After countless flashy dunks and dazzling alley-oops by Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo in Sunday night's loss to the Memphis Grizzlies there was a sense of deep disappointment in the Miami Heat locker room. It was clear that the team felt embarrassed by not only the loss but the way they lost - trailing by thirty points at a given point.
Tuesday night was redemption.
Miami's offense was fluid and defense disciplined. Five players scored in double digits, led by Michael Beasley's 28 points, and every player that saw the floor scored points. Fast break points, points in the paint and even offensive rebounds were a part of Miami's repertoire; all statistical categories that the Heat do not commonly excel in.
In the defensive scheme, the Heat recorded five blocked shots, 33 defensive rebounds and held Toronto to 45% field goal percentage. Coach Spoelstra was satisfied with the team's effort and expects such defensive intensity every game. Essentially, having an "off day" on the offensive end is understandable, but there is not much of an excuse for poor defensive execution.
The victory over Toronto was reminiscent of the 2006 Miami Heat team, when the team suffered a miserable mid-season loss to the Dallas Mavericks (to the tune of 76 to 112) and came back to win 16 straight games thereafter. Following that 36-point shellacking, the team questioned themselves and challenged each other to raise their intensity for the rest of the season.
It was a momentous turning point and the Heat went on to make history in the NBA Finals.
Miami has clearly transformed since then - with the organization currently in more of a transitional stage - but has continued to prove their resilience and toughness equivalent to that of the 2006 championship team.
As two-time NBA Champion Head Coach Rudy Tomjanovich once said, "Never doubt the heart of a champion." And with the remnants of NBA champions Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem present, the drive for ultimate victory is still relevant in Miami.