When Dwyane Wade scored the Miami Heat's 17 final points, capping a dominant 37-point performance Sunday that rallied his team past the Detroit Pistons, 100-98, the win did much more than merely demonstrate how good he is.
Heat feat, Grade A Wade
The team effort Miami showed was the real eye opener. It was exactly what it needs to compete with the NBA's top teams. That's the best 48 minutes of effort that I've seen from the Heat this year.
And it's the blueprint for the rest of the season.
The Heat already knew they had a special player in Wade. There were other pressing questions that needed answers, effort and defense among them, especially coming off the embarrassment of a 36-point loss to Dallas on Feb. 9.
Fifty-one games into the season, this Miami team is still adjusting to the new parts around Shaquille O'Neal and Wade, and still finding ways to deal with adversity in ways that San Antonio and Detroit, as cohesive, veteran teams, have long ago learned to handle.
What the Heat should learn from this Sunday: defense can carry you. There's going to be nights when either Shaq or Wade aren't on, and those are the nights you need to rely on the defense. Shaq was on, and he set the tone early, finishing with a season-high 31 points.
Heat guard Gary Payton, fitting Miami on this night like a comfortable Glove, was exceptional offensively and defensively. Even though Chauncey Billups (29 points, 10 assists) played well, he really only did damage from the perimeter when Payton was on him in the second half.
This is the way Heat coach Pat Riley wants his team playing -- with pride, especially after the embarrassment in Dallas. This was a must-win game for the Heat. I don't care what anybody says -- you lose this one, and it will hurt you.
Riley was reported to be dancing to the Doobie Bros. before the game. That's Riley, one of great motivators. Like Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, he knows when to push, and when to pull. Count the dancing as a light-hearted pull for a team under pressure.
On this team, he has a lot of veteran guys. Even those kind of players need to be coached. A big part of coaching is motivating. That's where Riley can take them higher.
Detroit, which executed very well and still lost, will likely have more respect for the Heat now. Psychologically, the Pistons' certainty of their ability to handle the Heat can no longer be absolute. Even when the Pistons made 11 of 20 3-pointers while the Heat finished 1-for-12, Miami still had enough to win. When the Shaq-Wade combo leads the way, it's tough to beat.
The Heat came into the game 0-7 against the top three teams (Detroit, San Antonio and Dallas). In none of those losses did both Shaq and Wade have a standout game.
But this eighth time had a different finish, with Wade sinking a shot with 2.3 seconds left over the long arms of Tayshaun Prince.
So now, the two teams sit 1-1 on the regular season, with Detroit having earned a 106-101 win on Dec. 29. Next is a March 22 date in Detroit, followed by April 6 game in Miami.
And if Miami follows its blueprint, that April game likely won't be their last this season.
ESPN Insider Greg Anthony was the 12th overall pick in the 1991 Draft, selected by the New York Knicks
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Without a care, all enjoy Dwyane Wade's winning shot in Miami. Well, except that man in the blue shirt. He's playing it cool.
He said he's never met him. But there's a connection between the athletic inspiration the seven-time winner of the Tour de France has delivered and the success Kobe Bryant is having this year.
I talked with Kobe before the Feb. 7 Lakers-Mavericks game in Dallas for NBA-TV.
So, Kobe, who's your hero?
Not only his hero, but he's taking training cues from the world's most dominant cyclist. He told me that trainers at Nike who work with himself and Armstrong, respectively, have talked and helped develop a conditioning approach in the offseason that brought his body to a new level.
What impressed Kobe most about Lance is his "burst", the way he separates himself from other competitors. What he especially liked was how that burst just mentally and physically demoralizes the competition.
Kobe said he really wanted to pattern himself on that training. He talked about his new offseason regimen, focusing on things like muscle memory, shooting position, fast-twitch muscle development, boxing drills, agility drills and track time
He said much was accomplished during what he called, "blackout periods" -- times that are dedicated strictly to workouts, with his personal, public and business responsibilities put on hold.
All for the Lance-like burst. The burst certainly showed the night he scored 81.
Of course, everyone's been asking him about 81. But I told him that 81 must have happened in the summer, not on Jan. 22 against the Raptors.
When I said this, he looked at first like "girl, where are you going with this?"
He knew. Eventually, our talk led to Lance. So now the season is more than halfway over. It's time for Kobe to show that burst in the mountains of an NBA stretch run.
-- Nancy Lieberman
• The Bucks-Nets game was played with only two referees, Tony Brown and Mike Callahan. The NBA would not release the name of the third official, who likely couldn't get there because of the snow. The Bucks played without starting forward Bobby Simmons (plantar fasciitis) and reserve guard Mo Williams (sprained ankle). Because of the inclement weather, the Nets allowed all fans sitting in the upper tier to move down to the lower area during the game. The team also announced that anyone holding unused tickets for Sunday night could exchange them for the Feb. 22 game against Orlando or Feb. 26 against Indiana.
• Before the opening tip of Saturday's Lakers-Grizzlies game, Magic Johnson presented Bryant with a warmup jacket that had logo patches from all nine of Bryant's All-Star games sewn into the sleeves. ... With his 639th victory as an NBA head coach, Memphis coach Mike Fratello passed Chuck Daly for 17th place all-time. Next on the list is Red Holzman at 696.
• Because of snow in Washington, the Wizards will allow customers to exchange tickets to Sunday's game for upper-level seats at the Feb. 21 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Although they were late arriving, most of the 20,173 fans made it to the game, giving the Wizards their 11th sellout of the season. ... After Allen Iverson told official Danny Crawford that he did not see a play well enough to make a call, Crawford quipped: "That's the first time you were right, Al."
-- The Associated Press
His teammates told him to keep shooting. Then Dwyane Wade's last basket finished the Pistons.
Wade To Go
David Zalubowski/AP Photo
Dallas coach Avery Johnson has a long face after his Mavs' 13-game winning streak was snapped Friday by Denver. Dallas looks to start a new streak Monday at home against the Knicks, who have lost nine straight.
Quote of the Day
-- Miami center Shaquille O'Neal, after his team beat the Pistons
-- Andrew Ayres
Readers react to Tim Legler's piece on All-Star snubs.
Yes, Tim Legler, you were wrong. There is no way that Kevin Garnett should have been left off of the All-Star team. It should not matter how his team is doing because he is doing everything in his power to get them wins. Who's more valuable and more of an All-Star, the player that gets you 55-60 wins instead of 45-50 (a la the Spurs with and without Duncan) or a player that gets you 40-45 wins instead of 10-15 (a la the Wolves with and without Garnett)?
Rasheed Wallace??? He's 50th in scoring and 39th in rebounding. It's an All-Star game not an All-Team game. There's a series at the end of the year you may have heard of, it's called the NBA Championship series and I hear they get a trophy or something for a great year. How does the NBA let this happen? The East will get their doors blown off this year in the NBA All-Star game but I guess who really cares?
I find it hysterical and credit-damaging to you that Ray Allen is described as the "world's greatest shooter" yet has the same shooting percentage as Kobe who is assumed as a "ballhog" whose performances sometimes "hurt the game." Kobe also has more rebounds and more ASSISTS than Allen but please don't allow facts to change your perception
The Lakers lost to the Grizzlies 100-99 on Saturday after holding a nine-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. Over the last three seasons the Lakers have lost only one other home game in which they led by as many as nine points in the final period. That was a 113-110 loss to the Suns on Dec. 8, 2004, in which they had a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Phil Jackson had lost only two other home games as Lakers head coach in which he led by as many as nine points in the final period, to the Celtics on Feb. 19, 2002 and to the Trail Blazers on Jan. 22, 2000.
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Chris Sheridan: With the uninspired way Chris has been playing, the Clips will be lucky to get anything for him -- especially with Elgin Baylor asking for alot in return, as he usually does. At the Knicks-Clippers game at MSG the other night, Wilcox got so abused by Channing Frye under the basket, Sam Cassell came leaping off the bench to scream and point at him. Referee Kevin Fehr saw the outburst from midcourt and hit Cassell with a technical foul, then rescinded it when the other refs told him Cassell was indeed yelling at Wilcox.
Mike (Memphis): Is the market for Lorenzen Wright along the lines of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit or can we actually get another player for him?
Chris Sheridan: Jerry West is not going to simply give him away, as much as he'd like to move him, if it will adversely affect the Grizzlies' chances to get out of the first round. So there has to be some size coming back, or Wright will be stuck in Memphis another couple months -- still nothing compared to Oswald's stint in NBC's vault.