When LeBron James gets that special feeling, opponents need to watch out for No. 6.
Miami went into the break down by six and looked defenseless against Anthony Davis for long stretches. However, James led the charge for Miami with 16 third-quarter points to right the ship as the Heat cruised to a 107-88 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.
James was 6 for 8 in the third quarter, including 2 of 3 from behind the arc to lead Miami back from its halftime deficit. He finished two alley-oops from guard Dwyane Wade in the quarter and hit most of his jumpers with defenders in his face. He said he wanted to “try and be aggressive” and his attacking mentality opened up space for his teammates, who added 16 more points to give Miami a five-point cushion after three quarters.
The Heat struggled mightily to contain Davis for large swathes of the first half as he had 16 points and 10 rebounds. The Pelicans had the advantage on the glass, 27-18, in the first 24 minutes, scoring 15 second-chance points off 11 offensive rebounds.
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“He was getting a lot of loose balls and second-chance opportunities in the first half,” center Chris Bosh said of Davis. “After that we tried to make it as tough as possible, getting a body between him and the basket.”
Miami found a way to neutralize Davis in the second half as he only had six points and two points in more than 19 minutes of action. One of the big reasons for the change was the improved defensive communication. Coach Erik Spoelstra said he was able to hear his players talking in the second half when the Heat were playing defense on the far end of the court. He said the increased communication allowed Miami to be more active on defense which allowed Miami to tie a season low with 39 points allowed in the second half.
The other big change in the final half was Spoelstra putting Bosh and center Chris Andersen in the game at the same time, which helped Miami control the glass and find easy baskets in the paint. The Heat won the battle in the paint 28-12 and held a 21-14 advantage on the glass, limiting New Orleans to only one offensive rebound in the final 24 minutes.
Spoelstra said that particular lineup, although bigger, wouldn’t have been as effective if Bosh didn’t learn how to play outside the post.
“It wouldn’t be as effective now if [Bosh] hasn’t had the evolution that he’s had,” Spoelstra said. “He knows how to play on the perimeter now, he knows how to play with another big that doesn’t compromise our spacing and he can still get to the rim.”
Anderson proved to be the unsung hero for the Heat, setting a season-high with 15 points in 23 minutes off the bench while shooting a perfect 7 for 7 from the field. He also proved his worth on the glass, collecting seven rebounds, five of which came on the defensive glass.
Spoelstra commended Andersen’s energy on both ends of the floor and his effect on the glass in tandem with Bosh. Yet he was also impressed with his ability to finish at the rim on offense.
“[The offense was] a combination of his speed getting to the rim, his ability to catch lobs, but also interior passes,” Spoelstra said. “He had great hands and great feel for how to find the basket once he catches it.”
The first half was mainly the James and Wade show on offense as the pair combined for 23 of the Heat’s 43 points. The Heat looked sluggish most of the half, particularly in the second quarter when the team shot 35 percent from the field and was outscored by seven points.
“We’re an old team,” Wade said, smiling. “It takes a while to get the juice going.”
Said James: “We were able to turn the game around pretty fast.”