PHILADELPHIA -– The supertwins did their postgame interviews simultaneously Wednesday night, which was appropriate, considering their attempt at symbiosis on the court took a few baby steps in the right direction, too.
Without Rajon Rondo and the Celtics' defense to worry about, the Supposed-Best-Team-Ever made its first entry in the win column in Game 2 of this fascinating, bizarre basketball odyssey. The Heat of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are no longer below .500 after beating the Philadelphia 76ers, 97-87.
Miami's one-game losing streak is over, though there is still work to be done. They are, after all, now a half-game behind LeBron's former team, the Cavaliers, who beat the Celtics on King James' former court.
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The Heat fixed a fair amount of what didn't go right on opening night, though the opposition deserved credit for much of that. The next time we see the team America loves to hate, it'll be against a Boston-like level of competition, in their home opener Friday night against the Magic.
"It's good for the game, it's good for ratings, and it'll be good for us to open up at home and see what we have against the best," Wade said.
It will be games like that one, not this garden variety stinker against the Sixers, that will offer important clues as to how soon the Heat will resolve the apparent identity crisis that has alternately infected their two superstars on the first two nights of the season.
Wade found his cure Wednesday night, atoning for an understandably rusty opening-night performance with his trademark aggression to the tune of 30 points, seven rebounds and four assists. His line was nearly identical to James' production in Game 1, with the obvious exception of LeBron's eight turnovers against Boston. (He had nine against the Sixers. Nine.) So far, one hand washes the other for the Heat, but not both at the same time.
"It's day to day, game to game," Wade said. "We don't know what to expect. The big thing is, we've got three dynamic players that draw a lot of attention. Some nights, one guy's going to score more than another, and we all understand that and know that. ... It's going to be probably a different leading scorer every night on this team. It's not going to be just me, LeBron and Chris [Bosh]. It's going to be other guys as well."
|'Some nights, one guy's going to score more than another,' says Wade after scoring 30. (AP)|
"What stuck in my mind about [Tuesday] was what LeBron said at the podium: 'We've all got to do what we do,' " Wade said. "That's the reason we all came together. So today I was very aggressive, attacking the rim and attacking the basket."
On different nights, James and Wade have been moderately effective at being who they used to be, when they were surrounded by limited talent. But for the Heat to be as good as they appear on paper, the dynamic duo is going to have to find new ways to be dynamic. You know, the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts. That means being who they are now, on the same floor together as co-superstars -– not who they were in their former lives as the lone dominant force on their teams.
"We don't want to say, 'It's my turn, it's your turn, it's your turn,' " Wade said. "We want to play team basketball. And at times when stuff breaks down, then we've got some great individual players able to make things happen."
Stuff was always broken down with LeBron's Cavs and Wade's Heat, with the exception of 2005-06, when Wade had a still agile Shaq on his side. Beyond that, their individual greatness carried otherwise modest talent as far as they could. Now, in the infancy of Pat Riley's experiment, "doing what they do" isn't really what's needed. Doing what they do now, in a complementary and fundamentally different way, has to be the new normal.
"We've always got to stay aggressive, and aggressive doesn't mean shooting all the time," Wade said. "It's always being on attack and not being in a passive mind state. That's when we have the high turnovers."
On nights like this, the Heat can get by with one of their two superstars in his comfort zone. At some point, they may need both.
"When we do get it," coach Erik Spoelstra said, "we expect to be very tough to defend."
Not to be the bearer of bad news, but Spoelstra may not see that until January, when Mike Miller returns from a thumb injury. That's when Carlos Arroyo's days as the starting point guard on this team built for a championship should come to its merciful end. A group that starts and finishes games with LeBron and Wade as interchangeable wings, Miller as the shooter, Bosh as the pick-and-roll big man, and Udonis Haslem doing the dirty work –- that is the best way to bring out the talent of LeBron and Wade, in ways it hasn't been used before.
"I want them to be who they are," Spoelstra said.
Not who they were.