Communal and unrelenting, that is the style of basketball the Heat is playing right now.
On some level, watching the Heat in its current form is a lot like watching one of the great college teams of all-time — the 1976 Hoosiers or 1991 Runnin’ Rebels or 2007 Gators. The Heat is far, far, light years beyond college greatness in terms of skill and talent, of course, but in dedication to the system — the game of basketball — the Heat is playing an organic form of the sport that is rare for the pro game.
On Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Nets were that poor, undermanned, small-school team brought in early in the season for an easy sacrifice to the gods. The Heat mopped the floor with Brooklyn’s new black-and-white road uniforms. It was clinical and abusive: Heat 103, Nets 73.
“As long as the guys have the right mindset for this and the maturity that if we play our game and hit the open guy — and it’s not about trying to get yours — then you can see the strength of our offense,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
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The Heat (4-1) shot 51.9 percent from the field, scoring 40 field goals on 25 assists, while holding the Nets (1-2) to 37.5 percent shooting. The Heat is averaging 29 assists in its last two games. Buoying that statistic, Miami forced 19 turnovers, which it turned into 31 easy points.
Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 22 points, going 10 of 14 from the field in 32 minutes. LeBron James had 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. James now has four double-doubles in the Heat’s first five games.
Miami blew it open midway through the third quarter. It started with a nine-point lead and a driving layup by Wade. He backed it up with a 10-footer and the rout was on. The Heat scored 12 consecutive points amid an 18-4 run.
Slap in the middle of the bloodletting was a pair of three-pointers by Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers. Chalmers’ three gave the Heat a 64-46 lead with 7:23 left in the quarter. When his long-range shot dropped through the nets, the Heat had scored 10 consecutive points in about 90 seconds.
Yes, this team can score in a hurry.
Led by James, Wade and Chalmers, the Heat outscored the Nets 29-15 in the third quarter.
Chalmers finished with eight points, six rebounds and five assists. Starter Shane Battier was 3 of 8 from three-point range for nine points. Off the bench, Rashard Lewis led the Heat with 13 spirited points on 6-of-9 shooting. His dunk in the second half was the liveliest his legs have looked since joining the Heat.
Ray Allen had nine points in 27 minutes. All told, 12 players scored for the Heat.
Deron Williams led the Nets with 14 points, but only had three assists and a rebound. He had seven turnovers. MarShon Brooks had 12 points off the bench. Kris Humphries had nine points in the first quarter but finished with just those nine.
The first two quarters were highlighted by a pair of alley-oops on fast breaks between James and Wade. The first came on the first basket of the game. A turnover by the Nets triggered the break and Wade lofted up pass for James, hard-charging and high-flying.
James flushed the ball with his unique mix of grace and power. From there, the Heat never trailed by more than a point in the first half.
The second alley-oop was like a facsimile of the first, only transposed. This time Wade started the play with a steal and kicked it up court. James received the pass in stride and lofted the ball to Wade, who circled around the backside of the play and finished it with a soaring dunk.
Wade’s dunk gave the Heat an 11-point lead with 5:12 left in the second quarter. The Heat’s All-Star shooting guard scored 12 points in the period on 5-of-6 shooting and James finished the first half with 13 points.
The Heat entered the game with the 28th-ranked defense in the league but, statistically speaking, turned in its best defensive effort of the season. The Nets were 30 of 80 from the field and 3 of 21 from three-point range.