After a brutal stretch, the Miami Heat might have gotten their
swagger back by beating the two-time defending NBA champions.
The Heat look to carry the momentum from that critical victory
into Saturday as they try to avenge November’s last-second loss to
the visiting Memphis Grizzlies.
With reports of tears in the locker room following an 87-86 loss
to Chicago on Sunday, many questioned Miami’s toughness and its
chances of making a championship run.
Questions remained unanswered two days later when Portland came
into South Beach and beat the Heat 105-96, handing them a
season-worst fifth consecutive defeat.
Miami (44-21) entered Thursday night averaging 91.8 points
during its skid – 9.5 below its season mark – but used an
impressive defensive effort to avoid continuing its downward spiral
and beat the Los Angeles Lakers 94-88.
“We didn’t want to run away from this,” coach Erik Spoelstra
said after his team snapped the Lakers’ eight-game winning streak.
“We didn’t want to hide from any of this. We want to get better. We
want to make sure our game is right and ready when it really
With the score tied and 1:29 remaining, Dwyane Wade stole the
ball from Kobe Bryant and set up LeBron James for a dunk to put
Miami up for good. Wade also blocked the 13-time All-Star’s 3-point
attempt with just over a minute left to help secure the win.
The Heat held Los Angeles to 40.0 percent from the field after
allowing their previous four opponents to shoot a combined 50.3
“We haven’t been doing enough, of late,” Wade said. “We haven’t
gotten the defensive stops, we haven’t gotten the loose balls.”
Wade scored eight of his 20 points in the fourth quarter while
James had 19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as Miami
clinched a postseason berth with 17 games remaining – the earliest
it’s accomplished the feat in franchise history.
Chris Bosh also stepped up, recording his highest scoring output
in nearly a month with 24 points.
“I think for our mind and our psyche, it was very important,”
said Bosh, who added nine rebounds.
Avoiding a letdown might be key to the Heat’s psyche as well.
They suffered one when they faced the Grizzlies (36-30) on Nov. 20,
having a three-game win streak snapped with a 97-95 loss on Rudy
Gay’s buzzer-beating jumper.
Gay won’t be around for the rematch due to a shoulder injury,
but Wade will be after missing that last meeting with an injured
left wrist. He’s averaged 31.0 points in his last three home
matchups against the Grizzlies.
Memphis suffered a heartbreaking loss of its own Wednesday
night, 110-108 at home to New York on Carmelo Anthony’s last-second
shot. The Grizzlies trailed by as many as 17 points and 14 in the
“It was a tough game, but we showed resiliency and we had a
chance,” coach Lionel Hollins said.
The Grizzlies have won nine of 13 overall and remain in eighth
place in the Western Conference. Plus, they’ve been playing well on
the road, winning seven of 11 – the four losses were by an average
of 6.8 points.
Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Darrell Arthur all
scored at least 20 points Wednesday. Randolph also had 11 rebounds
for his team-leading 46th double-double.
The Grizzlies, 6-6 without Gay in the lineup this season, have
taken five of seven from Miami.