, who dominated in the low-post area to exploit mismatches. But there were also sloppy moments with turnovers midway through the game. All in all, another solid and largely efficient night for Wade. But this two-week stretch will challenge the status of his knees and his overall condition, with games scheduled every other night.
Chris Bosh 3-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS The bigger Cavaliers were determined to pound Bosh inside from the outset, and they did just that by attacking the boards to build an early lead. And the night seemed to go downhill from there for Bosh, who missed five of his first six shots and never had a rhythm. A couple of nice blocks in the fourth helped his cause defensively, but this was an uncharacteristic effort offensively.
Michael Beasley 5-10 FG | 7-7 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 17 PTS If Beasley can consistently give the Heat what he provided Wednesday night against the Cavaliers, he won't have to worry about where he stands in the rotation. His rebounding and aggressiveness in and around the paint provided a huge spark off the bench. Rashard Lewis started at power forward in Shane Battier's absence, but Beasley got the bulk of those minutes in the second half.
Cleveland Cavaliers The Cavaliers saw their shooting percentage drop as rapidly as the temperatures in Cleveland. After shooting 55 percent in the first quarter and leading 28-20, the Cavaliers finished with 84 points on 34.9 percent shooting. Despite all the lottery picks, coaching change and rebuilding, the Cavs still have league's worst winning percentage since LeBron's departure.
Despite collecting just one offensive rebound Wednesday, the Heat improved to 10-1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers since LeBron James arrived in Miami as a free agent in 2010.
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsCleveland fans have dreams of LeBron James joining Kyrie Irving this summer.
LeBron Watch is a periodic feature at ESPN.com that looks at the potential free agency of LeBron James in the summer of 2014.
CLEVELAND -- A group of Cavaliers fans has assembled $50,000 to buy billboards and pass out thousands of T-shirts prior to the Miami Heat’s visit Wednesday night with “Come Home LeBron” printed on them.
It is the most visible move yet from a wounded fan base that has gone from reviling James to at least being partially divided. When the Heat visited Cleveland last season, James got cheers from a portion of the crowd, and a fan rushed the court so he could show James a shirt that asked him to return in free agency in 2014. This happened in the same arena that, only three years ago, created one of the most hostile environments the league has ever seen when James first returned.
In a further sign of a thaw, the Heat are extending their stay in Ohio and going to James’ Akron mansion Thursday to have Thanksgiving dinner.
The Heat, it seems, are also more comfortable hanging out in James’ hometown than they were a few years ago when they brought a small private security army with them for protection. That’s perhaps because they’ve never been more certain that his time in Cleveland in foreseeable seasons will be short stays such as these, those billboards and T-shirts notwithstanding.
Whenever evaluating James' potential free agency there must be a disclaimer. No matter how things look as different twists and turns in the season, ultimately what matters is what options James has in July. James has openly said that’s his game plan and experience has taught him not to deviate from it. As was seen in 2010, things can and do sometimes change very quickly.
With that on the record, though, it can be said that the events over the first month of the season have only appeared to strengthen the Heat’s position as the leaders to keep James.
When the Heat won the last James derby, they did it with what turned out to be a highly effective “LeBron +2” game plan.
In the two years leading up to James' 2010 free agency, teams that planned to chase him did so with the premise that they could pair him with a second star. The New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets and Chicago Bulls all put themselves in position to sign James and pair him with a running mate who was either on their roster or on the market.
The Heat, however, trumped all when they raised the LeBron +1 plan to a LeBron +2, convincing All-Star Dwyane Wade to stay and fellow All-Star Chris Bosh to sign on with a combination of shrewd planning and excellent salesmanship.
The only team that came close to the same offer was the Chicago Bulls, who recruited Wade and Bosh as well to play alongside Derrick Rose. But without Rose truly on board with the James pitch and more limited cap space, they couldn't get it done.
If you judge James on these past acts, you can assume it will take another +2 scenario to get his signature again. The Heat’s position in this race once again looks to be quite strong.
With changeover happening almost everywhere in the league, the Heat’s stability has only grown in value. And it isn’t budging. Coach Erik Spoelstra recently signed a long-term contract extension. President Pat Riley, who works on a year-to-year handshake agreement with ownership, has told confidants that he intends to stay on the job as long as James is with the team.
You can be assured James has been given that message or will be reminded when the time is right. With the need to recruit new talent to replace aging role players as well as keep Bosh and Wade in the fold, having Riley’s assurance that he’s committed is no small piece.
With top teams facing a new luxury tax structure that has zapped some contenders’ depth, the Heat remain one of the deepest teams in the league even with having to let Mike Miller go. Riley and the city of Miami are major reasons for that. With oppressive tax provisions threatening the Heat next season, the franchise is going to badly need to leverage both those advantages to extend their title window.
But as the Heat look around, the realistic market for James next summer seems to be getting leaner by the week. Three years ago, James met with six teams before choosing the Heat. The field this time around doesn’t appear to have as much legitimate depth.
James put the Cavs in the game himself last year when he said “It would be fun to play in front of these fans again” and “If I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me” during a trip to Cleveland. The cheers started back up again in Ohio shortly thereafter.
Los Angeles Lakers owner Jim Buss admitted before last season he intended to clear space to chase major free agents next summer. James would be a top target by default.
But those options are taking a beating. The Cavs are off to a terrible start to the season, going 4-10. The No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Bennett, has struggled mightily. In addition to expecting they’d improve to be a playoff team, the Cavs hoped they could find a trade that would allow them to use some young players and extra draft picks to trade for a star to pair with All-Star Kyrie Irving. That would be their +2 to offer to James. It is not happening right now.
The Lakers’ $48 million extension they gave Kobe Bryant this week has left them with enough cap space to either sign one max player or to re-sign Pau Gasol next summer, but not both. There will be no +2 to offer unless the Lakers miss the playoffs and get lucky in the lottery. James was never a good fit with Bryant, who was hinting he might retire in 2014 just a year ago, and the Lakers were not in denial of this fact. When Bryant made it clear he wanted to extend his career and he wasn’t in the mood for a large pay cut, they took the sure thing and probably removed themselves from James’ radar, no matter how small the blip may have been.
There are a few long shot entries. The Bulls could clear cap space with a few roster moves but the knee injuries to Derrick Rose have changed their landscape. The Dallas Mavericks will have cap space and some star power but league executives expect them to target another Heat free agent, Dallas native Bosh.
The Los Angeles Clippers are an interesting option because of James’ close friend Chris Paul and his long-standing respect for coach Doc Rivers. But that would take a trade and while James has the cachet to force anything, this seems like a very long shot.
In the more tangible standings, the Heat are already sizing up the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs, the two teams that pushed the Heat to seven games last season, as they’re both playing at a high level. They continue to monitor Wade’s knee issues. They’re slowly bringing along Greg Oden. The Michael Beasley experiment is showing some promise. There are plenty of things to focus on other than free agency.
Bottom line, if the Heat want to give thanks for something this week it’s that James future currently appears to be in Miami.
LeBron James 11-14 FG | 11-11 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 35 PTS Just another smooth and strong effort from the MVP. He was once again efficient and once again involved all over the floor. He had a few loose turnovers but all in all, just another file in the quality folder.
Dwyane Wade 9-13 FG | 3-3 FT | 6 REB | 12 AST | 21 PTS Whatever the Heat are doing in the "maintenance" program, it is working. With the extra rest Wade has been getting since camp, his legs continue to look fresh. He was all over the floor Monday, both looking to set up teammates and looking for his shot. When he exploded down the baseline for a dunk in the first half, you knew it would be a good night for him.
Chris Bosh 2-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS Not such a good night. He was trying to post up some of the Suns bigs early but ended up tossing some ugly and bizarre hooks. He never found any of those rhythm jumpers that often trademark his effective performances.
Ray Allen 6-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 17 PTS The Suns kept losing Allen in the second half and he kept firing in 3-pointers as the Heat stretched the game into a blowout. He had an impressive block during the fourth quarter, exciting his teammates on the bench with the leap.
Phoenix Suns Played without point guard Eric Bledsoe for a fifth consecutive game, which wasn't helpful. The Morris twins also both had off shooting nights, robbing the Suns' bench of its punch. Their defense was pretty good in the first half, but the Heat steamrolled them over the final two quarters.
The Suns paid Michael Beasley $42,454 for the game Monday per terms of their offseason buyout. The Heat paid him $8,038.
The Suns (7-6) have been one of the biggest surprises in the early part of the season. Can they keep pace with the defending champs on Monday night?
1. Your biggest concern about the Heat right now is ...
Israel Gutierrez: That LeBron’s celebration dance is getting ripped off in the NFL (Cam Newton, Julian Edelman). Seriously, look at the calendar, look at the Heat’s history, look at the Heat’s roster and look at the rest of the Eastern Conference. If you’re still concerned about anything concerning the Heat, it might be time to seek medication.
Michael Wallace: Complacency. This is hardly a new challenge for Miami. But after all of the hype entering the season about all the potential threats to the Heat in the East, only the Indiana Pacers have lived up to expectations. Miami has needed about eight minutes of great play to win games this season. The biggest challenge is getting motivated to play a full game.
Brian Windhorst: Dwyane Wade's health. This has been the team's No. 1 concern for three seasons now. They are doing the absolute right thing by giving him games off every time he experiences issues, which is a luxury they can afford.
2. Fact or fiction: LeBron has been a better facilitator than scorer.
Gutierrez: Fact, because it is always a fact. Even when he does score in bunches, it doesn't come as consistently as his ability to distribute. Plus, if you look at his attempts, they’re at a career low, by far. So you realize that he’s being especially selective, therefore shooting near 60 percent from the field and 49 from three. It’s not as if he’s on some scoring tear.
Wallace: Fact. Now that he's added the cross-court, one-handed breaking ball to his arsenal, it's safe to say LeBron has the complete pitching package when it comes to creative ways to distribute the rock. I've seen him score 30-plus and shoot 60 percent quite often. But I'm just waiting to see him truly channel his inner Magic Johnson and average 10 assists for a season.
Windhorst: Fact. LeBron is averaging just 15 shots a game -- more than two fewer than the least number of shots in his career -- yet his scoring is steady. Being more efficient as a shooter has freed him up to focus on setting up teammates even more than usual.
3. Fact or Fiction: Michael Beasley should be behind Rashard Lewis.
Gutierrez: Fiction. Erik Spoelstra is trying to get the most out of them, wherever he can. Long term, there’s still no telling if either can be trusted for extended minutes against elite teams. But for now, it’s hard to complain about how each is being used when Beasley’s shooting 59 percent and giving you 26.2 points per 36 minutes, and Lewis’ plus-minus numbers have been great.
Wallace: Fact. Sure, we see the dynamic scoring at a point-per-minute pace for Beasley. The Heat need his punch and energy off the bench. But Lewis has gained the coaching staff's trust because of his unselfish ball movement and comfort level with the team's defensive concepts. Still, both have recently enjoyed a rotation promotion of sorts, having moved ahead of Udonis Haslem.
Windhorst: Fact. Lewis has a longer history with this group and has been playing his role well. For all the attention the ninth man in the rotation seems to get because of Beasley, though, if this is ever really an issue than it means the team is having much bigger problems.