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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A simple truth: The Heat isn't as good this season as in 2012 and 2013. Will it matter?

JOSEPH GOODMAN

jgoodman@MiamiHerald.com

 

Here’s the simple truth as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh begin preparing for another run at the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Heat isn’t as good this season as it was in 2012 and 2013.

The final regular-season record will be inferior.

The playoff seeding will not be as high.

The team isn’t as deep.

The chemistry isn’t as solid.

The options are not as dependable.

That point was driven home on Monday, but not at Verizon Center where the defending back-to-back champs conceded a No.1 seed to the Indiana Pacers in favor of a few more days of rest before the playoffs. No, it took a game in Phoenix to perfectly illustrate what the Heat is missing.

While James, Wade and Bosh watched Michael Beasley freelance his way to 18 points in a throwaway loss against the Washington Wizards, a former Heat family member was playing a far more important and meaningful role in one of the Western Conference’s more compelling games of the regular season. Mike Miller — the Heat’s two-time NBA champion Mike Miller — scored 21 points in 30 minutes for the Memphis Grizzlies in a must-win game against the Suns on Monday night. The Grizzlies needed a victory to earn the West’s eighth and final playoff spot, and Miller went out and shot 8 of 11 from the field and 5 of 6 from three-point range.

It’s that time of year again, but this time the magic of Miller is on a different team on the opposite side of the playoff bracket.

In the NBA, sometimes you get what you pay for, and sometimes you don’t. Or in this case, the Grizzlies got what the Heat paid for when the NBA’s new luxury tax compelled Heat owner Mickey Arison to make a difficult decision. The Heat is hoping that decision doesn’t come back to haunt the team.

Because here’s another simple truth: It might not matter. The Heat isn’t as good without Miller, and, it should noted, isn’t as good without Joel Anthony either, but the back-to-back champs could still be good enough to win it all.

It’s almost time to find out.

“Like everybody else that’s going to be one of the 16 teams, there’s a storm coming, and it’s time for us to really start preparing for that storm and getting ready for an incredible journey that’s going to test all of us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

On Monday, the Heat locked itself into the No.2 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs. That means if the Pacers and Heat meet in the Eastern Conference finals and the series goes the full seven (like last year), then Indiana will host the grand finale (unlike last year). Just like during its final road game, the Heat was unconcerned with the standings all season, and chose health for its players over home-court advantage and on-court rhythm. Entering Wednesday’s final game against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Heat has lost 13 of its last 24 games and featured the starting lineup it will use in the playoffs only once.

“Some years, you know, as a team you’re a way better home team than you are a road team, and sometimes, we’ve been a pretty good road team as well,” Wade said after Monday’s loss to the Wizards, which represented his second game back from a strained hamstring. “Seeding is always something that’s important. People love playing at home. So it’s never going to be anything where you say, ‘Aw, we don’t care at all.’ But it doesn’t necessarily guarantee you anything, either.”

The Heat will learn its first-round opponent on Wednesday, the final day of the season. It will be either the Charlotte Bobcats or the Washington Wizards. The Heat, which hasn’t lost to the Bobcats since James and Bosh joined Wade and Haslem in 2010, had plenty of good things to say about the Bobcats on Monday.

“They were a surprise early on, but they had a similar-type start last year, and they were able to sustain it this year,” Spoelstra said. “Steve [Clifford] has done a great job with the team, but the young players have really stepped up with more confidence this year with a system they believe in, and [Al] Jefferson was a big pick-up…he has been one of the better players in the league since All-Star break.”

One of the Heat’s big offseason pick-ups was brought in to counter players like Jefferson, but it’s unclear if Greg Oden will even play at all in the postseason. He hasn’t stepped on the court since the Heat lost to the Pacers on March 26, and didn’t travel with the team for its final road trip. The Heat’s other offseason addition was bringing in Beasley to replace Miller.

76ERS AT HEAT
When/Where: 8 p.m. Wednesday, AmericanAirlines Arena

TV/Radio: Sun Sports/FM 104.3, AM 790 and FM 98.3 (Spanish)

Series: 76ers lead 51-50.

Of note: The Heat can even its all-time series against the Sixers. With the Heat locked into the No.2 position in the Eastern Conference standings, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are all questionable. James and Bosh did not play on Monday in Washington and Wade played 19 minutes. Games involving the Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Hawks will be closely monitored on Wednesday night. The Bobcats will be seeded seventh with a loss to the Bulls or a Wizards victory against the Celtics. The Wizards will be seeded seventh if the Wizards lose and Bobcats win.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spoelstra on why the Heat chose rest tonight with the No.1 seed potentially still on the table

SPOELSTRA: "It was out of our control at some point, and those guys have put a lot of mileage, like I said. Our schedule was fairly extreme down the stretch. I have never been a part of a group that have played that many games in that few of days down the stretch run. It’s not an excuse. We just want to make sure our guys are feeling right, that they’re sharp, that they’re feeling healthy and they have minor ailments that a couple days will do wonders for them.”

FINAL GAMER: Heat locked into No.2 seed in Eastern Conference with loss to Wizards

WASHINGTON — LeBron James and Chris Bosh watched the entire game from the bench and it didn’t take long for Dwyane Wade to join them.

Preparation for the playoffs began in earnest on Monday for the defending back-to-back champion Miami Heat, which is to say the Heat cared little and less about its final road game of the regular season, and, for that matter, the No.1 seed that was still potentially at stake when the NBA’s set of games began on Monday night.

Before the tip, there were several playoff scenarios on the table with almost every position in the standings undetermined. But the suspense didn’t last long, and the Heat’s penultimate game of the regular season was anything but compelling. For the Heat, the fluid standings quickly came into focus during the first quarter at Verizon Center.

In other words, the Heat’s main goal was getting back to Miami as quickly as possible and without any more injuries to its veteran roster. The final, forgettable score: Wizards 114, Heat 93.

The more important outcome from Monday night: The Heat (54-27) locked itself into the No.2 spot in the Eastern Conference standings, officially losing home-court advantage to the Indiana Pacers if both teams reach the Eastern Conference finals. Miami’s first-round opponent will be determined on Wednesday, the final day of the season.

“It will be no disappointment when the playoffs start,” Wade said of losing the No.1 seed. “It will be a new season and we will be looking forward to it.”

Why did the Heat rest players with the No.1 seed potentially still on the table?

“It was out of our control at some point, and those guys have put a lot of mileage, like I said,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Our schedule was fairly extreme down the stretch. I have never been a part of a group that have played that many games in that few of days down the stretch run. It’s not an excuse. We just want to make sure our guys are feeling right, that they’re sharp, that they’re feeling healthy and they have minor ailments that a couple days will do wonders for them.”

The Heat will play the Bobcats in the first round unless the Bobcats defeat the Bulls on Wednesday and the Wizards lose to the Celtics. The Pacers, which defeated Oklahoma City on Sunday, needed only to defeat the Magic on Wednesday to clinch the No.1 seed. That game now no longer matters.

Wade said the Heat would not start thinking about the playoffs until Thursday, despite all on Monday to the contrary. The team finishes the regular season on Wednesday with a meaningless home game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

James and Bosh were both inactive against the Wizards after playing sluggish basketball in a blowout loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. Both players — and perhaps Wade as well — are expected to sit out Wednesday’s game.

“I know neither one of them asked for the time, but this last stretch that we’ve had — 27 games in 47 days — is remarkable,” Spoelstra said.

Shane Battier and Toney Douglas started in place of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, which made for an unconventional lineup. Wade started at small forward against Wizards forward Trevor Ariza.

It wasn’t a good match-up for the Heat.

Ariza led the Wizards (43-38) with 25 points, going 10 of 13 from the field and 5 of 8 from three-point range. Five players scored in double figures for Washington, which, depending on outcomes Tuesday and Wednesday, could finish fifth, sixth or seventh in the East. Whatever happens, Washington is in the playoffs for the first time in six years.

“It’s going to be special,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said. “No matter what the outcome is guys that haven’t been in the playoffs will remember that first game forever because it is so distinct and different.”

Michael Beasley led the Heat with 18 points off the bench. Douglas had 14 points, going 5 of 8 from the field. Wade had nine points in less than 19 minutes.

Heat’s commitment to preserving Dwyane Wade’s health for the playoffs appears to have paid off.

WASHINGTON — The Heat’s commitment to preserving Dwyane Wade’s health for the playoffs appears to have paid off.

After watching Wade suffer through the 2013 postseason with severe pain his knees, the Heat’s training staff and coach Erik Spoelstra were overly cautious with it’s starting shooting guard this season in an effort to protect and save his knees for the playoffs. The approach has worked, says Wade, who reported before Monday’s game against the Wizards that he feels noticeably better right now than he did this time last season.

“The only worse it could get is I wouldn’t be playing,” said Wade, making light of his injury situation last year. “That’s the only worse it could get.”

Wade has missed 28 games this season, and the majority of those games were scheduled days of rest to reduce the wear and tear on his legs. Most recently Wade sat out nine games due to a hamstring injury. Wade has also missed time with a sore Achilles tendon.

“Time off always helps, but you still got to focus on it,” Wade said of his many hurting parts. “So by the time the playoffs come, I can feel as good as I want to feel … right now I’m in a good place, and I just want to continue to move forward.”

That’s a positive sign for the Heat, considering Wade sat out the Heat’s second to last game of the 2012-13 season with a sore right knee. That soreness became a chronic problem in the playoffs with Wade sitting out a first-round game against the Milwaukee Bucks and then willing himself to a third championship.

Wade started against the Wizards but played with a restriction in minutes for the second game in a row. He was limited to 23 minutes on Saturday against the Hawks.

Wade is expected to play again on Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers at AmericanAirlines Arena in the Heat’s final game of the regular season. LeBron James and Chris Bosh, who both sat out Monday’s game, are questionable. In addition to playing in the Heat’s final two games of the regular season, Wade has been working behind the scenes to improve his conditioning before the playoffs.

“I’ve been going pretty strong,” Wade said. “My game-day workouts are pretty intense. When we get to the playoffs, I’ll take it down a notch… More so than anything, I want to be able to have enough conditioning to be able to do the things on the floor I need offensively and defensively to give this team the player that they need.”

SECOND UNIT
It wasn’t a completely wasted 48 minutes for the Heat. The team’s final road game of the season served as important court time for Wade, who recently missed nine-straight games with a hamstring injury. In addition to reestablishing his rhythm and conditioning, Wade also was able to log minutes with the Heat’s second unit.

“That’s going to be a very important unit for us in the playoffs,” Wade said. “Obviously our starters are going to win for us, but at the end of the day what our second unit brings is going to be key in how much success we can have.”

In starting Toney Douglas and Shane Battier for James and Bosh, Spoelstra was able to keep his second-unit together and pair those players with Wade. Over the past two weeks, Spoelstra has made a point to keep his second unit intact in an attempt to preserve continuity off the bench.

“Hopefully we get some [rhythm] with our units as we continue to play together and play off each other,” Wade said before the game. “Even though it’s game 81, we have an opportunity for certain units that haven’t played a lot of minutes together.”

ETC
Greg Oden was not with the team for the second game in a row. Spoelstra said Oden was suffering from a stomach illness.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

With his running buddy back, LeBron James was all smiles after a loss

WASHINGTON — LeBron James has spoken at his post-game locker 52 times after victories this season, but never was he happier than on Saturday night after losing by 13 points to the Atlanta Hawks.

The loss was all but meaningless despite the Eastern Conference standings. The 20 turnovers for 29 points didn’t matter either. What was important — all that was important — was also a cause for celebration. James’ running buddy, Dwyane Wade, retuned to the starting lineup with three games remaining in the regular season, and he didn’t reinjure himself.

And, so, the back-to-back MVP was all smiles after the 98-85 defeat.

 “For him to come out of this game and not have a setback, that’s the best part,” James said.

Wade, who had missed nine straight games with a hamstring injury, played 23 minutes against the Hawks at Philips Arena, but could have continued. Originally, he was scheduled for 20 minutes, but Spoelstra spoke with the Heat trainers and Wade during the game and all said Wade could play through that threshold. More than two weeks after checking himself out of the Heat’s loss in Indianapolis, Wade appears ready for the playoffs.

All in all, that makes this season a successful one despite it being the Heat’s worst since James and Chris Bosh joined Wade in 2010.

“Obviously, we were very encouraged,” Spoelstra said of Wade. “We’ll proceed with a very careful eye and see how he feels [Sunday]. He’s been doing a lot of work behind the scenes. He probably felt like he should have been cleared a week ago, but we wanted to be very patient with him.”

Before the game, James said he expected Wade’s cardiovascular stamina to be below his normal standard, but Wade’s legs never weakened and the Heat’s shooting guard never asked to come out of the game. Wade didn’t play in any games over the last two weeks, but he worked out several times a day on the court in addition to training with weights and conditioning on the treadmill and stationary bike.

“I’ve just been a workout fiend,” Wade said. “It has been good to go from where you can’t do much, and then when you start feeling it turn a little bit and then you start feel yourself getting a little better, then you feel yourself getting much better.

“Now, you’re able to start working and trying, as much as possible, to get some kind of flow, some kind of rhythm, some kind of confidence back in it. Being this close to the playoffs, I didn’t want to come back too soon. So it’s just trying to be as smart as I can be.”

Wade scored on his first seven attempts and finished with 23 points, going 10 of 14 from the field. He didn’t miss a shot until the third quarter, and he grew stronger with each shift on the court.

“We were able to get him out on the floor, get him into a good rhythm,” James said.

The Heat will continue to be cautious, but if Wade’s body checks out on Sunday, then he will probably play on Monday against the Wizards. Washington is still competing for playoff position with the Bobcats, and Wade squaring off against Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal would be a good warm-up for the postseason. Beal, who played at the University of Florida, is highly active (if not accurate) and averaging 17 points per game on 15.9 attempts.

Saturday was the Heat’s first game to feature Wade, James, Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem in the starting lineup together since early November, and might be the last until the first game of the playoffs. That’s less than ideal, but Wade said he isn’t worried about cohesion.

“We didn’t have rhythm our first year together, and we went to the Finals,” Wade said. “That’s not really a big worry of mine. The best rhythm for us is all of us out there together on the floor, giving ourselves an opportunity every night. I just wanted to be back on the floor with them — the rhythm, it will take care of itself.”
While Wade’s goal is to work his way back into shape before next week, quite the opposite is true for James and Bosh. Wade has missed 28 games this season, which means James and Bosh have carried the team. Both forwards could use off days, or, better yet, several off days in a row.

“It has been a helluva grind this year and it hasn’t stopped,” Bosh said. “It’d be nice to get some days between games. March and April have been relentless and brutal.”

Bosh has averaged 13.2 points since March 19 while shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 24.1 percent from three-point range. Considering he averaged nearly 18 points per game while shooting 52.6 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from three-point range in the first two months of the new year, he could probably benefit from some rest.

James, meanwhile, could take both Monday and Wednesday off despite the Heat being locked in the standings with the Pacers.

“I’ll be smart about it and go into the postseason as healthy as I can be,” James said. “The last three years, I’ve kind of done that, and I felt pretty good going into the postseason. Even after this seven-, eight-month grind, there’s nothing like the two months of the postseason.

“It’s harder than the eight months of the regular season. So I’ve got to be smart about it.”
HEAT AT WIZARDS

When/Where: 7 p.m. Monday, Verizon Center, Washington

TV/Radio: Sun Sports and ESPN/FM 104.3, AM 790 and FM 98.3 (Spanish)

Series: Heat leads 72-32.

Of note: The Heat is tied with the Pacers atop the Eastern Conference standings, but Indiana holds the tiebreaker. The Wizards are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference standings, which means the Heat would matchup with the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round if the season ended on Sunday. Dwyane Wade returned to action on Saturday after missing nine-straight games. He is expected to play on Monday. LeBron James is doubtful against the Wizards and Chris Bosh is questionable. Greg Oden is not with the team.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

FINAL GAMER: Wade is back, LeBron is exhausted and the top spot in the East is gone

ATLANTA — It’s almost like it never happened.

No, really. Think about it. This entire regular season is almost in the books, the playoffs are almost here and consider where the Heat is physically, strategically and mentally after Saturday’s 98-85 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

For the first time since early November, the Heat featured a starting lineup of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers. That’s the lineup the Heat ran out at the beginning of the season, and that’s the lineup the Heat will use to begin the playoffs.

The Greg Oden experiment appears to have ended before it ever began. He wasn’t even with the team at Philips Arena to begin this final two-game road trip of the regular season. The Heat gave Michael Beasley a chance, and he couldn’t figure out the team’s defense.

So, there was the foundation of the Heat’s championship core, back out on the court together after all that time and all that failed experimentation, and, like the beginning of the season, the guys lacked rhythm and stamina.

Like the beginning of the season, Dwyane Wade played coming off an injury.

Like the beginning of the season, LeBron James looked exhausted.

For that matter, everyone looked tired — everyone except Wade, of course. He played like he had been resting for over two weeks, and not like his teammates, who were playing in their fourth game in five nights. After missing nine-straight games with a hamstring injury, Wade scored 24 points in 23 minutes and went 10 of 14 from the line. Wade played well, but his minutes were limited by design, and the precaution threw off any idea of cohesion to the Heat’s rotation.

Simply put, the Hawks (37-43) played like a team fighting for their playoff lives, and the Heat (54-26) played like a team just going through the motions until the postseason begins. With the victory, the Hawks secured the No.8 seed in the Eastern Conference and officially knocked the New York Knicks out of postseason contention.

For the Heat, the loss erased its half-game lead against the Pacers for top spot in the conference. The Heat and Pacers are now tied for No.1 in the East with Indiana playing the tough Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.

James led the Heat with 27 points in 37 minutes, but looked sluggish doing it. He was 10 of 22 from the field and 4 of 8 from the free-throw line. As a team, the Heat went 9 of 19 from the foul line. Chris Bosh had 11 points in 28 minutes.
“It’s been a helluva grind this year,” Bosh said.

Hawks reserve Lou Williams hit a three-pointer with a 41 seconds left to give Atlanta a 15-point lead. Williams had 23 points off the bench and the Hawks outscored the Heat 49-36 in the second half. The game was tied 49-49 at halftime.

“Needless to say, that was a tough second half,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We couldn’t get it going on either side of the court.”

Jeff Teague led the Hawks with 25 points, carving lanes through the Heat’s defense from beginning to end. Meanwhile, the Heat committed 20 turnovers, which the Hawks converted into 29 points.

Despite the close race atop the Eastern Conference standings, it doesn’t sound like the Heat will really be gunning for the No.1 seed in the final few days of the regular season. James indicated after the game that he is strongly considering sitting out the Heat’s final road game of the season in Washington.

“It’s something I need to talk about with [Spoelstra],” James said. “Some of my teammates, obviously they looked at it and said, ‘You need to get a couple games,’ so I’ll be smart about it and try to get into the playoffs as healthy as I can be.”
The loss was a blow to securing the No.1 seed, but overall it was a success considering Wade’s return from injury. He made his first seven shots and scored the Heat’s first nine points of the second quarter. Wade’s running 12-foot jumper cut the Hawks’ lead to four points with 8:49 left in the first half, and Ray Allen tied the game with a corner three-pointer a few possessions later. The Heat surged to a seven-point lead in the second quarter before giving it all back by halftime.

Wade started the game with a dunk, which kick-started his impressive game. James spotted Wade on a fast break, and instead of finishing the play himself, the four-time MVP smartly dished it off to Wade for an easy score.
“My man understands that I needed that,” Wade said. “If I don’t get that, then I don’t know when my next shot is coming, and I’m out there four minutes and my first shot might be a pull-up or something.

“To see it go through on that first play, it lets you know you’re all right.”

Dwyane Wade back in the lineup after missing nine games

Dwyane Wade returned to the starting lineup on Saturday night in Atlanta for the Heat's penultimate road game of the regular season after missing nine-straight games with a hamstring injury.

Wade's on-court workout before the game included several dunks and drills that included hard cuts to the basket. Trainers evaluated him after the pregame practice and cleared him for action. Wade hasn't played since March 26 when he strained his hamstring in the final two minutes of the Heat's loss to Indiana.

“He’s going to be extremely winded, but we just hope he can come through the game and make strides and move forward and not have a setback,” LeBron James said.

The Heat plays the Washington Wizards on Monday at Verizon Center, but it's unclear whether or not Wade will play in the team's final road game. The Heat finishes its season with a home game on Wednesday against the 76ers.

Wade has missed 28 games this season while dealing with various injuries, including sore knees. During his pregame news conference in Atlanta, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Wade would play reduced minutes if activated.

White Hot Heat playoff festivities includes discounted booze at the Clevelander

So, the Heat's marketing team pretty much has this playoff thing figured out. White Hot Heat is back and the festivities begin this Monday.

Here's a rundown from the Heat's PR staff ...

Monday, April 14

White Hot HEAT Playoffs Car Decal Event Presented by Metro Signs, Inc.

Stop by the AmericanAirlines Arena during the morning commute from 6:00 to 10:00 a.m. to get a FREE White Hot HEAT window decal installed on your rear windshield courtesy of Metro Signs, Inc. The New FM 104.3 & AM 790 The Ticket will broadcast live during the event. Burnie, the HEAT Dancers, Banana Man, the Xtreme Team and the Fox Sports Florida Girls will be distributing free White Hot HEAT Fan Kits, Mountain Dew Kickstart, Café Bustelo coffee packs and other goodies. 

HEAT @ Wizards – White Hot HEAT Road Rally Presented by Bacardi

The Miami HEAT Road Rally presented by Bacardi is the official watch party for select Miami HEAT road games. This Road Rally is the last of the regular season road rallies celebrating the launch of the White Hot HEAT Playoffs with presenting sponsor Miccosukee Resort & Gaming. Join the HEAT Dancers, Burnie, the Xtreme Team, PA Announcer, Michael B., in-arena host Dale and other HEAT fans as they gather at Miccosukee Resort & Gaming’s Entertainment Dome located at 500 S.W. 177th Avenue in Miami to watch the Sun Sports telecast of the HEAT taking on the Washington Wizards. The festivities begin at 6:00 p.m. The first 200 HEAT fans at the Road Rally will receive a White Hot HEAT Fan Kit. HEAT fans in attendance will also witness the official unveiling of White Hot Burnie. Two playoff tickets will be given to the craziest White Hot HEAT fans.

Tuesday, April 15

White Hot HEAT Metrorail Takeover Presented by McDonald’s

The Dadeland North Metrorail station will be HEAT Headquarters from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. as members of the HEAT Experience greet morning commuters with McDonald’s Petite Pastries. The ride to Government Station will be unusually festive as the Miami HEAT Dancers, Burnie, Banana Man and the Xtreme Team entertain passengers. The New FM 104.3 & AM 790 The Ticket’s promotional team will also be on hand distributing giveaways and other promotional items.

Wednesday, April 16

Philadelphia 76ers vs. HEAT – Fan Appreciation Night Presented by American Express

The HEAT take on the Philadelphia 76ers during the last game of the regular season. It’s Fan Appreciation Night presented by American Express and tipoff is at 8:00 p.m. Throughout the evening, fans will have a chance to win exclusive player autographed merchandise, player gear and much more. Limited game tickets are available for purchase online at HEAT.com.

Thursday, April 17

White Hot HEAT Coffee Hour Presented by Café Bustelo

The White Hot HEAT party continues at the offices of Carnival Cruise Lines with a jolt of morning java during theWhite Hot HEAT Coffee Hour presented by Café Bustelo from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. This event is not open to the public.

Launch of WhiteHotHEAT.com

A special playoff website, www.WhiteHotHEAT.com, presented by Miccosukee Resort & Gaming, launches and will provide team news, promotional information, playoff wallpapers, photo galleries, video galleries and much more.

Friday, April 18

White Hot HEAT Dunkin’ Donuts Takeover

The HEAT Experience will descend upon the Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant located at 658 N.W. 103rd Street in Miami from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Dunkin' Donuts' Mascot, Cuppy, along with the HEAT Dancers, Burnie, Banana Man and the Xtreme Team will serve free White Hot HEAT donuts and iced coffee, entertain and interact with customers, as well as give away HEAT tickets. The official White Hot HEAT Donut will be available at participating Dunkin’ Donuts locations throughout the Playoffs while supplies last.

White Hot HEAT Happy Hour presented by Bud Light

HEAT fans can start their playoff partying early by joining the HEAT Experience for a White Hot HEAT Happy Hour presented by Bud Light and hosted at The Clevelander from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The Clevelander is located at 1020 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, FL 33139.

Saturday, April 19

White Hot HEAT Digital Download Day

Be the first to download White Hot HEAT graphics on your phone, tablet or desktop. The HEAT will debut new White Hot graphics and their White Hot look for the 2014 Playoffs onwww.WhiteHotHEAT.com with new wallpapers, photos, and more.

Friday, April 11, 2014

FINAL GAMER: With a nod to last June, Heat handed rested Pacers another bitter loss when it mattered most

No matter the scenario or season, this much seems true whenever the Heat and Pacers get together for a big game in Miami.

The Heat has the ability to dial up a blowout on command.

It happened in Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals and it happened on Friday at AmericanAirlines Arena with home-court advantage for a potential East finals rematch at stake. With Dwayne Wade watching from the sidelines in a suit and bowtie, the Heat defeated the Pacers 98-86 in the final and fourth game between the two teams this season. With three games remaining on its schedule, the Heat now leads the Pacers by half a game atop the Eastern Conference standings.

Putting the victory into perspective, LeBron James said it wasn’t “as big as everyone wants it to be or make it.”

“For us, it’s big because we wanted to play better than we did on that road trip,” James said. “It has been a while since we put together a 48-minute game, and I think tonight we were as close to 48 minutes as possible.”

Wade missed his ninth-straight game, but James compensated with 36 points, going 11 of 20 from the field, 2 of 4 from three-point range and 12 of 13 from the free-throw line. James scored 38 points in the Heat’s loss to the Pacers two weeks ago and he has scored at least 30 points in four of his last five games.

“He was just being aggressive,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I wasn’t calling any plays for him.”

It was aggressiveness on defense that allowed for the runaway score.

The Heat (54-25) out-rebounded the Pacers (54-26) 40-31 and outscored the Pacers 44-26 in the paint. Those numbers were a surprise, especially considering Pacers coach Frank Vogel rested all five of his starters on Wednesday to prepare for the Heat. At the vanguard of Miami's relentless effort was Udonis Haslem, the Heat’s center and co-captain who returned to action on Friday night after missing two games with a stomach illness. Haslem had 11 points and nine rebounds, but, more importantly, completely shut down his counterpart in Pacers blue.

Roy Hibbert, who at 7-2 towers over 6-8 Haslem, went most of the game without a rebound and was nearly shutout on the glass. He finished with one rebound and five points.

“When the shot goes up, you’ve got to find him and put a body on him,” Haslem said. “He’s 7-feet tall, so you got to turn and try to hit him early.”

Hibbert’s was a demoralizing stat line for a Pacers team that relies on its size to create mismatches against the Heat.

“That old warrior,” Spoelstra said of Haslem, before correcting himself. “That young warrior. He’s my personal inspiration as a coach. I love looking at his photo in my office. He just has the look of intensity.”

Carelessness, more than anything, doomed the Heat in its last meeting against the Pacers on March 26. The defending back-to-back champs had 19 turnovers in that loss but committed just nine turnovers on Friday. Meanwhile, the Heat forced 16 turnovers, which it converted into 20 points.

“Guys were in a great rhythm and the best thing about tonight is we didn’t force passes to where we turned the ball over, and that was the key,” James said.

Another key, the Heat went 22 of 28 from the free-throw line, which offset eight three pointers by Indiana. The Heat was 6 of 16 from distance.

Heat guard Mario Chalmers began the second half with one of those three-pointers to give the Heat a 48-42 lead and free throws by James and a fast-break layup by Toney Douglas put the Heat ahead by 10 points. Miami went on to run off 16-straight points to begin the third quarter.

“That was a residual of how we were playing in the first half,” Spoelstra said. “Our defense was on point with the deflections and rotations…It was about as consistent to our identity as we have had for a while for 48 minutes.”

The Heat led by as man as 23 points in the third quarter, but relaxed a little too early. A 12-0 run by the Pacers spanning the third and fourth quarters cut the Heat’s lead to nine points, but a silly technical foul by Pacers reserve Evan Turner, a midseason addition from the Philadelphia 76ers, put Ray Allen at the line, and the Heat turned the mental lapse into a three-point swing. Following Allen’s free throw, Chalmers found Haslem inside for a dunk.

It was a brilliant game by Chalmers just when the Heat needed it. He finished with 13 points, going 6 of 14 from the field, to go along with five rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Following the Chalmers’ assist to Haslem and two more free throws by Allen, Chalmers scored on a running bank shot to put the Heat back ahead by 16 points. He then stole a pass in transition moments later and finished the sequence with a cutting assist to Rashard Lewis, who finished with a dunk.

In less than two minutes of game time, the Heat doubled the score and effectively put the Pacers to bed.

Of course, there was still time for a little extracurricular fun in the paint. Haslem went chest-to-chest with Pacers forward David West before officials separated the two. The confrontation brought the crowd to its feet, with most of the patrons in the lower bowl pointing at West to back off the Heat’s emotional leader.

With 3:21 left, James took care of it when he isolated West one-on-one and, knowing West had five fouls, drove hard on the Pacers’ forward to force West over the foul limit. The strategy worked and James forcefully gave the universal sign for ejection after West committed his sixth foul.

With the arena at full throat, James screamed, “Get him out of here,” and the decibel level roared louder. West sprinted off the court and took a seat on the end of the bench near the same spot his teammates watched Game 7 of the East finals last June.

West finished with 18 points and Paul George led the Pacers with 22 points.

ETC
Haslem set the Heat’s all-time record for offensive rebounds in the first half. Haslem is already the team’s all-time leader in defensive rebounds and total rebounds. Alonzo Mourning held the previous team record for offensive rebounds (1,505).

Out against the Pacers, Dwyane Wade has now missed more than one-third of the regular season

As expected, Dwyane Wade will not play tonight against the Indiana Pacers as he rests his injured hamstring for the playoffs, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said at Friday's shootaround.

The Heat plays the Pacers on Friday night with a chance to retake the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers currently lead the Heat by half a game in the standings.

Wade has now missed more than one-third of the regular season (28 games) due to either injuries or needed rest for his balky knees. His latest setback, a strained hamstring, occurred during the final two minutes of the Heat's loss to the Pacers two weeks ago in Indianapolis. This will be Wade's ninth-straight game to miss due to his hamstring injury.

Guard Toney Douglas is expected to start in place of Wade.

While Wade remains sidelined, Heat starting center Udonis Haslem will return to the court Friday after missing the Heat's recent back-to-back due to a stomach illness. The Heat will need Haslem's size inside against the Pacers, which rested all five of its starters on Wednesday in a victory against the Bucks.

 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

BOSH: "We need a lot of improvement. It’s not only on the court. It’s chemistry and everything."

On the Heat’s list of general concerns less than two weeks away from the playoffs, its final regular-season game against the Indiana Pacers is probably somewhere around fifth in importance.

The hype machine that has surrounded the Heat since the summer of 2010 probably demands more hyperbole for a game that will be celebrated and billed as the most important of the regular season, but, for the Heat, the phrase “important regular-season game” has always been an oxymoron.

In other words, none of it ever much mattered for the defending back-to-back champs.

It didn’t matter when Dwyane Wade sat out the second game on the schedule back in October, and it certainly doesn’t matter now with Wade still nursing injuries and taking every precaution to be as healthy as possible for the postseason. Wade has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since the Heat’s loss to the Pacers two weeks ago, and his status for Friday’s penultimate home game of the regular season once again is questionable.

“We have more problems as far as health issues than the No.1 seed,” said LeBron James following the Heat’s loss to the Grizzlies on Wednesday.

Wade is the biggest source of worry, but there is more.

Also questionable against the Pacers is Udonis Haslem, who has been away from the team with a stomach virus. If it’s the same stomach virus that wrecked Ray Allen last week and sent the NBA’s all-time three-point leader — and, arguably, its fittest player — to the hospital, then Haslem could be quarantined from the team for its final road trip of the regular season as well.

With Haslem back in Miami on Wednesday and Chris Andersen and Greg Oden also unavailable in Memphis, the Heat’s defense was gutted by the Grizzlies’ powerful and skilled big men, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. The absences of Haslem, Andersen and Oden left Chris Bosh to carry most of the load inside. That’s not ideal, especially with the Pacers resting all five of their starters on Wednesday against the Bucks and still winning.

Andersen, who will be a more valuable piece of the Heat’s postseason plans than last year, missed the loss in Memphis with a sore back. Before the game, the Heat’s trainers treated Andersen’s legs for general weariness.

Then there’s Oden, who once figured to be a key contributor in the postseason, but now has been all but forgotten by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. Oden hasn’t played since the first half of the Heat’s loss to the Pacers on March 26. He offered little defensive resistance against Pacers center Roy Hibbert in that first quarter, and has been listed with back spasms ever since. Hibbert, who has struggled famously down the stretch of this season, worked on Oden and the Heat’s interior defense to the tune of 13 first-quarter points in 12 first-quarter minutes in the last meeting between the two teams. Hibbert has only scored more than 13 points in a game on one occasion since then.

The Heat would move back into the top position in the Eastern Conference with a victory against the Pacers, but that doesn’t guarantee home-court advantage in the playoffs. Games against the Hawks, Wizards and 76ers remain. Needing to rest starters before the playoffs, the Heat could conceivable lose any one of those games and settle for the No.2 seed in the East playoffs.

And, of course, that might not be a bad thing. Sure, home-court advantage in a Game-7 scenario against the Pacers would be helpful, but, considering the inconsistencies in the Heat’s lineup recently, so would a side of the playoff bracket populated by young and inexperienced teams like the Charlotte Bobcats, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards. The No.2 seed would likely play the Bobcats in the first round before facing the winner of Raptors-Wizards in the second round. The Heat has posted a combined record of 10-1 against those teams this season.

By contrast, consider this: Heat, Pacers, Heat, Pacers, Heat, Pacers, Heat, Pacers, Heat, Pacers.

That list represents the winners of the last 10 meetings between these two teams since Game 1 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals. It can’t get any more evenly matched than that. Never mind that the Pacers have lost eight of their last 12 games and are 9-12 since March 4, the Heat expects Indiana to be at its best on Friday.

“We don’t really pay attention to all that other stuff,” Bosh said. “When we play them, it is what it is. It’s going to be intense. It’s going to be a hard-fought game with something at stake.

“So, it will pretty much be the playoffs. I think it will be a great atmosphere, but they’re going to play well. We expect them at their best. Everybody we play, we expect them at their best.”

The Heat, meanwhile, says it hasn’t played its best basketball this season — not even close. Heck, Wade, Bosh and James hardly have played together at all in the last three weeks and the most games in a row Wade has played this season without needing rest was eight back in early November.

"There is some sense of worry,” James said. “All season, we haven't played too many minutes together."

When everyone’s finally healthy, the Heat will then begin the process of reestablishing its rhythm.

“It’s going to take some time in the playoffs,” Bosh said. “And, you know, you always have to get better in the playoffs. You’re always trying to improve and improve, but this year we need a lot of improvement. It’s not only on the court. It’s chemistry and everything. But we’ll get there.”

PACERS AT HEAT

When/Where: 7:30 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena

TV/Radio: Sun Sports and NBA TV/FM 104.3, AM 790 and FM 98.3 (Spanish)

Series: Pacers lead 39-55.

Of note: The fourth and final meeting between the two best teams in the Eastern Conference could decide the No.1 seed for the playoffs and also home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference’s side of postseason bracket. The Pacers practiced at AmericanAirlines Arena on Thursday after resting all five of their starters on Wednesday against the Bucks. Dwyane Wade (hamstring) is questionable. He has missed a third of the season with injuries. Udonis Haslem (stomach illness) is also questionable. Chris Andersen (back) sat out of Wednesday’s game against the Grizzlies, but is expected to play against the Pacers. The Heat has lost two games in a row and its loss to Memphis dropped the Heat below the Pacers in the Eastern Conference standings by half a game.

#30#

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Loss to Grizzlies doesn't change anything for Heat; Main goal remains getting healthy for the playoffs

MEMPHIS — Undersized and undermanned, the Heat took the floor on Wednesday against one of the league’s most rugged teams, and for three quarters nearly shot its way to an unlikely victory.

With three centers out of commission, the Heat lacked the requisite size to pound inside with Memphis bruisers Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Add to that mismatch the struggle of playing on the second night of a back-to-back and Heat’s shooters' legs were shot by the fourth quarter. Understandably, the Heat faded in the final period at Memphis’ FedEx Forum, losing 107-102 to Grizzlies and also losing control of first place in the Eastern Conference.

While the Heat (53-25) was without sick or injured players in Memphis, the Indiana Pacers simply rested all five of its starters against the embarrassing Milwaukee Bucks. The unconventional strategy by Pacers coach Frank Vogel paid off. The Pacers (54-25) defeated the Bucks to move into the first place in the East, half a game ahead of the Heat in the standings.

Of course, that can all change on Friday when the Heat hosts the Pacers in what could be both teams’ most important game of season. While the No.1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs could be determined, James said the top spot in the bracket isn’t the Heat’s biggest concern.

“It’s not our goal to control our destiny with the No.1 seed,” said LeBron James, who finished with a game-high 37 points. “I want to get healthy. That’s all that we care about, man, going into the postseason healthy. We got more problems as far as health issues than the No.1 seed.”

Instead of risking injury this close to the playoffs, the Heat played it safe and rested Dwyane Wade for his eighth-straight game and also gave Chris Andersen the night off. Andersen played through a sore back on Tuesday, but watched from the bench in Memphis. He is expected to play an important role in the Heat’s home game against the Pacers. Greg Oden also did not play against Memphis. Like Wade, Oden has missed eight-straight games.

Whether or not Udonis Haslem will be available for the marquee game on Friday is unknown. Haslem did not travel with the Heat to Memphis due to a stomach virus, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra wasn’t sure if Haslem would be available for the Heat’s penultimate home game of regular season.

With Wade out once again, James forced the action offensively and went 14 of 23 from the field and 3 of 5 from three-point range. He was also 6 of 7 from the free-throw line. James had five assists to five turnvoers. The Heat had 15 turnovers as a team, including five in the fourth quarter. Rashard Lewis had 17 points off the bench. The Heat was 15 of 25 from three-point range (60 percent) in the loss. Chris Bosh scored 13 points.

“You’re just out there trying to do everything you can to win a ball game, and we had some break downs,” Lewis said. “I think more than anything the turnovers is what hurt us down the stretch. They got layups an they made it hard for us to score.”

A corner three-pointer by Mike Conley gave the Grizzlies a 100-93 lead with 4:03 left and James let out a noticeable sigh of frustration amid the 18,000 screaming fans at FedEx Forum. Then it was Nick Calathes’ turn to send the building to its collective feet.

The former star point guard for the University of Florida stripped Ray Allen of the ball to trigger a fast break that ended with another three-pointer by Conley. That put the Grizzlies ahead by 10 points with 3:34 left.

A clear-path foul by Mario Chalmers on Conley with 2:18 left put the Grizzlies back in front by 10 points, and a stunning baseline dunk by Grizzlies sixth man Tony Allen was the exclamation point on a badly needed win for Memphis. Entering the game, the Grizzlies (46-32) trailed the Phoenix Suns by one game in the loss column for the eighth and final playoff position in the Western Conference standings.

Conley led the Grizzlies with 26 points, going 10 of 18 from the field and 3 of 7 from the three-point range. Zach Randolph had 25 points and Marc Gasol had 20 points. Memphis shot 55.1 percent and out-rebounded the Heat 41-27.

“They got it up to an eight-point lead and that’s like being down by 20 to a team like this,” Bosh said.

A three-pointer by little-used forward Justin Hamilton gave the Heat an eight-point lead with 3:53 remaining in the third quarter, but the Grizzlies closed the period with a flourish and tied the game 80-80 entering the fourth quarter.

A lean-in jumper from 20 feet by James gave the Heat a five-point lead with 20 seconds left in the third quarter, but the Grizzlies amazingly reeled off five points in the final second of the period to tie it. Following a layup by Gasol with one second remaining, Heat reserve point guard Norris Cole committed a turnover in the open court. Memphis guard Tony Allen inbounded the final possession to Courtney Lee, who somehow got off a running one-handed three-pointer before the buzzer. Officials initially ruled the shot came after the buzzer, but overturned the ruling after a video review. Lee finished with 18 points.

In the first three quarters of the game, the Heat shot 53.3 percent from the field and 57.1 percent (12 of 21) from three-point range. 

Gasol opened the fourth quarter with a driving dunk to give the Grizzlies its first lead since the first quarter, and Memphis quickly built a lead on a well-timed three-pointer by Conley and an impressive open-court dunk by Allen, the Grizzlies’ defensive stalwart.

On paper, the Heat seemed outmanned to begin the game, but the three-point shot is the great equalizer, and so the visiting team turned a game  in which it was grossly overmatched in the paint into a shooting exhibition. The Heat started the game 9 of 10 from distance.

Heat going with an interesting strategy against the Memphis Grizzlies tonight … resting all its centers

An interesting strategy against arguably the NBA's most rugged team would be to rest most of your frontcourt players. On Wednesday night, that's exactly what the Heat is doing against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum.

The Heat is playing without Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen and Greg Oden against Memphis bigs Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. In addition to the Heat's three best paint players being out, Dwyane Wade is also not playing in Memphis. Shane Battier was in the lineup for Haslem while Toney Douglas filled in for Wade.

Wade is missing his eighth-straight game and 27th overall. Haslem didn't travel with the team to Memphis due to a stomach virus. Andersen is with the team, but resting a sore back.

Wade practiced before the game, but the Heat is being overly cautious with his sore hamstring, Achilles tendon and knees this close to the playoffs. He is questionable for Friday's game against the Indiana Pacers. The Heat led the Pacers by half a game in the Eastern Conference Standings before Wednesday's set of games. The Pacers played the Bucks on Wednesday and Pacers coach Frank Vogel rested all five of his starters.

LeBron James all but concedes MVP race; Says Kevin Durant has done the most to earn the award

LeBron James has won two-straight MVP Awards and four in the last five years, so he knows a thing or two about the type of basketball it takes to earn the NBA's most coveted individual prize. According to James, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder has done the most to deserve the award.

All but conceding the race to Durant, James said on Wednesday in Memphis that "it would be great" if Durant won the award.

"I think K.D. has had one heck of a season, and if he was rewarded with the MVP, it would be great," James said. "It would be awesome for him, for his family. It would be a great thing for him. He has played MVP-type basketball."

James went on to say that Durant has been "the most consistent basketball player as far as MVP this year. He has put up some great numbers."

Durant is averaging 32.0 points per game this season to go along with 7.6 rebounds per game and 5.6 assists per game. James is averaging 26.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.5 points per game.

Chris Bosh looks ahead to a playoff series against the Nets and doesn't like what he sees

If the Heat matchups up with the Brooklyn Nets in the playoffs, the defending back-to-back champs will have to play out of its comfort zone to take the series, Chris Bosh said on Tuesday.

The Heat lost all four of its games this season against the Nets, and the most recent defeat confirmed what Bosh already knew. His team struggles against opponents that slow down the pace and play deliberate, half-court offense. Three of the Heat’s losses to the Nets during the regular season were by one point. The other loss came after two overtime periods.

The Heat could meet the Nets in the second round of the playoffs. In postseason series that feature close fourth quarters throughout, every possession becomes an epic struggle. Always, execution is paramount. Consider this: The four games between the Heat and Nets this season featured a combined total of 36 lead changes.

“The margin of error is going to be very small because they slow it down, and you’re going to have to play their game — we are — because we like to get out and run with a fast-paced game and they get it and they slow it down,” Bosh told the Miami Herald. “So, we just have to beat them at that game.

“I think if we see them again we’ll just have to make sure to play a possession game with those guys. You got to get a good shot every time.”

The Heat, of course, has the capability of playing multiple styles of offense, especially in a playoff series with several days to prepare for an opponent. Ever since Jams and Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami, playoff opponents have attempted the grind-it-out game against the Heat, and mostly failed. Still, Eastern Conference playoff-bound teams like the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Bobcats have been built, in part, to counter the Heat’s frenetic tendencies.

“If a team wants to play that way, then they’re going to play that way,” Bosh said. “Get stops — that’s the most important thing, and our backside defense wasn’t very good [Tuesday].”

GREAT UNKNOWN

The Heat was without Wade against the Nets, but Brooklyn played without one of its stars as well. Forward Kevin Garnett, always a difficult matchup in the playoffs for any opponent, missed Tuesday’s game, but should be available in the postseason. Injuries were a constant theme throughout the season series between Heat and Nets, which makes a potential postseason match-up all the more the intriguing.

“We haven’t even really played against Kevin this year,” Bosh said. “Neither team has been fully 100 percent either time, so I don’t know what we really get in a series with those guys because we haven’t been 100 percent and they haven’t either.

“It would be good and competitive because they match up well against us, and they play well against us.”

REJECTION OBJECTION

The controversial block by Nets rookie center Mason Plumlee at the end of Tuesday’s loss to the Nets wasn’t the only non-call that bothered the Heat’s players about the final two minutes of the game. Plumlee also blocked a layup attempt by Bosh with 1:57 left that easily could have been defensive goaltending, according to players. A clutch three-pointer by reserve Marcus Thornton gave the Nets a two-point lead on the ensuing possession.

“If it were me they would have called a goal-tend, guaranteed,” Bosh said. “They always call me for goaltending. It’s crazy. It’ll be a clean block, too. I’m like, man, come on. I can block shots, too.”

BIG TIMED

With the Nets sweeping its regular-season series against the Heat, the obvious question needed to be asked following Tuesday’s game. James, the Heat’s back-to-back MVP, wanted nothing to do with TNT veteran reporter Craig Sager, though.

Sager asked James if the Nets were the Heat’s biggest challenge in the Eastern Conference.

"Get out of here, Craig,” James said. “Next question."

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Need a reason to go see the Heat destroy the Bucks? … Playoff tickets will be on sale outside Section 119

Playoff tickets will go on sale to the general pubic at 10 a.m. on Friday, April 4, but fans who attend today's game against the Milwaukee Bucks can purchase individual playoff tickets at a table outside Section 119. Tickets will be available from the time doors open at AmericanAirlines Arena until the end of the game.

Yes, this is a sneaky way of getting as many fans in the building against the lowly Bucks, but does the opponent ever really matter when it comes to the Heat? LeBron James does incredible things every night and the Heat is in first place in the Eastern Conference standings and playing some of its best defense of the season.

Hey, you can always say you were at the game when the Heat held the Bucks to 60 points.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

NBA confirms what we all already knew: LeBron James is a master of Kung fu

So it turns out the NBA might actually think LeBron James is a master of Kung fu.

James was called for a flagrant foul-one during the fourth quarter of the Heat’s loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday and the league reviewed the play and determined James’ flying elbow to Roy Hibbert’s jaw received the appropriate call from officials. A flagrant-one, according to the NBA rulebook, is “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.”

James’ flagrant foul came after James had been hammered a few times by the Pacers’ defenders near the basket. The atmosphere felt more like the playoffs rather than a regular-season game in late March. One two occasions, officials reviewed personal fouls against James to determine whether or not they deserved an upgrade to flagrant, and James went 14 of 15 from the free-throw line.

Afterwards, James was asked if his elbow on Hibbert was retaliation for earlier fouls.

"If I could jump in the air, elbow somebody in the face and still try to finish the play, I must be a Kung fu master or something," James said. "His face happened to hit my elbow, or my elbow happened to hit his face."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Amazingly, tonight will be the 16th different starting lineup this season for the defending back-to-back champion Miami #Heat

LeBron James, eating a McDonald's McFlurry during pregame here in Boston, was a late scratch for the Heat's only game in Boston this season.

The team held James out as a precaution after an apparent bout of back spasms following his 42-minute effort against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night. James had 43 points against his old team, including 25 points in the first quarter. He spoke with reporters before Wednesday's game in Boston with a heat pad around his lower back. The team announced James would not play after the pregame locker room closed.

James has now missed three games this season. The Heat won the previous two games — (at Portland on Dec. 28 and against the Bulls on Feb.23) — with James on the bench.

The Heat's starting lineup against Boston — Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem — was the 16th different starting lineup for the Heat this season.

Let's play NBA Mad Libs, the Dan Gilbert edition...

In crunch time of the Heat's 100-96 victory against the Cavaliers on Tuesday, Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert sent out an unfinished tweet. Let's finish that tweet...

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 9.06.48 AM

Gilbert's flummoxed prose came after LeBron James and Udonis Haslem combined for a block on Cavs guard Dion Waiters. Waiters went down holding his leg and left the game. So, what was Gilbert about to tweet before he realized yet another asset might be out for the season with an injury? Here are three from me. Feel free to add your own...

1. That was beyond incredible. What a complete and total joke and trapezoids should never be confused with rhombuses.

2. That was beyond incredible. What a complete and total joke and trash, don't forget to take out the trash in the morning.

3. That was beyond incredible. What a complete and total joke and tractor beams are carrying me away to outer space.

Monday, March 17, 2014

LeBron and Savannah reportedly expecting

Good news for the LeBron James household. According to reports, wife Savannah Brinson is pregnant with the couple's third child.

The Heat plays the Cavaliers on Tuesday, which will give James time to swing by his house in Akron and build a nursery.

"It's always good to be there and be at my house in Akron," James said. "We are looking forward to the road trip. It's a business trip for all of us, and we want to get this thing back going."

 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Time to panic? No, but a rare sense of tedium has crept into AmericanAirlines Arena

LeBron James waited until the fourth quarter to electrify AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday night, and when it finally happened a collective sense of relief poured out of the sold-out crowd.

Finally, these back-to-back champions seemed to care.

But that familiar feeling of purpose was fleeting. Moments of greatness by James late in games have sparked brushfires for the Heat’s offense going on four seasons now, but the passion and energy arrived too late. The Ides of March are here and with it another Heat loss, this time a 111-107 defeat to the woeful Denver Nuggets.

This shrine of basketball on Biscayne Bay hasn’t known tedium for some time, but a little bit of that stuff has crept into the cracks of the hardwood in recent days. The Heat (44-19) has lost five of its last six games and is 3-5 in March. What's more, Miami has lost back-to-back games at home for the first time since 2011.

“A tough loss at home and we just have to figure it out,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s not the way this streak started. Sometimes it just happens to you in this league where things turn and moment changes and you find yourself in a hole you feel like you can’t get out of. Obviously we’ll be able to get out of it. When? We don’t know.”

Said James: “We’ve been here before. It has been a while, but we’ve been here before, and this moment will either define our season or end our season…We always have one defining moment, and this is it right here for us.”

Before the game, Spoelstra emphasized to his players the need to substitute more freely in order to conserve energy, and the plan worked well early on. The Heat took a 30-20 lead in the first quarter, but, once again, the team was undone by turnovers.

Miami committed 20 in all, which the Nuggets converted into 22 points. Meanwhile, the Heat shot 29.2 percent from three-point range (7 of 24) despite Ray Allen going 5 of 7 from behind the arc.

“More than anything, more than our shot selection, for two games in a row, was the turnovers,” Spoelstra said. “Every time we had an opportunity to get back in the game, take control of the game, or shift the momentum, it was an uncharacteristic turnover that swayed the tide and we have to clean it up in that department.

“Those empty possessions — you don’t know where those lead if you don’t make those mistakes.”

James and Chris Bosh were both 0 of 4 from three-point range, and Heat forward Shane Battier — the starting lineup’s constant mismatch from the outside — only attempted one shot from distance.

Poor shooting from the outside suggests fatigue, but James said that isn’t a factor. After all, the Heat was reeling off 27 wins in a row this time last year.

“We’re just not playing well,” James said. “We’re just not playing well, and it’s a league where it can turn to quicksand quick…we have to figure it out and we have to get better and it doesn’t get any easier for us with Houston coming into our building on Sunday.”

A pair of free throws by Nuggets firebrand Kenneth Faried — he banked in the first  — gave the visiting team a five-point lead with 65 seconds to play, and the Heat was done. James attempted a pair of three-pointers in the final minute, and missed them both. The second, last-gasp miss came with 12 seconds to play, and Faried pulled down the rebound. He then made two more free throws on the other end to hand the Heat its third loss this season to the dregs of the Western Conference — Denver, Utah and Sacramento.

“Something is off,” said Dwyane Wade, who had 19 points.

Faried led the Nuggets with 24 points, going 9 of 15 from the field to go along with 10 rebounds. Point guard Ty Lawson had 13 points, going 9 of 10 from the free-throw line. Three reserves scored in double figures for the Nuggets —Darrell Arthur (18), Evan Fourier (14) and J.J. Hickson (11).

Allen led the Heat with 22 points in 29 minutes of work off the bench. James had 21 points, going 8 of 17 from the field and 5 of 7 from the free-throw line. He also had six rebounds and six assists. James had five points in the fourth quarter, going 1 of 4 from the field. In the Heat’s loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday James failed to score in the fourth quarter.

The Heat led by 14 points in the first half, but trailed the entire second half. Wade was 8 of 18 from the field. Mario Chalmers was 7-of-11 shooting for 16 points. He had six assists and four rebounds.

Friday, March 14, 2014

New Chinese design to Dwyane Wade's shoes a nod to the People's Liberation Army

Dwyane Wade's latest Li-Ning shoes dropped in China on March 5 and they're pretty ... well...nationalistic. The release date coincided with Lei Feng Day, which honors a famous solider in the People's Liberation Army.

Lei Feng is kind of like a poster boy for China's Communist party. He was celebrated for his selflessness and stuff, so his nickname translates in English to "screw." You know, because he did the little, important things that held everything together. Kind of like a "glue guy" in basketball.

Anyway, the name of Wade's new shoe in China is "Screw," after Lei Feng, the national hero.

Wadeshoes

I don't buy basketball shoes, but I might buy a pair of these just because.

LeiFeng.poster

Poster of Lei Feng.

Justin Hamilton to take his turn at the end of the Heat's bench

D-League stud DeAndre Liggins earned his yearly salary with a few 10-day contracts from the Heat and now Justin Hamilton is set to be paid handsomely by the defending back-to-back champions.

Both Hamilton and Liggins featured prominently with the Heat's D-League affiliate this season. Hamilton averaged 19.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game with the Sioux Falls Skyforce before being signed by the Charlotte Bobcats to a 10-day contract. Hamilton played for four minutes of one game with the Bobcats before being released. The Heat, which traded for Hamilton during the 2012 draft, quickly scooped up the 7-footer and signed him to a two-year deal.

The Heat was forced to release Liggins to make room for Hamilton, who impressed the Heat's coaching staff this summer, and was strongly considered for the final 15-man roster. Hamilton broke his nose during the preseason and instead signed with the Heat's D-League team. A former center for LSU, Hamilton played for Cibona Zagreb in Croatia after being drafted in 2012.

Fill in the blank: Fans tattooing themselves with images of LeBron are ________ ?

Earlier this week, LeBron James posted this picture to Instagram:

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 7.29.46 AM

Yep, that's a full back tattoo of LeBron throwing his chalk in the air (an old Nike advertising gimmick) while surrounded by the Larry O'Brien Trophy (NBA championship trophy) and the Maurice Podoloff Trophy (NBA MVP Trophy). To top off the impressive art, Nike's old advertising hook for James, "Witness," is stenciled above the scene.

Then, naturally, above the tattoo are the words "Only God's Love Is Everlasting." 

James said he ran into the guy at his wife's juice bar in Brickell. Riiiiight...

Anyway, I'm fairly certain that the large majority of people in this country (world?) would look at a full back tat of LeBron and be like, WTF? But I'm not judging. Good for that guy. I hope he gets to be on the double-decker bus with LeBron for this summer's victory parade. (That's assuming the Heat three-peats, of course.)

At least the LeBron back tat guy knows his favorite athlete. This next guy...I just don't know. LeBron posted this picture to Instagram on Thursday night...

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 7.28.39 AM

Someone apparently sent this picture to LeBron. Is it a doctored image? I sure the heck hope not. I mean, what a great tattoo — idols idolizing idols. It just doesn't get any better. Human beings of America, I salute you!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Healthy Dwyane Wade unfazed by losing skid; Just wants team to 'at least get the ball up to the rim' at end of games

So concerned with losing four its last five games, the Heat did not practice on Thursday and also decided to cancel its morning shootaround before Friday’s game against the Denver Nuggets.

In other words, the defending back-to-back champions don’t seem overly concerned about its losing skid at this point.

A reporter posed this question to Dwyane Wade after the Heat’s sloppily played and poorly executed loss to the Nets: The team is flat-lining here in March…are you worried about this stretch?

“Nope,” Wade said without expression or a second’s thought.

Why did Wade respond so curtly to such an innocuous question? Maybe because its premise completely missed the true importance of this stretch of the season.

This time last year, the Heat was running off victory after victory after victory en route to 27 meaningless victories in a row. Yes, it was a special run for players, coaches, executives and fans, but, really, all those wins actually ended up hurting more than they helped.

In the long run, Wade’s body broke down, he limped into the playoffs and the Heat struggled through the final two rounds of the postseason. Wade spent hours daily in the training room to play in games with an injured knee.

This season, Wade and his trainers have done everything possible to prepare Wade for the postseason, and it appears that calculated strategy is beginning to pay off. Here’s what really matters with 20 games left of the regular season, and it’s not a few losses to quality teams in March with no worse than the second seed in the East already all but wrapped up.

Wade is growing stronger every day, and he’s shooting 55.1 percent from the field, which is the best shooting percentage of his career and the best shooting percentage among guards in the entire NBA. Wade is ranked ninth in the NBA in overall field-goal percentage. The next closet guard is Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns at 50.8 percent shooting.

And here’s the bottom line: With Wade at his best in the playoffs, the Heat will be tough to beat.

So, as for these recent losses, Wade isn’t wasting time over analyzing the problem.

“I’m not saying there’s no reason,” Wade said. “I’m just not overly concerned. I think it’s stuff that we can fix. If I thought it was stuff that couldn’t be fixed, then I would be concerned.

“It’s little things that can be fixed, and a little better execution, especially at the end of games. We’re a team that plays close games. We don’t really have many blowouts. We play close games, so we’re used to it. It’s just the last four losses we haven’t been able to execute down the stretch like we wanted to.”

Make no mistake, the Heat hates blowing leads in the fourth quarter more than anything, and winning close games for this team is now a badge of honor. But, at this point in the journey, close losses to the Bulls and Nets might serve the Heat better than close wins. If anything, it gives the team’s players something to fix, something that holds their attention.

Oh, it also gives Wade a chance to throw thinly veiled digs at his good buddy LeBron James. James failed to win games at the buzzer against both Chicago and Brooklyn, and Wade isn’t inclined — in Year Four of the Big 3 — to let James off the hook so easily.

“We do need to execute down the stretch,” Wade said. “We need to be able to at least get the ball up to the rim to get a shot. We’re going to have to work on that a little bit. So, we got something to work on as a team in our fourth year together. That’s not a bad thing.”

As for Wade, he has been putting in work behind the scenes all season, and it’s starting to show.

“I just like the program that he has been on,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He has been very diligent. Everybody has been on the same page about it. He has been able to increase everything — not only his games, but his workouts.

“He has been very dedicated. His life has changed quite a bit in his 30s than when he was in his 20s. He spends a lot more time in this facility than he used to, and I think that’s a credit to him adapting. That’s the fountain of youth.”

In addition to working with the Heat’s trainers daily, Wade also has been adhering closely to a schedule laid out by his longtime personal trainer, Tim Grover. Wade missed plenty of games during the first half of the season, but recently the Heat’s starting shooting guard participated in his first back-to-back since Jan.4 and 5.

The second night of those games was the Heat’s victory against the Washington Wizards. Wade had 22 points, six assists, five rebounds and one impressive block against Wizards 6-10 big man Drew Gooden.

On Wednesday, Wade came from behind and blocked a tip-in attempt by Nets big man Andray Blatche. It was an amazing piece of athletic skill, and was arguably Wade’s single greatest highlight on a night he went 8 of 11 from the field.

“I came out of it well,” said Wade of the difficult road trip that ended with a back-to-back. “I’m just going into it game-to-game and day-to-day and see how I feel and trying to play and trying to give my team the best opportunity to win.”

So, maybe next time, Wade should take the final shot.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Insightful stuff from Dwyane Wade on Michael Beasley on the eve Mike Miller reminds us what the Heat is missing

A familiar theme for the Heat played out here in Chicago on Friday, but it had nothing to do with the defending back-to-back champions.

Remember that fan favorite and savior off the bench the Heat removed from its books to save money this summer? You know, the indispensible Mike Miller, who suddenly became dispensable a few days after Heat president Pat Riley said the team had no plans to amnesty. That Mike Miller was in Chicago on Friday and playing for the Memphis Grizzlies against the hometown Bulls.

So, as Miller lit up the Bulls' defense — 14 points, 4 of 5 from three-point range — me and good buddy Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report were cracking stone crabs in downtown Chicago and watching the game on TV, but mostly kicking ourselves for not being at United Center to interview Miller after the game. Of course, I'm pretty sure how that interview would have gone:

ME: "Great game, Mike. How's it been going this season?"

MILLER: "Oh, you know, bro. It's all good."

ME: "The Heat's three-point shooters have fallen off a bit this season, got any suggestions?"

MILLER: "Just let it fly, man."

And then, basically, a hilarious conversation off record that would never be printed in any newspaper anywhere ever.

For the record, Miller is shooting 44.6 percent from three-point range for the Grizzlies and averaging 20.7 minutes per game. Among the Heat players averaging at least 20 minutes a game, not a single shooter is anywhere close to that percentage. Mario Chalmers leads the team's regular rotation players with a three-point shooting percentage of .391.

Of course, it's not like Miller would have even qualified for that category last season. At this point last year, Miller was anchored to the bench as the Heat spun off 27 victories in a row. So, while comparing Miller this season to the Heat without Miller isn't exactly fair, it's also kind of exactly the point. Because here's the thing. Miller is shooting 44.6 percent from the field this season as a regular rotation player. Playing just about every role possible during the 2013 playoffs, Miller shot 44.4 percent from three-point range.

And that's remarkable.

Miller stays ready and he's consistent, and those are attributes every team values as the winter begins thawing into spring. (Except for South Florida, of course, where there is neither a winter nor spring, but only the annual migration of Quebec license plates to mark the seasons ... and lots more rain.)

Miller's contract was expensive, yes, but that's the way it goes with the best insurance policies. Numbers and experience tell us Miller would have shot around 44 percent from three-point range this postseason whether he started the games or came off the bench. Beyond the projected numbers, Miller would have given Heat coach Erik Spoelstra confidence to make the necessary lineup adjustments from series to series.

MIKE MILLER'S MANY ROLES IN THE 2013 POSTSEASON:

—For most of the first three rounds, Miller came off the bench in spot duty.

—But be started for Dwyane Wade at shooting guard in Game 4 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

—Miller then returned to the back of the bench...until Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals ... with the Heat trailing the Pacers 3-2 in the series. Miller went 2 of 2 from three-point range in that must-win scenario.

—Miller came off the bench in the first three games of the NBA Finals and went 9 of 10 from three-point range.

—Lastly, in his last games with the Heat, Miller was inserted into the starting lineups of Games 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the NBA Finals. The strategic move allowed Spoelstra to slide LeBron James to power forward, which created one of the series' key mismatches. James averaged over 31 points in the final four games of the Finals.

Does the Heat have a player in reserve this season as versatile as Mike Miller? Maybe so. Michael Beasley could, in theory, come off the bench to provide instant offense. After all, he's shooting 45 percent from three-point range this season. But could Beasley also start in place of Battier or Wade in a pinch in the playoffs? Miller's greatest skill with the Heat was his ability to stay ready for any role defensively and remain a consistent threat from the outside. He could affect a game without ever touching the ball. Is Beasley ready for that responsibility? Could he affect a game in a positive way without ever touching the ball?

The Heat would like to give Beasley consistent minutes, especially with the playoffs inching ever closer, but the offensively gifted former No.2 overall pick has had difficulty integrating himself into the team’s defensive schemes. Sure, Beasley had 11 points against the Spurs, and that's great, but gaining trust with Spoelstra, James and Dwyane Wade will be more important for Beasley over the next few weeks than any shot he makes.

“It’s up and down for [Beasley],” Wade said. “Of late, he has been playing very well for us as he’s trying to get back into his rhythm. We’re going to need him, and we hope that he continues to get the concepts of what we’re trying to do.

“Because we’re going to need him at some point.”

Trusting Miller's aptitude was never a concern. Trusting Miller's injury-prone body? That's a different conversation all together, but Miller never needed consistent minutes, or any minutes at all to find his rhythm or "get the concepts." He was just always prepared to play any role necessary. 

In other words, the Mike Miller Replacement Project is an ongoing business.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Here's what Udonis Haslem said to Pat Beverley at halftime, and other stuff about the Rockets' excitable guard

Patrick Beverley plays defense like that half-crazy wild man you used to know back in high school who always wanted to pick a fight with the biggest guy in the room. The Rockets' starting point guard is a live wire of annoyance on the court, and that's against teams that didn't insult his manhood and cut him at the end of training camp back in 2010.

That would be the Heat. On Tuesday, Beverley got some revenge.

Mr. Chaos provided the Rockets with an overwhelming perimeter presence and helped limit Heat guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole to a combined 3 of 12 from the field. Beverley was especially relentless against Cole, who the Heat drafted in 2011 after apparently realizing the error of its ways in getting rid of Beverley for ... what ... exactly ... Eddie House? Something tells me Beverley would have matched up pretty well against one José Juan Barea in the 2011 NBA Finals, but let's not go there tonight.

So, Beverley was jawing with the Heat's players pretty much every second he was on the court, which was exactly 1,972 seconds. At one point, it appeared like Heat coach Erik Spoelstra subbed Cole out of the game so Cole wouldn't completely lose his mind and do something stupid. Cole might be the most level-headed player in the NBA, by the way.

After the halftime buzzer, Udonis Haslem walked over to Beverley for a brief conversation. I asked Haslem about that conversation...

"I was just giving him a hard time," Haslem said. "It was nothing serious. I just told him to stop talking crap and looking over at our bench. I know Pat. I think he the spent the summer with us. He's a hard-nosed kid, a real competitor, and I respect the road that he took and the success that he had, but he was just doing a lot of yapping and I told him to stop looking at our bench and talking crap.

"It wasn't nothing personal. I got a lot of love for Pat Beverley, but he was just looking over at our bench and talking and he's always got something to say. We're cool off the court, but in between the lines, I don't like it.

"You play against a team that you worked out for, or you felt like you should have been there, or they made a mistake by letting you go, you try to prove something. And I guess he came out tonight with a chip on his shoulder."

Something tells me that's pretty much every night in the life of Pat Beverley.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Did LeBron's big night give him the edge in the MVP race?

Shot chart of LeBron's 61-point game against the Bobcats. Lots of green here.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 1.21.33 PM

So, did LeBron's big night against the Bobcats push him ahead of Kevin Durant in the race the MVP? Magic Johnson certainly thinks so. Here's Johnson's tweet in support of James.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 1.26.53 PM

 

LeBron set all kinds of records with his 61 points. Let's make a list:

—For starters, James' 61 set a franchise record, eclipsing Glen Rice's 56 against the Magic.

Heat's top single-game scoring performances

61 LeBron James vs. Charlotte Bobcats 3-3-14

56 Glen Rice vs. Orlando 4-15-95

55 Dwyane Wade vs. New York 4-12-09

51 LeBron James @ Orlando 2-3-11

50*** Dwyane Wade vs. Utah 3-14-09

50 Dwyane Wade @ Orlando 2-22-09

50 Alonzo Mourning vs. Washington 3-29-96

 *-Indicates an overtime period

—LeBron's 37 in the second half set a franchise record for points in a half.

—The monster third quarter — 25 points, 9 of 11 shooting, 5 of 5 from three-point range — set franchise records for points and field goals in a quarter.

—LeBron set career single-game highs in points (61) and field goals made (22) and tied his career high in three-point field goals made with eight (second time in his career).

—And in perhaps the biggest indicator that LeBron has at least evened the race with Durant for the MVP award, the Heat's star forward has made at least 66 percent of his field goal attempts in each of his last five games. During the five-game stretch he’s shooting 74-109 (.679) from the floor.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Heat's Family Fest highlighted by Udonis Haslem's love of snakes

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 9.55.39 AM

Highlights of the Heat Family Fest on Sunday included Birdman playing basketball with a group of youngsters, plenty of great dogs up for adoption and one enormous snake draped around the shoulders of Udonis Haslem.

"I've always had this weird thing for snakes," Haslem said.

Haslem's fascination for snakes began during his time at the University of Florida. Pat Riley joked that Haslem might have grown up in Liberty City, but he's an Everglades guy at heart. No arguments here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bosh would support ban on all foul language and not just derogatory slurs

Chris Bosh has never been one to ride the fence on social issues. On Wednesday, he weighed in on the growing sentiment in professional sports leagues to ban the use of derogetory slurs.

Bosh said the N-word is most often used during NBA games as a friendly gesture, but that shouldn't excuse the use of the word. The NFL is considering penalties for teams whose players use slurs during games, and Bosh said it would be a good idea for the NBA to do the same, but if the NBA is going to ban one slur, it needs to ban all inappropriate language.

"It's a very tough situation," Bosh said. "If that's the case, they should ban all slurs. And I know it's a big deal, because I think that word is used too much, especially in the mainstream nowadays."

Unlike the NFL, the NBA is not currently considering in-game penalties for offensive language. NBA players have been fined in the past for the use of derogatory and offensive language. Bosh said social acceptance of some slurs makes the issue somewhat confusing.

"It's in mainstream America now," Bosh said. "And a lot of people say, 'Aw, I'm not a racist because I used it in a friendly way.'

"It's like I said. If you're going to [ban] one word, then put them all in there. Use every slur, every negative curse word, if you will, and that will simplify it a little bit."

 
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