SALT LAKE CITY — It took a little more than a quarter of the season to materialize, but the Miami Heat are now who we thought they were.
Miami's Big Two of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade demolished the Jazz in a 111-98 win on Wednesday night. James had 33 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Wade had 28 points and four assists.
The two superstars, who play and beat opponents similarly, are meshing and having fun on the court — just as they planned to do when James joined the Heat as a free agent. Miami's early season struggles, in which it started a mediocre 9-8, seem to be a thing of the past.
James said he and his buddy Wade are simply being themselves now, and it's helped the Heat win six straight games.
"I just think we were looking for each other too much," James said of his on-court relationship with Wade. "It was hurting our game, which was hurting our team play. We weren't being ourselves because we was trying to be too unselfish. It's crazy to say when you're too unselfish it hurts the team, but it was hurting the team."
Being more aggressive, and feeling comfortable to get their own points and highlights have helped both James and Wade play at an All-star caliber level in their last six games.
"They're spending a lot of time together talking about the game," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "They both have such high IQs, it was just a matter of time. They enjoy playing together, and they have a connection now that you can see that's genuine."
It's easy to simplify, Spoelstra said, but it just took time for James and Wade to mesh.
"We made some adjustments moving the ball, and getting them off the ball, and trying to get lot more opportunities in transition," he said. "But the biggest thing is time. When you put together a new group of components, it takes a while for guys to get into their comfort zone and play a game that they're normally used to playing, but at the same time fitting into a system that also makes it easier for other players — and that's what they're both doing now."
Forward Chris Bosh was obviously the third component signed by the Heat to comprise the Big Three. He had 14 points and nine rebounds after missing six of his first seven shots on Wednesday.
But the player most worthy of Big Three consideration against the Jazz was center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. He had his first double-double of the season at Utah's expense with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
"I know where 'Z' is going to be by just closing my eyes off the pick-and-roll," James said. "Nine times out of 10 he's going to drain it."
It was actually seven out of 10 against the Jazz. But there were no complaints from James, Ilgauskas' teammate in Cleveland. If the big center consistently hits shots, that's going to make the Heat even more dangerous.
The Heat have survived an early season slump and non-stop analysis of what was wrong with them. The adversity made them stronger, and now they look like a legitimate NBA contender.
"There was a lot coming down on us when we weren't winning," Spoelstra said. "That's what happens in this league. What you'd like to see out of the group is to buckle down, stick together and figure it out. When you make it through times like that, you usually get tougher from it."