HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — So much for easing up at the finish line.
The Miami Heat could obviously care less about the All-Star break being just two days away. They’re still attacking games, and opponents, like it’s December. They’re still grinding with one more game, tonight in Toronto, on their pre-break schedule.
If you didn’t see them go after the Pacers in last night’s Fan Night spectacular on NBA TV, you missed a treat. Love them or hate them, no one can deny the jaw-dropping brilliance this team displays when Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh are dialed in the way they were against the Pacers for long stretches.
They combined for 90 of the Heat’s 110 points, with Wade leading the way with a game-high 41 points. Kudos to the Pacers for going at the Heat. They rallied from a 24-point first quarter deficit to make the Heat sweat a little bit late. But those are the sort of tests they are likely to get on a regular basis once the action resumes after All-Star Weekend.
What’s special to watch about this Heat team right now is that they’ve figured out their true strengths and weaknesses, and when they play to those strengths … they are an extremely wicked crew to deal with. Their first quarter was stunning. Wade had 31 points by halftime, tying the franchise record set by Sherman Douglas on Dec. 27, 1990 for the most points in the first half. And then they outscored the Pacers 28-20 in the fourth quarter, showing once again why they are one of the league’s most dominant forces in the fourth quarter.
“It was amazing,” James told reporters later. “That’s part of the reason why he’s D-Wade. We saw him get going early and we just kept giving him the ball. It was an unbelievable first quarter and an unbelievable first half in itself.”
The Pacers showed that they might be a factor for a playoff spot after All-Star Weekend as well. They will be dangerous in the final weeks of the season, especially now that they know they have a chance to be something more than just a spoiler.
“The rest of the season, we’re coming,” said feisty Pacers center Roy Hibbert. “We’re not backing down. We’re not having any lackadaisical games. We’re on the prowl. We’re hungry.”
Not all the news was pleasant for the Heat after the game. According to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel, veteran swingman Mike Miller left Conseco Fieldhouse in a wheelchair after “absorbing another blow to the head.”
Miller, who was tested for a concussion following a blow to the head in last Friday’s victory over the Detroit Pistons, also was observed following Sunday’s loss to the Boston Celtics, after being leveled by a hard screen from Celtics forward Kevin Garnett.
Miller was struck by an inadvertent elbow during the third quarter of Tuesday’s game, initially diagnosed with a contusion above his right eye. Coach Erik Spoelstra said Miller appeared woozy after the incident.
Miller was accompanied by a member of the Heat’s training staff to the hospital and did not accompany the team for Wednesday’s road game against the Toronto Raptors. He is scheduled to return to South Florida on a commercial flight, pending the results of the hospital tests.
Miller has a history of concussion symptoms, playing with a specially constructed lower mouthpiece.
“He’s getting banged up a little bit,” guard Dwyane Wade said.
If we’ve learned nothing about the Heat, it’s that they cannot afford to lose certain players from the lineup for any extended period of time. And Miller is one of those players.