Cohesive Heat restore order against Wizards

Sun-Sentinel Miami Heat beat writer Ira Winderman looks at Sunday's win over Washington

MIAMI

   Generally, if we're going to take our relationship advice from an NBA player, we prefer to take it from one who is dating Gabrielle Union.

   With the Heat entering Sunday night's 103-93 victory over the Washington Wizards coming off consecutive road losses, Dwyane Wade was asked about the Heat's championship chemistry being off over a first week of the season that has ended 2-2.

   "I'll give you a good example," he said, as if chatting with Oprah rather than confiding with a group of sportswriters. "If you've been in a relationship with a woman for a long time, you start getting comfortable. You stop doing the little things that you should do, that you did in the beginning."

  About 90 minutes later, the Heat were full of sweet nothings, with 11 assists on their first 13 baskets, the type of ball movement that was lacking at times during last week's road losses to the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. By the second quarter, the lead was at 17.

   While it got close late, after the Heat had pushed to a 23-point lead, what mattered most in this one was the Heat drew closer as a team.

   "We've been together for a while. We've gotten comfortable," Wade said of himself and his Heat teammates. "This is like a relationship. We got a little comfortable.

   "Now, we've got to get back on the edge a little bit."

   As part of the championship celebration last week, the Heat's significant others were presented championship jewelry, with Wade making a point after that rousing season-opening victory over the Chicago Bulls to give Union her (championship-not-engagement) ring.

   Sunday, the Heat were reestablishing their own relationships, crisper, cohesive.

   By halftime, when the Heat lead 61-48, each of the nine players to see action had an assist, save for center Chris Andersen. It not only was LeBron James hitting Wade in stride at the rim, it was the ball whipping around the perimeter so fast that the hockey assists were adding up, as well.

   In the third quarter, each of the Heat's nine baskets were off assists. At the finish, there were 37 baskets and 32 assists, the highest assist-to-basket ratio in the Heat's Big Three era.

   "We know what works for us," Wade said. "Sometimes we just don't do it."

   At 1-2 entering the night, the Heat were under .500 for only the second time in the Big Three era, the first time since their first game together in October 2010.

   Before the doors even opened, owner Micky Arison posted on Twitter, "Game day ur Miami Heat need a W."

   It is likely this team will never "need" a victory until the playoffs. The players realize as much. But, to a degree, the losses to the 76ers and Nets served as a wakeup call, the team's first losing streak since last January.

   Oh, there was another shaky start, this time with the Wizards up 9-2 at the outset. But that came amid the Heat trying to do the right thing, the ball popping from the outset, Wade making the type of off-the-ball lane cuts that revitalized his relationship with James last season.

   "When we see we have something we need to fix, we fix it," James said. "We've been together for a while, so we know."

   Long before there was married life for LeBron, there was an extended relationship, one that has endured since childhood. He knows how to make such unions work when they have possibilities.

   "It's just getting back into it, not taking what we have for granted," he said of teammates, as if talking about Savannah. "We've been together so long, you start to think we can go out and make it happen instead of talking through it. We lacked that the last few games. We got a handle on it today."

   That "handle" came during a meeting at the pregame walkthrough. The players appreciate Erik Spoelstra's level of patience. Missed shots will be tolerated, such as the slump Shane Battier has endured since the season opener. Selfish play will not.

   To outsiders, this all is a marriage of convenience, how James, Wade and Chris Bosh came together in July 2010. In NBA terms, perhaps that's true.

   But like any relationship, it also requires nurturing through the rough patches. Sunday, the Heat came out on the other side of one. Together. Again.

    "We understand." James said, "it's easy for everyone if we move the ball, we share the ball."

iwinderman@tribune.com. Follow him at twitter.com/iraheatbeat


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