Rebounding and defense fueling Heat fastbreak success

Dec 14 2010 - 5:57pm

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- It takes a bit of work to get the best seats in the house. But, ultimately, the payoff makes it worthwhile.

With the Miami Heat off to the races amid their best stretch of the season, there may be no better view than from the backcourt, watching Dwyane Wade and LeBron James finish fast-break opportunities with spectacular displays.

But even from such a distance, there is a sense of payoff. The Heat are creating those opportunities with relentless defense and some of their best rebounding in years.

"If we get a stop, somebody gets a rebound, others block their man out, those guys will take over," center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said. "A lot of times, I don't even have to cross halfcourt, because they are off and gone. Who can stop those two together? Nobody."

Friday night, it turned into a 106-84 thrill show against the Golden State Warriors, when the Heat recorded 27 fastbreak points, scoring each time they got a shot off in transition.

"Once we get those stops and we get out in transition, it just puts some fire and some energy into this team," Wade said. "We've got some guys who can finish, especially when I throw that ball up to No. 6 and he goes and gets it that way. It just fires all of us up."

While James appreciates those alley-oop passes, he also is appreciative of the work that goes into setting up those fastbreak opportunities.

"You see what the end result can be when you get stops," he said. "And we're seeing it possession after possession after possession.

"When we get stops, when we get the rebound, we're very tough to guard because we get out on the break and our speed is unmatched so far."

Ilgauskas saw some of this during the previous seven seasons as James' teammate with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But now it's double vision, with Wade running alongside.

"With the athletes we have on the team, especially LeBron and Dwyane, to get the rebound, they're faster with the ball in their hands than a lot of guys without the ball," Ilgauskas said. "We know that if we get some stops together, we can get some easy opportunities."

To coach Erik Spoelstra, it is the best of all worlds. Not only do Wade and James get their highlight plays, but teammates also feel an ownership of those moments by first defending and rebounding.

"There's no question, the guys like fastbreak basketball and I like that. I have no problem with that, as long as we understand the correlation of what we need to do to get to that," Spoelstra said.

"It starts at the defensive end. If we're taking the ball out of the net consistently, we won't be getting those plays. There's a trigger that's gone off in the guys' heads, where they understand the relationship between the two."

Thus the satisfaction from those not even visible on those highlight plays,

"Every time we can get the ball off the glass and pass it up the floor, that leads to a layup or a foul," said backup center Erick Dampier, who provided seven rebounds off the bench in Friday's victory against the Warriors. "We like doing that, because the more easy baskets, the better chance we're going to give ourselves a chance at winning."

Wade appreciates there eventually has to be more. But, for now, he is not about to stop riding the wave.

"Eventually," he said, "we'll get to the point where we're a great halfcourt team. Right now, we have to continue to use our strengths. And right now one of our strengths is transition."

As long as his team is rebounding and defending, Spoelstra said he will take the points any way they arrive.

"You can't get out and run unless you get stops and rebounds," he said. "And they're really committing to that."

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