Heat continue to dominate without Wade

BY foxsports • January 21, 2012

MIAMI — So much for the Big Three. A Big Two has proved to be quite a double treat for the Heat.

When Dwyane Wade went down Jan. 13 with a sprained right ankle, few thought it would be doomsday for Miami. The Heat, after all, had gone 4-2 last year without Wade and were 3-0 this season.

But few thought it would be this easy without Wade, leaving LeBron James and Chris Bosh as the two stars to carry the load. In three games without Wade this week, he’s been missed about as much as an NBA team once not having Dwyane McClain.

The Heat capped a magnificent week by routing Philadelphia 113-92 Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Following a 22-point rout of San Antonio and an 11-point win over the Lakers, the Heat ended up defeating three pretty good teams by an average margin of 18 points while raising their seasonal mark in games without Wade to 6-0.

"We looked at this as a huge week, a huge opportunity for us to get on a roll," James said of the Heat, who entered the week with a three-game losing streak.
That Miami made it look like such a breeze isn’t suggesting they are better without Wade. What it does say is that James and Bosh have the ability to really step up when needed. They scored more than half of the team’s points during the week.

It also suggests just how good the Heat can be if Wade can successfully be integrated back into the lineup. Wade has been bothered by injuries all season, and really hasn’t been himself.

"We need our full complement of players to be able to play the elite in this league, especially when it counts," said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, still not one to speculate on when Wade might return.

Read into that what you want. But the bottom line is there are not a lot of truly elite teams in the NBA now besides Miami.

Chicago is one. Oklahoma City is another. But it’s debatable whether there are any others.

The Bulls visit AmericanAirlines Arena on Jan. 29, so that will be a measuring-stick game. The Heat sure want Wade to be healthy for that one.

For now, though, Miami isn’t having any trouble letting James and Bosh carry the load. On Saturday, Bosh scored 30 points and James had 28, meaning they combined for 51.3 percent of the points.

Until James went to the bench for good with 1:36 left in the game and reserves tallied the final seven points, they had accounted Saturday for 54.7 percent of the offense. For the week, the overall figure for James and Bosh was 167 of the team’s 331 points for 50.5 percent.

"We have to," James said of the two scoring big, which was even more appropriate Saturday since the Heat were honoring the light-it-up days of the ABA by wearing throwback uniforms from the Miami Floridians of some 40 years ago. "When a 25-point scorer is sitting on the bench in street clothes, we got to step it up. We owe it to our teammates and we owe it to D-Wade with him not being able to play."

James averaged 30.7 points in the three games and Bosh 25.0. Most remarkable about James is he has been ill all week.

"I’m getting there," James said about his health, apparently still a bit shaky.

It’s helped open things up for James and Bosh having an extra three-point shooting threat on the court with the return of Mike Miller. Miller went 2-of-4 from beyond the arc Saturday, making him 9-of-12 in three games since his Tuesday seasonal debut after having undergone sports hernia surgery.

And Bosh’s recent play really shows the offensive strides he has made from last season, when it took him a while to fit in fluidly with the Heat. Bosh has improved his scoring average this season from 18.7 to 20.3 and his field-goal percentage from 49.6 to 52.4.

His rebounding hasn’t gotten better, having actually dropped from 8.3 to 8.0 after Bosh had talked about averaging 10. But that’s a story for another time.

"I knew the scoring load would have to pick up," Bosh said of Wade being out. "But it’s not just on us two. It’s on all of our guys. We’re all expected to pick up the slack. That’s a lot of numbers that are missed when we don’t have Dwyane out there."

Miami players openly talk about how much Wade is missed. But they're often at a loss for explanations when asked why the Heat have been so successful without him.

"No," Bosh said when asked if he’s surprised the team has done so well without Wade. "We expected to win every time. It’s unfortunate that he’s out right now and we need him. We’re going to need him. We would like to have him now to build chemistry."

That’s a good point. The Heat already have proven they can beat some pretty good teams without Wade.

When the likes of Chicago and Oklahoma City show up, it could be a different story. They might really need Wade, preferably one who is healthy and integrated enough that it truly again is the Big Three.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson

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