The Heat win plenty of games with flash and brilliance, and often times play an entertaining style of basketball that’s thrilling to watch even as they’re putting a beatdown on their opponent, perhaps even as expected.
Miami’s 86-67 win over Chicago on Thursday was not one of those performances.
The Heat surgically struck the Bulls, and destroyed them defensively with very few signature highlights or vulgar displays of power.
Instead, Miami used its defensive pressure to force countless turnovers that seemed to come primarily on Chicago’s poor choice of passes. And even with a below-average scoring output, that was enough to keep the Bulls from scoring much at all in a very low-possession game.
LeBron James, who finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists (while making 11 of his 14 attempts from the field) seemed as bored by his team’s win as the rest of us were watching it.
“It’s just another win in a long NBA season,” James told Craig Sager on the TNT telecast afterward.
This was the Heat’s ninth straight victory, and their first on the road against a quality team in the Eastern Conference this season. Chicago had beaten the Heat in Miami back in early January, which may have been the reason for the Heat’s increased focus in this one.
Or, it might just have been that after a championship hangover to start the first half of the season, the Heat are finally starting to hit their stride. The defensive intensity that was nonexistent in the first part of the season is now being brought by the team on a nightly basis. Against Chicago, the Heat forced a Bulls team averaging just over 14 turnovers per game into 27 of them on the team’s home floor.
Miami also managed to hold Chicago to just 37.3 percent shooting, while the Heat shot better than 50 percent.
Even when James and Dwyane Wade don’t get out in transition for high-flying slams, or slash through the defense to get to the rim at will as they’re both seemingly capable of whenever they feel the time is right, the Heat can simply clamp down defensively and win a low-scoring battle against one of the league’s better defensive teams, and do so in business-like fashion.
Seeing Miami win like this should put a legitimate scare into the rest of the teams who consider themselves challengers to the Heat’s championship crown. Thursday’s victory was downright Spurs-like in its joyless efficiency, and if the Heat realized the ability that they uncovered along the way, we could be in for an equally boring postseason.