Since roughly last July, Heat fans have been asking — for the last week begging — to get LeBron James and Dwyane Wade active in the offense at the same time. They needed that long-promised spark.
Tuesday night — in a game were the Heat clearly were gripping at times and playing their stars big minutes — Miami pulled out a rarely used play that worked very well: the LeBron/Wade pick and roll. Miami used it a number of times and there was some spark to their usually stagnant half-court sets.
The result was a Heat team that shot better than normal (51 percent), had 48 points in the paint, and scored 114.3 points per 100 possessions (4 points above their season average). Wade had 38 points (on 21 shots as he attacked and got to the line 14 times) LeBron had 31 (on 20 shots).
The only problem — the Heat forgot to play defense, too.
The improved motion in the Heat offense paled in comparison to the varied actions of the Portland sets. Sets that the Heat struggled mightily to defend.
The result was a Blazers team that scored 125 points per 100 possessions (22 points above what the Heat normally give up). That led to a 105-96 Portland win.
That’s the Heat’s fifth straight loss, with the Lakers — winners of 8 in a row — up next on Thursday.
Wade and James played well, but Bosh had just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting. After the game a clearly frustrated Bosh said he didn’t like where he was getting the ball, that plays were not called for him to get the rock isolated on the low block where he is most comfortable. And with Wade and LeBron on the roster Bosh is also clearly not comfortable demanding the ball in games. He needs to start. Mario Chalmers added 10 points for the Heat.
The Blazers bench — Gerald Wallace, Brandon Roy and Rudy Fernandez — outscored the Heat bench 41-8. The Heat’s depth remains an issue.
But Miami’s usually stout defense was the biggest problem against Portland. The Blazers had 42 points in the paint and more importantly dominated the Heat on the glass. Portland, with its motion offense, was getting looks it liked where it liked. LaMarcus Aldridge had 26, Gerald Wallace had his best game since the trade from Charlotte with 22, and six Blazers total were in double figures.
Give the Blazers credit, they came out playing more like the team that needed the win. They earned this, the Heat did not completely give it away.
But the Heat are not playing up to potential.
Miami is clearly struggling, and internally freaking out a little. As Wade told NBC’s Ira Winderman earlier, they thought this would be easier. But if that feeling of panic causes them to struggle on defense, this streak of bad play is going to extend out much longer than it needs to.