Time to exhale. The defending NBA champions — after nearly two seasons — are finally even with the Washington Wizards.
In one of the more quizzical trends in the NBA, the Heat was 2-3 against Washington since the beginning of the 2011-2012 season. A 99-71 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena on Sunday evened the series. This season, the Heat is 2-1 against the Wizards, which is 4-28 overall.
In all seriousness, the victory was important for reasons other than pummeling the worst team in the NBA. For more than a week, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had harped about his team’s lack of rebounding. After losing the rebounding battle in four of its past five games, the Heat responded with a convincing effort.
Miami (23-9) outrebounded Washington 50-39. On Friday against the Bulls, the Heat was outrebounded 48-28.
“The disposition to rebound was better than it was against Chicago,” Spoelstra said. “Getting on the floor for loose balls, making a cut harder, second and third efforts, all these things you can’t take for granted.”
The Heat led 69-60 entering the fourth quarter before blowing it open. Led by Ray Allen, the Heat scored 21 points in a row points to finish the game. Allen had 13 points in the final period and finished with 20, going 8 of 12 from the field and 3 of 4 from three-point range.
The Heat’s bench scored 37 points.
“We came in with a focus,” Allen said. “Defensive [rebounding] was something we really wanted to clamp down on. We wanted to take what the starting five did and make it look better.”
Mike Miller had 13 points off the bench, connecting on two three-pointers.
“[We have] got to do a better job of, especially on the road, of putting them in a position to succeed,” Dwyane Wade said of the Heat’s bench. “There are some things that we can all talk about when they’re on floor that give them better opportunities. But they’re going to be key for us, especially on a long road trip.”
The Heat leaves for a six-game road trip — first stop Indianapolis — on Monday.
LeBron James led the Heat with 24 points, extending his streak of consecutive games with at least 20 points to begin the season. James, who tweaked his ankle in the fourth quarter but finished the game, had seven assists and two rebounds. For Wade, it was a positive sign that the Heat outrebounded the Wizards by 11 but James was limited on the boards.
Wade had seven rebounds to go along with 14 points. He was 7 of 14 from the field. A driving layup by Wade put the Heat ahead by 12 points with 5:15 to play. He scored a reverse layup to all but seal the victory. Allen and James kept pouring it on.
Allen’s three-pointer with 46.6 seconds left put the Heat ahead by 28 points.
The Heat was 8 of 21 from three-point range (.381) and 38 of 82 (.463) from the field. Those numbers are below the team’s season averages, but the Heat made up for it with rebounding, an oddity for this season. Chris Bosh, criticized recently by Spoelstra for not jumping for rebounds, had nine boards to go along with 17 points. He was 6 of 11 from the field and continues to be the Heat’s most consistent shooter.
“Nine,” Bosh said to no one and everyone after the game.
He jokingly added that he plans to count all of his rebounds for the foreseeable future.
Udonis Haslem had 12 rebounds in 29 minutes. Allen had six rebounds and Miller had four.
“I just wanted to be relentless and chase that rebound,” Haslem said.
Wade was happy to see Haslem play so many minutes. Before Sunday, he was averaging 18.9 minutes per game.
“If we can get more collective rebounding as we go on this road trip, we need everyone to be involved,” Wade said.