Miami Heat Finally Flex Their Defensive Muscle

By Richard Nurse
LeBron James
Getty Images

For two teams who claim that they cared more about health than first place in the Eastern Conference, there sure were a lot of smiles and sad faces after the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat matchup.

Those raw emotions could have just been residual from a rivalry that includes hard fouls, heartache and pregame confrontations, but it was pretty evident that both teams wanted last night’s game — even without Dwyane Wade on the court.

That isn’t exactly a surprise for two teams penciled in to hate each other — at least on the floor — however, there was one thing that might have caught people off guard. And no, I’m not talking about LeBron James‘ one assist. I’m talking about the Heat’s defense.

“It was about as consistent to our identity as we’ve had for a while, for 48 minutes,” coach Erik Spoelstra said via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Focus on the gritty side used to be the Heat’s hallmark. They would get a stop or force a turnover, go flying down the other end and to give fans a highlight reel of SportsCenter top 10 plays.

However, that sort of play was a rarity this year, until Udonis Haslem stepped in and started hitting the floor for every loose ball. It also didn’t hurt that the 6-foot-8 power forward was instrumental in fronting Roy Hibbert and keeping him out of the paint while his guards jumped lanes and fueled fastbreaks.

Those are the type of plays that 20-2 runs are made of. But first place still rests on Miami bringing that urgency to Atlanta.

“I would love to see us play with this identity, to our identity, [Saturday] night,” Spoelstra said via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “If we do that, the results take care of themselves.”

Richard Nurse is a columnist for Follow him on Twitter @blackirishpr or add him to your network on Google.

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