Ending skid gives Heat reasons to laugh
MIAMI — The Miami Heat had enough highlights Saturday that they could joke about lowlights.
That had hardly been the case in the previous two games. The Heat had been stunned by a Washington outfit that was 1-13 and been crushed by 20 points by New York.
When the Heat lose two straight games, that’s like five for some teams. But they bounced back Saturday to defeat New Orleans 106-90 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
So on to the joking about the lowlights. Miami center Chris Bosh missed three dunks in a 19-second span in the third quarter, and his teammates gave him the business.
“We told him he left his legs at the Art of Basketball last night, a little event he had (Friday) night with D-Wade,” cracked forward LeBron James said about a function Bosh had attended in Miami with teammate Dwyane Wade. “He left them there and they painted those on the wall. He can go pick them up and he’ll have them back for Monday (against Atlanta) hopefully.”
Even Bosh, who at least made a dunk in the fourth quarter, was able to find some humor in it. He said he “lost count” of how many dunks missed Saturday and did recall sometimes botching them in high school when he was the “same height and a lot skinnier.”
But a topic one thought might have resulted in some joking didn’t at all. For the past two Thursdays, TNT analyst Charles Barkley, who has laughed plenty in the past with Wade and done commercials with him, has ripped Wade’s play. Barkley has said Wade’s best days are behind him and that he now settles for jumpers rather than attacking the hoop.
Wade, 30, looked like his old self against the Hornets, scoring a game-high 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field and 8-of-9 marksmanship from the foul line. But it sure sounded afterward as if there might be a rift between Wade and Barkley.
“I forgot all about that guy,” Wade said with no apparent joking when asked if what Barkley says motivates him.
Wade was asked if he had heard what Barkley had said on the air Thursday, when the guard shot 3-of-13 for 13 points in the 112-92 home loss to the Knicks. Barkley’s comments included a belief the Heat (13-5) won’t win another title this season with Wade playing the way he has been.
“That was so long ago, I forgot,” Wade said. “I don’t worry about him.”
At least James isn’t worried about a guy whose scoring average of 19.8 is on pace to be his worst since 16.2 as a rookie in 2003-04.
“He played well tonight,” James said about Wade, who has been continuing to round into form following surgery last July on his left knee. “Got in a good rhythm, made some outside shots, got into the lane. He looked like himself tonight. He’s going to just continue to just work his way into the offense and continue to be aggressive and pick his spots. But we’re not worried about whether he’s up or down. He’s going to play well and give us some plays to win games each and every night.”
James almost always does that himself. He totaled 24 points, seven assists and five rebounds in reaching 20 or more points for the 39th straight time in regular season and playoff games.
There was an anxious moment with 2:30 left in the first quarter when James got tangled up with Hornets forward Lance Thomas and went down in what Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called a “half splits.” James went to the bench with an apparent groin injury but returned with 6:29 left in the second quarter and said after the game he felt fine and didn’t expect to be sore when he wakes up Sunday.
James was mostly happy the Heat woke up from a rugged pair of shoddy defensive outings earlier in the week. It didn’t happen right away as they fell behind 37-31 early in the second quarter. But they put the clamps on the Hornets (5-14), who shot 52.2 percent in the first quarter and 41.8 for the rest of the game.
“It was a good step in the right direction,” James said of beating New Orleans, which has been without guard Eric Gordon all season due to a knee injury and forward Anthony Davis the past 11 games due to a bad ankle. “We came in with the mindset we need to defend and we did that.”
Wanting better defense, Spoelstra has turned more to reserve center Joel Anthony in recent games. Anthony, nicknamed “The Warden,” put the Hornets on lockdown in his 14 minutes, blocking three shots.
In addition to playing Anthony, Spoelstra has started rugged Udonis Haslem the past two games at power forward over Shane Battier, normally a small forward. That’s an indication Spoelstra in more willing at times to move a bit away from small ball, which is what the Heat mostly have played since last spring’s Finals.
Spoelstra sometimes has been coy about letting the media know who will start games. Turns out sometimes he doesn’t even tell his players.
“(Spoelstra) told me at shootaround (Saturday morning) he hasn’t figured out who is going to start,” said Battier, who had started the first 13 games of the season before missing three due to a knee injury and then coming off the bench the past two. “So when they announced Udonis’ name in the starting lineup (Saturday), I said, ‘Oh, I must not be starting today.’ That’s how it is. I know that Spo doesn’t like to tip his hand to (reporters). He doesn’t like to tip his hand to us either.”
Maybe that wasn’t a lowlight Saturday. But Battier’s comment after the game did elicit chuckles on a night the Heat finally again had some things to laugh about.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson