MIAMI -- The Miami Heat got a rare taste of what it's like to be a team with a losing record.
The feeling didn't last too long.
After a brief stint below the bar, the Heat moved back to .500 with a 103-93 victory against the winless Washington Wizards Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena. LeBron James led Miami with 25 points and five assists. Center Chris Bosh finished with 24 points and seven rebounds while guard Dwyane Wade added 20 points.
"We talked about coming out in a much more competitive disposition," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Our starters were able to get us off to a better beginning. It set the tone for the game. It wasn't perfect but the intensity was better."
The Heat dropped below .500 for only just the second time in the Big Three Era when they lost consecutive games to the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. The last time it happened was when they fell to 0-1 after losing to the Boston Celtics in the 2010-11 season opener.
The recent experience prompted the players and coaches to air out their concerns in a team meeting. They concluded they were perhaps getting too comfortable after winning back-to-back NBA titles. With the issues addressed, the Heat avoided their first three-game losing streak during the regular season since January of 2012.
"We're not in panic mode," James said. "I think the best thing about our team is when we see we have something that needs to be fixed, we fix it. We get right into it. That's the good thing about our team. We don't let things linger too much."
It appeared the Heat were allowing their early-game struggles to hang around. The Wizards scored nine of the game's opening 11 points, continuing a trend of slow starts for Miami. Unlike the losses to the Sixers and Nets, the Heat were able to erase the deficit before the first quarter ended.
"We still got down 9-2," Wade said. "But our intensity was better. To come out in the first quarter, it was a better quarter for us. Like I said, ball movement was very good. Guys were giving up open shots for another guy to get an open shot. It was contagious.
A 14-0 run over the next four minutes was capped by a 3-pointer by guard Mario Chalmers. That was more than enough for the Heat to take control against the Wizards, who were playing without center Nene. He missed the game with a strained left calf.
"The last two games have been like filling holes in a dam," Spoelstra said. "There have been so many things we haven't done well in the beginning of games."
That wasn't the case Sunday, largely because of their ability to share the basketball. The Heat finished with a season-high 32 assists, putting to rest concerns about their chemistry. Before the game, Spoelstra talked about how players had a "disconnect" on the court during the two-game losing skid.
"That's what we do and we understand that it's easy for everyone if we share the ball," James said.
The Heat were the exact opposite against the Wizards. They led by double-digits most of the second half, answering each time the Wizards tried to make a run. Washington guard Bradley Beal made a 3-pointer to pull it within 69-57 with 5:47 left in the third quarter. Beal led Washington with 19 points.
The Heat then went on a 10-2 run, keyed by five points from Bosh, to push the lead back to 20. With James and Wade on the bench, the Wizards made another rally attempt midway through the fourth quarter. A running jumper in the lane by guard Eric Maynor made it a 10-point game, but the Heat responded with consecutive baskets by Bosh to keep them ahead comfortably. Both shots came off possessions the Heat showed their solid ball movement.
"It's everything for us," Bosh said. "We want to make the game easier for everybody and moving the ball is how we play together and how we can take advantage of all the talent that we have. A lot of guys made sacrifices to be here and it only works if we play together."
(c)2013 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services