On Tuesday night, the Miami Heat went to Cleveland and were soundly defeated by the Cavaliers, 102-90. LeBron James had a triple-double with 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Dwyane Wade had 24 points and Mike Bibby chipped-in 23 points–his most as a member of the Heat. Unfortunately, Chris Bosh (10 points, four rebounds and a team-worst plus/minus of minus-24) was a non-factor, and the Heat allowed the Cavs to shoot 55-percent from the field and 52-percent behind the arc.
After the game, Heat coach Erik Spolestra was not at all pleased.
“The majority of time in this league you get what you deserve and we got exactly what we deserved,” Spoelstra said. “They played harder than us. They came out with much more desperation and sense of urgency. This pattern started two games ago, and we’re a little confused what our identity is.”
Wednesday night, the Heat allowed the Wizards to shoot 49-percent from the field and 56-percent from behind the arc (most of that damage was done by Jordan Crawford, who scored a career-high 39 points by shooting 12-24 on field-goals, 5-8 from the three-point line and 10-10 from the free-throw line). Miami also struggled to pull away from a Wizards team that was missing John Wall for the much of the game (second quarter ejection), while Rashard Lewis (knee), Nick Young (knee), Josh Howard (knee), and Trevor Booker (foot) did not suit up at all.
The difference between Tuesday night’s loss to the Cavaliers and Wednesday night’s 123-107 victory over the Wizards was simply Miami’s ability to shoot a higher percentage. Against Cleveland they shot just 42-percent, but in Washington they shot nearly 57-percent (Wade and LeBron shot 67-percent alone and combined for 68 point), which more than covered for the glaring defensive flaws of the Heat.
Still, considering they lost to the NBA’s worst team, and they were struggling to defeat the third-worst team (at least record-wise) in the Wizards, you would think a little humility from a team yet to win anything would be in order. It was not.
LeBron James was called for just one technical foul, but he could have easily picked up three or four the way he barked at the refs and threw arms and elbows after hard fouls (and we won’t even mention James’ push of Crawford that led to his dunk over Jeffers). Wade was much less belligerent, but once it was clear the victory was in hand, he celebrated with James and his other Heat teammates like they had blown out the Boston Celtics. But this was just a victory over the injured, Wall-less, 18-56 Washington Wizards.
To make things even worse, when Wade was asked to assess the Wizards’ performance, his comments came off as part complimentary, part insult:
“They are playing free basketball. They have no worries in the world. They don’t see a bad shot, it’s not a bad shot, everything they do is right. We understand that in this time of the year with this four game road trip, this is one of the tougher road trips of the year, we are just playing teams that are just playing for pride.”
Wade took the same stance when asked to assess Crawford’s 39-point performance. Mind you, Crawford had the Verizon Center crowd and the Heat players in the palm of his hand after Wall’s ejection. He hit shots from every inch of the court, he hit baskets to beat the shot clock, he drove to the hoop when it was needed and he even talked smack to James from time to time. He played like a 10-year veteran, not a rookie appearing in just his 34th pro game. Apparently this was not enough to completely impress Wade:
“He shot the ball well. Like I said, they were free shots. He’s a scorer, he played with a lot of heart, he’s a tough kid, but it’s a little bit different when you’re playing for something, then when you’re not. But he had a free mind, and he hit some good shoots, some big shots, so credit to him.”
Everyone knows the Wizards aren’t making playoffs. That’s been crystal clear since before Gilbert Arenas was traded, which means they have been playing “free basketball” with a “free mind” for most of the season. But this particular brand of free-minded basketball was being played by the likes of a rookie in Crawford, a D-leaguer in Othyus Jeffers, career role player Maurice Evans, a player who had missed three weeks due to injury in Andray Blatche and the inconsistent one himself, JaVale McGee. A team with the talent and pedigree of the Miami Heat should have beaten the Wizards soundly, and LeBron, Bosh and Wade should not have played a solitary minute in the fourth quarter.
But that did not happen, and the Heat struggled to win, and Wade could not bring himself to fully compliment the hard-nosed effort of a much lesser team.
Later in his postgame speech Wade attempted to discard his disparaging remarks about the Wizards and get some sympathy for his own team.
“We’re still a team that’s learning how to win games together, how to win games in many different facets, from close games, to blowouts, to having leads, to coming back from down 23. We’re learning a lot of different things, which is going to help us grow for the future, but also help us grow this year.”
Wade was 100-percent correct with those statements, and those lines actually sounded like they were delivered from the mouth of Coach Spolestra himself. Wade’s words would have been better received had he not insulted the team that almost beat him. No wonder people think the Heat are evil villains.
[The author of this post: Rashad Mobley is from the Washington, D.C. area and has been covering the Washington Wizards with credentials for three years. To learn more about him click here. To follow him on Twitter: @Rashad20.]
[photos: Kyle Weidie, TAI]