Dwyane Wade’s role as captain of the Miami Heat comes with certain privileges. For example, he can occasionally shake off calls from Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
And no one complained, either.
Wade and LeBron James each scored 22 points, Mike Miller added 14 off the bench and the Heat rode the strength of a brilliant 18-minute run midway through the game to beat the Hornets 109-95 on Monday night, Miami’s eighth win in nine games.
The Hornets finished with only 25 rebounds, the lowest total in the NBA this season. James had 11 rebounds – more than any two Hornets – and eight assists for Miami, which had six players in double figures and outscored New Orleans 54-23 from the midpoint of the second quarter through the end of the third.
”When a guy like D-Wade has a rhythm, you’ve got to keep feeding him,” James said. ”He brought us back.”
Wade had 15 points in the second quarter, and perhaps his biggest contribution all night was when he got Spoelstra to change his mind. Looking to manufacture a jolt, Spoelstra wanted to go to a zone defense when Miami was struggling. Wade waved him off, thinking the Heat were on the verge of getting something going.
He was right.
”We started the game in a little bit of a fog and they came out and played very sharply,” Spoelstra said. ”They came out with a lot of energy … then the game changed, I felt, in the second quarter. Dwyane really set the tone from that point on.”
Chris Bosh and Norris Cole each scored 12 for the Heat, who trailed 45-33 midway through the second quarter before outscoring New Orleans 76-50 the rest of the way.
Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry each scored 14 for New Orleans, which lost for the 17th time in 19 games after a 2-0 start. Emeka Okafor scored 13 points and Greivis Vasquez added 11 for the Hornets.
”It’s hard to play the kind of basketball that you need to play when you’re not getting what you feel is a fair call at times,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. ”I thought our guys got beat up a little bit tonight going to the basket. … Take nothing away from Miami. That is a championship-contending team. Their effort showed that tonight.”
There were all sorts of indicators suggesting that Miami would get off to a less-than-ideal start.
It was Miami’s third game in four nights, though all were at home. Monday’s tip-off came about 24 hours after Sunday’s down-to-the-wire epic against Chicago, where the Heat win wasn’t secure until 0.1 seconds remained. And the second night of back-to-backs have been trouble all season for Miami, which had been 3-3 in those contests – including both of its home defeats, those coming against Atlanta and Milwaukee.
So sure enough, the Heat started slowly – and found themselves in a 12-point hole against a team with the worst record in the Western Conference. New Orleans made 10 of its first 11 shots, then used a 16-6 run in the second quarter to briefly grab control. Spoelstra had an idea. Wade apparently had a better one.
”He called our zone and as the captain at that time, I kind of vetoed it,” Wade said. ”It ain’t gonna happen much. But I felt at the time we needed to be a little more aggressive.”
With that, the game changed for good. Wade scored 11 straight Miami points to erase the deficit almost single-handedly – 13 out of 15 points as well, assisting a basket by James to account for the other two – and the Heat went into halftime up 51-49.
They were just getting started.
Miami scored the first nine points of the third, stretching the lead to 60-49 and capping what was a 27-4 run over a span of less than eight minutes. James scored 14 points in the quarter, Chalmers made all three of his shots – all from 3-point range – and the Miami lead was up to 87-68 by the end of the period.
”That’s the game right there. You blink and all of a sudden the lead opens up,” Okafor said. ”With a team like that, you can’t allow that to happen – three superstars and a cast of players who can play. You give them that type of leeway, they just run with it.”
By then, the only drama left was whether James would get his 33rd career triple-double. Instead, he got the fourth quarter off.
Notes: Justin Bieber, who has been the subject of more than a few tweets posted by Heat owner Micky Arison, was in attendance. … Williams had high praise for the Heat before the game, especially Spoelstra. ”Spo doesn’t get enough credit in my opinion for the ability to coach talent, supreme talent, every night,” Williams said. … Miller – no stranger to injury problems in his Heat tenure – was grabbing at his right hand late in the first quarter and grimacing in pain, but stayed in the game. … James became the 17th player in NBA history with 17,000 points, 4,500 rebounds and 4,500 assists. Of the first 16, 13 are Hall of Famers already, the others being Gary Payton, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, all sure-fire Hall entrants one day.