November 28, 2009
It was a put-back dunk by Michael Beasley that shocked the Orlando Magic crowd at Amway Arena on Wednesday night. Just moments after Jason Williams failed to seal the deal by missing two free throws, the Miami Heat edged out a victory against the league-leading Magic (now 12-4). It was another victory against an elite team that proved Miami has the potential to compete with the best in the Association.
Now, Miami has lost its fair share of games against solid teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors. But with Wednesday's win, the Heat have now defeated two elite squads in the likes of the Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic; all the while keeping their roster virtually intact and the rest of the East bolstering their depth charts.
There is plenty of basketball still to play, and an uphill battle still to be fought by the Heat, but the team that was scrutinized for its dormant off season state is beginning to stir up noise in the NBA. Miami's slogan, Good Enough Aint Enough, is beginning to permeate on the court as the entire team raises its performance level.
Five players are averaging double-digit scoring averages (actually four if you don't consider Mario Chalmers' 9.9 points per game). Dwyane Wade is, well, Dwyane Wade and continues to put up over 25 points a night along with spectacular defensive stops, steals and blocks. Jermaine O'Neal is playing much healthier and has become more efficient on offense - using mid-range jumpers to diversify his game. Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers are maturing as players and decision-makers, which has shown by their improved offensive and defensive performances. Udonis Haslem continues to overachieve off the bench as an almost guaranteed double-double machine.
This team may not look like a formidable opponent for the league's elite on paper, but their actions are just starting to show otherwise.
The Heat face the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, L.A. Lakers and Dallas Mavericks in four of their next seven games. Miami will continue put themselves to the test in the upcoming weeks. But above all, they will put their opponents to the test as the early surprise of the season.