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LeBron’s dominance overcomes Wade’s absence in Heat rout

This news story was published on January 4, 2012.
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By Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel –

MIAMI — Through the prism of the Big Three, sometimes the little things can go unnoticed.

But with Dwyane Wade sidelined Wednesday with a bruised left foot, his teammates, including one in particular, found themselves with a greater portion of the canvas to take stock of themselves.

(PHOTO: Miami Heat’s LeBron James goes to the basket against the Indiana Pacers’ Lou Admundson during the first quarter at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida, on Wednesday, January 4, 2012.)

So James Jones, starting in place of Wade, stepped into a series of silky 3-pointers, Chris Bosh took a more aggressive bent in getting to the line, and LeBron James filled out the box score.

Boy did he ever.

No Wade? No problem, just a 118-83 rout of the emerging Indiana Pacers, a parting gift from the Heat to the AmericanAirlines Arena faithful before a five-game, nine-day trip that starts Thursday against the Atlanta Hawks.

“That was a very good, focused effort against a very good basketball team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

The only concern coming out of the game was the left ankle James twisted late in the third quarter, an injury he played through.

“It’s been better, but it feels OK right now,” he said after the game. “It’s always the next day. That’s how you can tell how it will be going forward.”

As for the game, it was a victory fueled by one of the finest defensive hours in the franchise’s 24 seasons, when the Heat limited the Pacers to 1-of-15 shooting in the second quarter.

It was the first time the Heat had limited an opponent to a single basket in a period. The Heat also forced 10 Indiana turnovers in the period.

“It was about time for us to stick up for our defensive principles,” Bosh said.

With Spoelstra opting for prudence with Wade’s injury that slowed the guard in Monday’s home loss to the Hawks, the Heat’s lone loss seven games to start to the season, the Heat got across-the-board contributions, effectively dispatching the Pacers with a 25-6 run to end the first half that produced a 62-39 halftime lead.

More to the point, the Heat got an across-the-boxscore contribution from James, who finished with 33 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds, coming up short of his 33rd career triple-double only because Indiana came up short of mounting any sort of sustained challenge.

“I felt really good,” he said. “I was able to find my teammates and they were able to hit shots. I was also able to score some points on my own.

“The best thing is guys stepped up with D-Wade out.”

James checked out with 5:13 to play and the Heat up 107-72.

“He’s played in that role long enough and he understood,” Spoelstra said of James standing as the singular perimeter attraction. “LeBron was brilliant there, on both ends of the court.”

James actually put a scare into both teams, going down in a heap late in the third quarter after stumbling while feeding Udonis Haslem for a fastbreak basket. James remained down for several seconds amid a collective hush, before rising and walking off the twisted left ankle.

“He sprained that same ankle every year,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll just have to see how it feels tomorrow. I imagine he’ll be pretty sore,” Spoelstra said.

Bosh is confident James will be OK.

“He has the strongest ankles I’ve ever seen,” he said.

But this wasn’t only about James.

It was Jones coming off the bench to nail three early 3-pointers and four overall in a 14-point effort.

“That’s what this team needs me to do,” he said. “In a situation like that, this team needs someone to step up.”

It was Bosh going a perfect 8 of 8 from the line on the way to 22 points.

It was Mario Chalmers adding 14 points, and Haslem contributing 10 rebounds, as his double-figure binge continues.

It was Norris Cole picking up the pace off the bench and even Dexter Pittman and Terrel Harris scoring.

Mostly, it was teammates putting Wade’s mind at ease, perhaps enough to also sit out Thursday’s game in Atlanta.

In fact, if Wade also sits out Saturday in New Jersey against the dreary Nets, it would give him a week off to work past the foot injury sustained last week in Charlotte.

Entering 4-1, amid the hope for a significant playoff run after the offseason acquisitions of David West and George Hill, the Pacers essentially melted away for good in the second quarter, about their only sustained contribution coming from center Roy Hibbert, who finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

West was never a factor, shooting 2 of 6 for nine points, with four rebounds. Hill shot 1 of 5.

It was the type of defensive effort Spoelstra has been seeking throughout these early stages of the season.

“We have not been able to do it consistently for a 48-minutes game,” he said, “but our guys understand what our identity is. We create our success on the defensive side of the floor.”

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