The first meeting of the Miami Heat and the Golden State Warriors represented a conflict of interests. As the Heat continued to carve out its defensive identity, meeting Golden State’s explosive offense at AmericanAirlines Center on Wednesday night was a matter of respect.
You have to respect a team that had not won in Miami since March of 2008, yet beat the reigning champions for its fifth consecutive road victory.
“They don’t get much attention, but you come out lackadaisical and thinking you’re just going to just coast by; they’re a good team,” Heat center Chris Bosh said. “They have a lot of talent, they have guys that are out to prove something right now. You have to be aware of the game.”
A week has passed since Miami’s lack of awareness allowed the Knicks to connect on 18 of 44 three-point attempts, and the Heat’s 97-95 loss to the Warriors was another lesson in opening doors.
David Lee had Golden State on the board first with a jump shot from Klay Thompson, and moments later, LeBron James’ turnover set the pace for the rest of the game where the lead changed 14 times.
Through the first half, Miami gave up 13 points on nine turnovers, and let Golden State shoot 46.7 percent from beyond the three-point line.
“It’s a focus for us every night to protect the three-point line, and we haven’t done a great job of that for the most part of this year,” LeBron James said. “[The Warriors] create a problem.”
What lies beyond the arc is the part of the game that’s been most unkind to the Heat on this homestretch, and the Warriors weren’t shy about their abilities to put pressure on Miami at both ends of the court.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra likened watching video of Warriors shooting tandem Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to Pop-A-Shot. (Yes, the arcade game).
“It’s arguably the best-shooting backcourt in the NBA,” Spoelstra said. “They’re playing at an extremely high level, a confident level.”
Shooting 60 percent in the first quarter, the Heat defense couldn’t find Thompson when it needed to.
With Miami lost in the shuffle, Thompson accounted for 10 of the Warriors’ 15 attempts from beyond the three-point line, posting 27 points.
Miami held Curry to nine points, but was unable to contain Lee. The aggressive forward had LeBron James rolling his eyes, taking Miami for 22 points with 13 rebounds. Jarrett Jack made up ground where Curry failed, with the game-winning basket tacked on to his 20-point game.
“I think we could have played better defensively and offensively. The ball could have moved a little bit better,” Spoelstra said. “But you have to give [Golden State] credit; they are a tough team to defend.”
The Heat shot 60 percent after first quarter but missed the mark by game’s end, falling well short of their last two contests at 47.5. Miami was fighting to make strides as a team against the Warriors, despite 48 points in the paint, and its big three combining for 66 points.
Mark Jackson’s Warriors battled for a win they couldn’t guarantee, and initiated a deserved on-court celebration at the sound of the buzzer.
“We found a way to stop them,” Jackson said.