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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Miami Heat finally land their knockout blows in dominant fashion against the Charlotte Hornets at FTX Arena

After five straight head-to-heads, one can confirm that blowout wins still bring a certain level of ecstasy.

Taking a breather from what has been a nail-biting pattern of late this campaign, the Miami Heat looked like the conference-leading version that trotted steadily last season with a second-half thrashing of the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night. the night to improve his record to 6-7.

Outside of the win in Portland and the escape from Golden State, this was the best we’ve seen this team play in what has been a roller coaster ride in the first three weeks of the regular season.

Victory was assured in the final minutes as Heat fans even got their wish to see lovable preseason standouts Nikola Jovic and Jamal Cain play a few minutes, with both newcomers hitting 3-pointers to the delight of the Heat crowd. Saturday night in Miami, including DJ Khaled. and his pillow, as well as Heat legend Tim Hardaway Sr.

After a first half that has been par for the course for Miami’s 13 games, taking a lead only to get sloppy and allow the opponent to fall back in a short amount of time, the Heat must have had a secret sauce that the team’s chef cooked up. at halftime, as they then opened the third quarter making their first 11 shots.

In reality, though, they just watched video and stayed the course, confident that the brand of basketball they’ve been playing of late (winning four of their last six despite injuries to Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro) was a stronger indication. of his performance instead of the opponent’s hot shot.

The team was surprisingly happy with how they were progressing despite a near colossal collapse last time out against Charlotte, and why it materialized on Saturday.

“There were probably 5 or 6 mental lapses that led to easy baskets defensively, but for the most part, I thought it was pretty good energy and I really like the way things were going offensively,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of the first. two quarters, which ended with the return of LaMelo Ball and his Hornets up 59-57, thanks to a solid outside shot.

Miami trusted the process. Eventually, Charlotte no longer played like she was throwing tries on NBA 2K’s rookie difficulty. Then Max Strus fired up with his patented jump where he leaps into the air like a kamikaze and still manages to square his shoulders and make a reliable attempt from deep. The Strus came loose and the Heat had juice.

Entering the final period, it was done.

Adebayo was another standout. At this point it’s like Wi-Fi. It’s just that it’s always present that you only realize how much it would scare you without it when it’s not present.

It’s easy to take Bam for granted because he’s often reliable doing the low-key, a critical piece in stabilizing this foundation-setting team on both ends of the floor.

You can play any defensive scheme. He can switch any player and come back in time to defend the paint or corner a rebound. He is the catalyst for Spoelstra’s 2-3 zone defense. He can shake up the offense by running the ball down. He can distribute to his teammates. He can do pull-ups. He can drive. He can get to the free throw line. He is constantly a lob threat.

You can make plays like these:

Certain skeptics could always focus on what Bam can’t do when they should consider what the Heat couldn’t do if it weren’t for him.

Adebayo is one of one. Let Spoelstra give a reason why:

“He has a lot of institutional understanding and knowledge of what we’re looking for in that. I just think it’s an absolute Swiss army knife defensively. We can literally do any scheme: pick-and-roll, man-to-man, zone, switch, everything.

“If you’re in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year, you should be able to do all of those things. I don’t think all the guys in the conversation can do those things. This team is a little bit different, so we have to do different things, but you have to have a guy like Bam who can be that anchor and have that absolute versatility.”

Lowry and Butler were solid without too much being asked of them. Gabe Vincent was terrific off the bench, providing the kind of scoring the second unit will constantly need, especially on nights when Herro can’t go.

Even Caleb Martin and Dewayne Dedmon were solid enough in their roles, which is the bare minimum this team needs from them for big hitters to land knockout blows.

On Saturday night, that knockout came in many forms for the Heat. And in a season where the only thing that’s been predictable is unpredictability, they sure felt good about winning one through domination.

The next test, at home on Monday against a hot Phoenix Suns team, is coming very soon. Until then, let Jimmy and Max set the current mood:

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