What better time to set the franchise record for victories in a single season than when the team’s three best players are on the bench?
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did not play Wednesday against the Wizards, but it didn’t matter. Behind a barrage of three-pointers, the Heat defeated the Washington Wizards 103-98 at Verizon Center to set the franchise record for victories while also securing home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Heat (62-16) surpassed the franchise’s 1996-97 team in regular-season victories with four games left on the schedule.
And now the Heat truly has nothing left to earn. In defeating the Wizards (29-50), Miami clinched the best record in the NBA, which guarantees home-court advantage should the Heat reach The Finals.
“We’re sitting at 62 wins, and it does mean something to us in that locker room,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We haven’t been here before as a franchise. It’s a minor thing. We want to keep the main thing the main thing but at the same time, it is a nice accomplishment.”
Of course, it can be argued that all of these things — the victories record and home-court advantage — mean little to the Heat despite all the gentlemanly lip service.
Here’s the reality of Wednesday night: It was the Heat’s penultimate road game of the regular season on the second night of a back-to-back and the result didn’t matter. Because of all that Spoelstra rested four starters. Bosh didn’t travel with the team due to an illness, and Wade and James showed up on the bench sometime in the first half.
For the guys who played, it was a shooter’s dream. To borrow a phrase from Spoelstra, the Heat’s three-point shooting extravaganza is now theater of the absurd.
With its three best attackers out of action and Udonis Haslem sidelined, the Heat’s offense was reduced basically to a bunch of spot-up three-point shooters. It made for a wild night.
“No Big 3, a lot of shots available out there, no one was expecting us to go to the hole — hey, it was a fun game if you’re a shooter,” said Shane Battier, who was 5 of 8 from three-point range.
The Heat attempted 41 three-pointers, which set a franchise record, and made 17 of them, or one more three-pointer than two-pointers. On Tuesday night, the Heat attempted 35 three-pointers against the Bucks.
“We should have shot more,” said Mike Miller, who was 4 of 6 from three-point range. “If it was up to me, we would have shot more.”
Through three quarters, the Heat had a higher shooting percentage from three-point range than from inside the arc. Battier and Miller led the shooting display, but Rashard Lewis and Mario Chalmers had three three-pointers apiece. Ray Allen was 1 of 7 from three-point range and James Jones was 1 of 3.
Allen led the Heat with 23 points, going 8 of 18 from field overall. He also had six rebounds, four assists and three steals. The Heat won despite committing 25 turnovers. Miller led the team with six.
The Wizards led 72-69 to begin the fourth quarter, but Washington obviously underestimated just how committed the Heat was to jacking up three-pointers as often as possible. The Heat kept launching shots from beyond the arc and enough went in.
A three-pointer by Jones gave Miami a 76-74 lead, and layups by Allen and Norris Cole pushed the Heat’s advantage to six points. Lewis then drilled a three-pointer from the corner to give the Heat a 12-0 run.
Chris Andersen appeared to hurt his elbow during the game but said afterwards he was fine.
“Ain’t nothing wrong with my elbow,” Andersen said. “I’m from the country.”
A.J. Price had 23 points for the Wizards while third-year star John Wall was 7 of 18 for 17 points. He also had 11 assists and nine rebounds to go along with two blocks and two steals.