Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Miami Heat Cruise Past Fading Hornets, Extend Win Streak to Nine

MIAMI -- It's safe to say the "process" that Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has repeatedly stressed throughout this season has finally matured.

Fresh off a successful four-game road trip sweep to double their existing winning streak, the Heatcontinued their latest trend of keeping pace with an opponent in the first half before making their move in the third quarter to earn yet another comfortable double-digit victory, defeating the New Orleans Hornets, 96-84, on Monday night.

"This was a good win against a proven team that we knew was going to come in with a real desperate mindset considering their game against Philly yesterday," said Spoelstra, referring to the Hornets' 88-70 loss in Philadelphia on Sunday. The Hornets, who defeated the Heat on Nov. 5 while opening the season with an 11-1 record, have now lost nine of their last 12 games.

Dwyane Wade, the Eastern Conference Player of the Week, took his game to another level after being fouled hard by Jarrett Jack on a fast-break attempt. Enraged that Jack wasn't called for a flagrant foul, Wade was whistled for a technical foul for complaining to the refs. Afterward, he admitted that his anger got him going in the game.

"Some players don't like to get angry because it takes their focus away from the basketball," he said. "I didn't see the play, of course I was in the middle of it, but I just felt like it was a little bit too much for the sense of mind. It was close to grabbing my neck, and if I would have fell, I would have been out for a while. So I was very angry, and sometimes you got to make your point."

While that point was certainly made with the technical foul, Wade immediately attacked the basket on his first touch after the controversial play to earn another trip to the free-throw line. He proceeded to score 17 more points in the frame, breaking a franchise record for points in the second quarter with 20.

"It sparked, certainly, his interest in that point in time of the game," remarked Spoelstra. "He was very competitive in both halves. The first half he imposed his will within the team concept to be able score and in the second half he was very active defensively."

For his part, Jack maintained that he was only trying to stop Wade from scoring, or at worse allowing him to get a three-point play.

"If I wanted to foul him," he said, "he wouldn't have landed on his feet."

LeBron's Circus Shot

The Heat were pulling away from the Hornets in the second half when one possession suddenly transcended the plot-line. With the shot clock forcing LeBron to do something with the ball in his hands, he came up with a spinning move to get enough space to chuck the ball toward the basket as he fell out of bounds in the corner. The ball sailed over the backboard and didn't hit the rim as it swished through the rim to further deflate the Hornets.

With just about everything going the Heat's way lately, perhaps this is what James was talking about when he wanted to have fun again.

"It's just trick shots that we do in practice, just messing around, me and D-Wade," explained James. "Some of the better players that we have in this league have those days at practice where you still feel confident about it going in. With the shot clock winding down, that was the only way to not have a turnover and just to get it over the top and it went in."

Hornets Continue to Struggle

In their win over the Heat earlier this season,Chris Paul had 19 assists and Emeka Okafor hit 12 of 13 shots for 26 points to go with 13 rebounds. But with both players limited Monday and every starter playing at least 30 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back, the Hornets could not keep up their own pace set during a highly-competitive first half.

The Heat put on the brakes in the fourth quarter to what had been a successful Hornets offensive scheme, holding New Orleans to just nine points in the final frame. 

Miami's new mindset to run out on transition after defensive stops helped turn what was a close game into a comfortable win. As for firepower, Miami's superstar trio of Wade, James and Chris Bosh combined for 75 points -- just nine fewer than the entire Hornets team.

"They do the same thing every night and nobody can stop them," said Hornets coach Monty Williams. "That's a credit to them the way they scheme and yet I think we played our style for the first two and a half quarters and then they made a run. They defend and now they have weapons so they're running more. That puts pressure on your defense."

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