Dwyane Wade was the catalyst again for the Miami Heat down the stretch.
The Miami Heat pulled away in the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks, earning their seventh win in a row. Here are some takeaways from the 101-89 victory as the Heat get ready for their rematch on the road on Friday.
Wade Time in Crunch Time
Among the big three, Dwyane Wade gets the least time to himself out on the court. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Wade the Tuesday night’s game having played only 49 minutes on the season without LeBron James or Chris Bosh on the floor compared to James’ 234 minutes and Bosh’s 51. And there may be good reason for it; the Heat had been outscored 97-101 over those 49 minutes when Wade got the spotlight. Tuesday, Wade had the opportunity to reverse the trend at a critical juncture and he took advantage. Coming out for the fourth quarter with the Heat up only three points, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra sent out Wade with a unit that didn’t feature James or Bosh, and Wade took the game into his own hands during the next four minutes. He started things off by pump-faking a long jumper and drawing a crucial three-shot foul against Chris Douglas-Roberts. That sparked a 17-point fourth quarter for Wade that sealed the victory, while bringing him closer to league’s highest point total in the final frame (only Amare Stoudemire has more fourth-quarter points, according to ESPN Stats & Information).
Another Sleepy Second Quarter
After the win, Wade dubbed the third period “our quarter,” referring to the Heat’s tendency to run teams off the court after halftime. Well, it’s a good thing they regroup after intermission since there’s another developing tendency: the Heat tune out in the second quarter. The Heat laid down against the Bucks' offense in the second period, allowing 31 points on six made field goals. How does that happen? The Heat got whistled for, count ‘em, 12 fouls in the second quarter, sending the Bucks’ wings to the free throw line a whopping 20 times. The Heat’s on-the-ball defenders -- Wade especially -- failed to stay in front of their man, which is something Miami’s perimeter players take a lot of pride in avoiding. What’s more remarkable is that the Bucks didn’t even have a free throw in the entire first quarter. The Heat were outscored by 10 points in the period after coming into their game averaging a minus-2.3 point differential over their previous three contests.
Timely end to 3-point drought
It was one of those games in which it wasn’t clear how the Bucks were staying in the game. But the Heat’s 3-point column held the answer. For a while, it seemed the Heat would lay an egg from beyond the arc for the first time since 2006. Heading into the final minutes of the third quarter, the Heat had missed all six of their 3-point attempts on the night, with five separate players missing shots from downtown. But resident marksman James Jones put an end to the shooting slump with a 3-pointer with 1:07 left in the third quarter, breaking a tie game at 68-68 to put the Heat up by three points. That started a string of 3-pointers, including two big ones by Mario Chalmers from the corner in the fourth quarter that gave the Heat the separation and crowd momentum they needed to pull out a victory at home on the back-to-back. For all the grinding in the first three quarters, it was the 3-point shot that made the difference.
A rare glimpse at the Heat zone D
When an NBA team goes to a zone defense, it raises some eyebrows. But when the Heat go zone, you have to make sure that Spoelstra still has a pulse. For the Heat to run that strategy, several things need to be in line. One, Wade and LeBron are on the bench, since the zone is unnecessary with such elite wing defenders. Secondly, opposing team have to be punchless from downtown. And early in the second quarter, the Heat found themselves in the perfect situation. With about 11 minutes left in the second quarter, the Heat showed zone for a couple possessions and actually flummoxed the Bucks offense to the point where Scott Skiles had to call a timeout to get things in order. After successfully encouraging an ill-advised jumper from Corey Maggette on the first possession, the Heat were thwarted by a Chris Douglas-Roberts three-pointer on the following one. And that was it for the game. The Heat don’t run a zone very often for good reason. Thanks to Spoelstra’s instruction, they have one of the most dominating half-court man-to-man defenses in the league. Also, entering Tuesday’s game, Heat opponents had shot 15-for-20 against the Miami’s so-called zone defense on the season. Yeah, that’s 75 percent.
Erick Dampier, power reliever
“DNP-Coach’s Decision” followed Erick Dampier’s name in the box score the past two games, but he was undoubtedly the coach’s pet at the center spot on Tuesday night. Dampier played 20 minutes for just the fifth time this season, getting more run than starter Zydrunas Ilgauskas as the Heat needed to beef up against the 7-foot, 260-pound Andrew Bogut. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra drew a baseball analogy before the game, likening his use of the center rotation to how baseball managers call on their bullpen arms. With Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Dampier, the Heat have three very specialized big men. Anthony provides the spark, Ilgauskas offers the spacing, and Dampier brings the power down low. And Dampier did that against the Bucks, grabbing nine rebounds to Bogut’s eight while blocking two shots. “Damp has been keeping himself ready," Spoelstra said. "We needed [his] size against Bogut, much like we needed it when we played the Lakers. That speaks to his professionalism. He played some very productive, solid minutes tonight.”