With the Indiana Pacers looming on Wednesday, the Miami Heat had to make sure they weren’t going to encounter any surprises in their Monday night contest with one of the league’s worst team in the Utah Jazz.
Although it had the feel of Saturday night’s win over Cleveland, an unnecessarily close game with an inferior opponent, the Heat woke up in the second half to throttle the talent-stricken Jazz 117-94.
LeBron James was wildly efficient, as usual, scoring 30 points on an absurd 13-of-17 from the field. However, he’ll most likely be disappointed by the fact that he came only an assist and a rebound away from recording what would have been his first triple-double of the season.
LeBron also had a nine-rebound, nine-assist effort in Miami’s win over Cleveland. It’s the 100th time in his career he’s come this close to recording a triple-double.
Also replicating the performance was Cleveland was the ‘Big Three’s’ dominant approach. Rekindling days of old when it was ‘Big Three’ or bust, Dwyane Wade dropped in 27 points on only 14 shots, while Chris Bosh aggressively scored 20 points to go with six rebounds.
It’s the second consecutive game each member of the ‘Big Three’ has scored at least 20 point. The back-to-back impressive outings from the Heat’s three All-Stars comes on the heels of a loss to Indiana where no member of the ‘Big Three’ scored over 20, making it the first time such a thing has occurred.
Utah was led by a spirited 31 points off the bench from Alec Burks, who had a damper put on his night when LeBron James concluded his time with a ferocious dunk on the Jazz forward.
Burks didn’t get it going until the second half, though. In the first half, it was the Enes Kanter show as he helped Utah turn an eight-point deficit into an eight-point lead halfway through the second.
Kanter, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds in only 17 minutes, led the charge with easy scores in the paint off of post-ups and offensive rebounds. Enes scored 10 of Utah’s 30 points in the quarter, while the Jazz grabbed five offensive rebounds to Miami’s zero to go into the half with a three-point lead.
After giving up nine offensive rebounds in the first half, though, Miami only succumbed two in the following 24 minutes. The effort on the boards and the defense, with the exception of Alec Burks catching the holy ghost, made an appearance and a 36-21 third quarter gave the Heat a 12-point edge going into the fourth.
To get to that point, however, Miami had to start off the half with four transition points, two coming off a LeBron layup and the other pair coming off a Chris Bosh dunk. After Gordon Hayward cut the lead Heat lead to three, Miami would run off a 9-2 run to push the lead into double-digits.
Utah would cut the lead to seven early in the fourth, but a 6-0 run by Miami, facilitated by a pair of aggressive moves in the post by Dwyane Wade, put an end to the last honest attempt at a comeback by the Jazz.
From that point on it was showtime for the Heat, namely LeBron James. Despite turning his ankle late in the third quarter, enough to the point of needing to come out, LeBron was brought in with seven minutes left in a game the Heat were already up by 15.
Perhaps the coaching staff wanted him to play on the ankle to keep it swelling from complacency? Either way, the payoff was enormous, especially from an entertainment standpoint, as LeBron would score nine points and assist on a Ray Allen in a three-minute span.
By that point, the lead had hit 19 and the likes of Roger Mason, Jr. and Joel Anthony hit the floor. Even with those guys in the show went on as Anthony hit a rare reverse layup, Cole threw down a transition dunk, and Udonis Haslem hit a free throw line jumper.
In a matchup of the league’s second-best offense squaring off with the league’s worst’s defense, according to Hollinger’s efficiency ratings, the offense feasted off of easy looks all night, eventually setting a franchise record for field-goal percentage at a staggering 63 percent.
Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen were the only Heat players to shoot below 50 percent. The ‘Big Three’ combined to miss only 14 of their 44 shots from the field. The Heat had 28 assists on their 45 field-goals, a combined 17 coming from LeBron and Mario, who tied a season-high with eight assists.
Mario also made all three of his three-point attempts and has now made eight of his last 13 attempts.
The Heat won’t find looks coming as easy as they have come against the league’s 18th worst defense in Cleveland and whatever the Jazz were attempting to do Monday night when they play the league’s best defense in Indiana on Wednesday.
Indiana held Miami to a season-low 84 points in the first meeting, despite the Heat scoring 30 points in the opening quarter.