Consecutive losses prompted in the Heat not panic but heightened proficiency. The Washington Wizards suffered the consequences Sunday night.
With ball movement that resembled a very coordinated child whipping through a connect-the-dots picture, the Heat routed Washington 103-93 at AmericanAirlines Arena as nine Heat players scored and nine players had assists. Overall, the Heat assisted on 32 of 37 field goals.
“We want to make the game easier for everybody, and moving the ball is how we play together and how we take advantage of all the talent we have,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “A lot of guys made sacrifices to be here, and it only works if we play together.”
Dwyane Wade said, “We know what works for us. Sometimes, we just don’t do it.”
The Heat hasn’t lost three games in a row in the regular season since Jan. 10-13, 2012. And by starting the season 1-2, Sunday’s game was only the second time since LeBron James, Wade and Bosh joined forces that they took the court with a losing record in the regular season. The other was after their first game together in October 2010.
If the word “rout” seems a little overstated for a 10-point NBA win, it should be noted that the final 12 minutes were for official purposes only after the Heat took an 87-64 lead into the fourth quarter.
The starters set the tone Sunday night, led by the usual suspects. Or, they did after the Heat answered a 9-2 Wizards start with a 9-0 run and hit 12 of its first 13 shots.
“That was a point of emphasis,” James said. “We understand we can’t continue to get off to slow starts as we did the last two games. We need to come out with some aggression and have a lead at that first time out.”
James put in 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting, recorded five assists and helped shut down Washington forward Trevor Ariza until garbage time. Ariza, who came in averaging 20 points in Washington’s first two games, accounted for only a couple of free throws in the first three quarters after getting into early foul trouble.
Guard John Wall poured in 20 and 26 points in Washington’s first two games. He left Sunday with 11 on 4-of-12 shooting, but did get a game-high nine assists.
“Our close outs were better,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Our commitment to contain the ball after the close out was better. We had some timely deflections. That was better. Overall, I just liked our competitiveness better.”
Bosh scored 24 and pulled down seven rebounds. Wade had 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting, five assists, two steals and two blocks.
Wade was on the floor with backups Norris Cole, Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Chris Andersen when the Heat established a double-digit lead early in the second quarter.
When James, Bosh and point guard Mario Chalmers returned with 6:25 left in the second quarter, the Heat led 44-34. A James dunk off an over-the-shoulder whip from Bosh down low gave the Heat a 50-39 lead. Later, James fed Wade for a dunk and, with 6.9 seconds left in the half, a layup after Wade skirted around screens to get open. The Heat led 61-48 at halftime.
“His pie chart now is so diverse,” Spoelstra said of Wade. “It’s come such a long way from where it used to be. His reinvention now that he dabbles in so many different areas.
“Depending on the course of the game, he’s going to be involved. He’s going to make himself involved. That off-the-ball development on his part really the last two years just added another element to his pie chart. That makes us better.”