Thursday, December 29, 2011

Minny test

After watching the Heat struggle just to get past the Bobcats, it's clear any game can be a difficult one on the road for Miami.

Friday's against Minnesota could be quite interesting, then, because the T-Wolves have potential coming from just about everywhere.

For starters, you can expect an early dose of Darko Milicic, who has a big height advantage over Joel Anthony and an effective hook shot.

Kevin Love can stretch the defense with his three-point shooting, which hasn't been very good yet this season (1 of 7 for the year) but is a legitimate part of his game.

Then you throw in the scoring ability from the wing with Michael Beasley and rookie Derrick Williams, the three-point shooting of Wesley Johnson, the gnat-like, floppish annoyance of J.J. Barea (although Barea-Westbrooka hamstring injury might keep him out of the game) and the passing ability of Ricky Rubio, and it adds up to a team that could score with the Heat -- especially after you just saw Miami give up 60 points in the first half to the Bobcats.

The Target Center was pretty amped in Minnesota's opening game against OKC, which ended in a close loss for the Wolves. And this second home game should have a similar, if not more intense, atmosphere.

LeBron James should be able to put together a good game, though, given that either Beasley or Johnson will defend him early, with only Anthony Tolliver as a decent defensive option off the bench. The Wolves have been going small often in the backcourt, with some combination of Barea, Rubio and Luke Ridnour playing together. That means either a small defender on Wade, or a helpless rookie (Rubio) for segments of the game.

Should be fun.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Heat players lose $8 million in salary with first missed paychecks

So, Heat fans, anyone out there having trouble paying the bills lately? Is the rent TOO DAMN HIGH!?! Check out these numbers.

Players missed their first paychecks on Tuesday. Here's a breakdown of how much each player lost, based on the commonly used contractual formula that each player is paid 1/110th of their total contract each game. These figures include the eight preseason games that were never played and the regular season's first six games. (Players are paid per game. And, obviously, we can debate the merits of these numbers all day based on a new CBA, prorated salaries and everything else. But, you get the point: It's a lot of money.)

LEBRON JAMES
Total 2011-12 contract: $16,022,500 Miami-heat-dancers-2
Per game: $145,659.09
First paycheck: $2,039,227.27

CHRIS BOSH
Total 2011-12 contract: $16,022,500
Per game: $145,659.09
First paycheck: $2,039,227.27

DWYANE WADE
Total 2011-12 contract: $15,512,000
Per game: $141,018.18
First paycheck: $1,974,254.54

MIKE MILLER
Total 2011-12 contract: $5,400,000
Per game: $49,090.90
First paycheck: $687,272.72

UDONIS HASLEM
Total 2011-12 contract: $3,780,000 Heat_natalia_natalie_odaymis
Per game: $34,363.63
First paycheck: $481,090.90

JOEL ANTHONY
Total 2011-12 contract: $3,600,000
Per game: $32,727.27
First paycheck: $458,181.81

EDDIE HOUSE
Total 2011-12 contract: $1,399,507
Per game: $12,722.79
First paycheck: $178,119.07

MARIO CHALMERS (Restricted free agent/team option)
Total 2011-12 contract: $1,091,100
Per game: $9,919.09
First paycheck: $138,867.27

DEXTER PITTMAN
Total 2011-12 contract: $788,872
Per game: $7,171.56
First paycheck: $100,401.89

Total amount in lost wages: $8,096,642.74

Also, the Heat's dancers (pictured) are losing money.

-joe

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Leftover Riley

Some nuggets from Pat Riley's press conference Wednesday morning that weren't included in the story for the paper...

Riley said he didn't like hearing that the Heat "gave away" the Finals to Dallas, nor did he agree with the concept that the Mavericks played more like a team than Miami.

"They beat us, they took it, that's what title teams do," Riley said. "Every championship team that I've been involved with, it's fashionable to say that somebody gave something away or somebody lost something, or we coulda, woulda, shoulda. But somebody takes it, that's all there was to it. Dallas played extremely well.

"The one thing that I, as a former coach, get upset with is we were a team. I mean, it's fashionable to say that the other team was more of team than we were. That is B.S. We would have never gotten this far without really sacrificing and playing roles and those veteran players accepting rotation responsibilities up and down. We were the epitome of a team."

As for LeBron James' shortcomings in the Finals, Riley was predictably protective of his biggest star. But he acknowledged LeBron can improve his individual game.

"I think you have to take a hard look at it on film and then have a discussion with him about it and then specifically from a coaching standpoint he says, 'this is what we want you to do,'" Riley said of LeBron's play in the Finals. "But you don't have an easy answer for that right now. That's become sort of the flashpoint of this whole thing and I think it's wrong, it's absolutely wrong to lay it on him and it just started to continually compound itself."

As for improvements the Heat could make, Riley said he doesn't really anticipate his team paying to move up in the draft because, from what he hears, nobody wants those picks in the 20s because they come with salary commitments to players who aren't significantly better than anyone he can get at 31.

Riley said he believes Mario Chalmers is a starting caliber player for this team, and he would put priority on adding interior size.

"We would like to get size," he said. "We would like to get length. Joel Anthony has done an incredible job and he will get better. But we'd like to get size that we can put in there, in the middle. I don't know if you're going to get a back-to-the-basket player, but we'd like to get size and things of that nature inside that might be a little bit more athletic with great length.

"We are good enough, we have enough but we're going to continue to try to make this team better. And move forward with that, that's what our job is this summer."

Riley also said he never "really" considered moving any members of the Big Three, even early in the season when it appeared they struggled to play together, and won't consider moving them.

 

 

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Ugly but effective

For those who believed this would be a high-scoring, free-flowing, fastbreak series, take THAT!

Two teams shooting less than 40 percent, no one scoring more than 27 points AND Juwan Howard getting eight minutes and MVP chants.

Not exactly how the prognosticators had this one playing out.

But if you'd watched the defenses the Mavs have played against these playoffs, you had to assume they'd struggle against this athletic Heat defense. And such was the case.

Chris Bosh said the defense that kept the Mavericks to 37.3 percent shooting, that "limited" Dirk Nowitzki to 27 points and the Mavericks vaunted bench to 17 points was pretty much par for the course.

"It's a normal night," Bosh said. "I think we can do better. I think we can play much better offensively and defensively."

It wasn't all great for the Heat, of course. Dwyane Wade looked like the same Wade from the Bulls series through two-plus quarters. It wasn't, really, until the fourth quarter that he looked confident and in rhythm. You would assume that could transfer to the start of the next game, but Wade finished Games 4 and 5 against Chicago strong as well, but it didn't continue in the next game.

Wade should be able to score on either Jason Terry or Jason Kidd, but he seemed oddly hesitant several times.

"He's such an explosive offensive player, he spoils you a little bit," Bosh said of Wade. "He's a major part of this team's offense. Anytime that he's going, it's great."

Bron finals Nowitzki's night was uneven, at best. He did his best work in the fourth, with 10 points, but he never got into a consistent rhythm, either. Udonis Haslem was his typical good self defending Dirk, but so was Joel Anthony. LeBron James didn't defend Dirk, as many projected, and if the bigs do this kind of job against him, that probably shouldn't change.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle gave UD credit for denying Dirk.

"He's got to be denied the ball virtually everywhere on the floor," Carlisle said. "Haslem is a guy that has the wherewithal to do that. And they're going to play him aggressively, and we know that.

"We just to keep playing our game, keep getting him the ball and giving him opportunities to create."

By the way, Dirk has a torn tendon on the middle finger of his left hand and is wearing a splint, while Mike Miller left the locker room with his left arm in a sling. He obviously has a shoulder injury, but no one's really acknowledging it.

Back to the Heat offense for a second. Heat can't rely on LeBron hitting four of five threes, even if a couple of them were so open he had to shoot a commercial first. Wade needs to be more consistent, Bosh needs to be less clumsy against that zone and more assertive with his jumper, and LeBron needs to shoot more than two free throws.

As is, Shawn Marion believes the Mavericks did exactly what they needed to do to win.

"It was a completely halfcourt game tonight, and they prevailed," Marion said. "You hold a team to 38 percent and 92 points, for us, that's normally a victory."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Closing time

The luxury of having three true superstars may have never been as meaningul to the Heat than it did Tuesday in Game 4.

Dwyane Wade was surprisingly bad, despite having his late-night shooting session late Monday, LeBron James hit an ugly cold spell highlighted by an airball three-pointer, and the rest of the Heat wasn't shooting particularly well as the Bulls took an 11-point lead in the third quarter. Bron hips

But unlike Derrick Rose, who has little to no help when defense is as intense as it is in this series, Wade had teammates to carry him past this particularly horrendous showing.

Chris Bosh is proving emotions don't get the best of him, even in the most stressful of situations. He had 10 huge points in the fourth quarter and overtime combined, he got to the foul line 11 times for the game and he was the only member of the Big Three to shoot 50 percent (6 of 12). Despite being largely ignored in the first half (actually he had to adjust to a more aggressive Bulls defense), Bosh finished with 22.

And of course, James was spectacular down the stretch, scoring 13 of his 35 after the third quarter. Toss in the surprising performance from Mike Miller (12 points and nine rebounds in 26 minutes) and Wade had just enough support to make up for his unusual performance.... (Miller, btw, was a +36 on the night, which is ridiculous. According to NBA.com, twenty other players have had a +36 or higher this season. Their teams won those games by an average of 40.4 points. Miller was +36 in an 8-point win.)

Just to emphasize the importance of such support, Rose had a largely awful night himself, needing 27 shots to score 23 points with just six assists, three rebounds and seven turnovers.

He didn't have the player next to him that was capable of making up for that. Luol Deng had a decent night with 20 points on 8 of 16 shooting, but he works largely off Rose. It's basically up to Rose to get Deng good looks.

Other telling numbers in this game: The Heat shot 38 free throws to Chicago's 22, prompting Tom Thibodeau to tweak the officials after the game, saying Rose didn't get enough calls.

The Heat only needed 12 assists for their 32 field goals, while the Bulls had 20 assists for their 35 field goals. Just goes to show how the Bulls need offensive execution just a bit more than Miami because LeBron and Wade and Bosh create so often for themselves.

Wade's four blocks were phenomenal, while LeBron's defense on Rose was critical. Just like his defense on Paul Pierce in Game 4 against Boston, it's what saved LeBron after a late turnover (offensive foul) in a critical game.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Surprise party

Go ahead and choose which one of these elements from Wednesday's game was most surprising, because this game was full of shockers.
--Udonis Haslem's performance: It wasn't so much that UD was able to score 13 points with five UD red rebounds, two assists, a steal and a blocked shot. It was the way he did it, and the timeliness of it. And that he managed to play 23 minutes in two long bursts. 
He single-handedly revived the Heat in the first half, and he helped the Heat maintain a lead while the Chicago crowd was about to explode.
Haslem had a facial dunk over Keith Bogans and another transition dunk on Derrick Rose. But it might have been his two jumpers -- two crucial jumpers -- that were most difficult. He hadn't hit one of those since before the foot injury, and to hit a pair in those spots in the second half was downright gutsy.
--The rest of the rotation: Erik Spoelstra spent the first half trying out players like women try on new shoes. But by the second half, he realized what was working. UD, of course. But also Mike Miller, who played 18 minutes, essentially in place of Mario Chalmers. Miller and Haslem, who weren't fully in the rotation until Wednesday, were the only Heat bench players to play more than five minutes. Meanwhile, Mike Bibby played 35 minutes. That's Mike Bibby, 35 minutes!
--The rebounding numbers: The Heat hadn't outrebounded the Bulls in four tries, and in the last game were embarrassed on the boards. This game, with Joel Anthony only playing 22 minutes and Jamaal Magloire playing five minutes, the Heat outrebounded the Bulls 45-41.
LeBron James had 10, Dwyane Wade nine, Chris Bosh eight and Miller had seven in his 18 minutes. The Bulls still managed 17 offensive rebounds, but that's because they missed 54 shots.
--The Heat defense: The Bulls shot 34 percent from the field and scored all of four points in the final 8:44 of the game. And here's how those four points were scored: Taj Gibson had his shot blocked going up for a dunk, and was hanging on the rim as it bounced off the backboard and back through the rim. So, technically, it shouldn't have counted.
The next two points were also Gibson, and again he had his shot blocked, but this time Anthony accidentally tapped it into the Bulls basket with the side of his hand. So if not for a missed call and an own-goal, the Bulls don't score at all in the final 8:44. What was Charles Barkley saying about the Bulls having the best defense he's ever seen?
This Heat defense is pretty good itself.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Efforting

Is it as simple as effort?

The first three meeting between these two teams came down to single possessions, basically, and this one was a blowout because of what looked like simple effort.

The Heat's bigs were outworked by the Bulls bigs, and the Bulls perimeter players were more disruptive defensively than were the Heat perimeter players.

So what's the solution? UD shrug

Well, other than just trying harder, the Heat might just be going to its go-to effort guy. That would be Udonis Haslem. It's difficult to expect extended segments of basketball from UD, but based on the fact that he played the final minutes of Sunday's game, you can pretty much infer that Erik Spoelstra's plan is to include Haslem into the rotation Wednesday.

Now, as much as the game came down to rebounding and poor performances from both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, it also didn't help much that Spo went to a combination that hasn't seen the floor in forever -- if ever. Playing Jamaal Magloire might have sounded like a good idea, giving Derrick Rose another big body to go through before getting to the rim. But Cat can't rotate nearly fast enough to affect the lightning-quick Rose, or move quickly enough to keep the Bulls bigs off the boards.

Now, going to Udonis could help, because again, effort is his game and even though he's smaller, he's a rebounder and can hang with Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. But he is in no shape to do that for 30 minutes or more. But when Udonis can't do it, the Heat might need to stick to the smaller lineup when Joel Anthony is off the floor. Go with Chris Bosh at center and LeBron at the four. The Heat is quicker that way and can be disruptive defensively. And when LeBron is asked to rebound, he normally responds very well. It would be up to Bosh and LeBron to hit the boards and keep the Bulls off the offensive boards in that scenario, but that's not too much to ask of those guys.

If effort is the simple answer, then Game 1 was essentially a wake-up call for the Heat. If the issues go much deeper than that, then it will be evident again in Game 2. You can say that the Heat's offense looked awful against the Bulls, but then again, that's not the first time that's happened. The Heat offense has a way of recovering, starting with LeBron and Wade playing more like themselves.

We'll see if that all comes together.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Matching up with Bulls

With Erik Spoesltra saying today at shootaround that he plans on sticking with the same starters, it makes you wonder how the matchups are going to play out.

Having seen Spo operate, he's not going to blink first. He's probably going to stick with the traditional matchups, meaning Mike Bibby with be the primary defender on Derrick Rose and he'll trust that the team defense will have his back.

The quick alternative would be to put Bibby on Keith Bogans and Dwyane Wade on Rose, which is also a very likely scenario.

But the big man matchup might be just as intriguing. The Bulls have shown a tendency to play Joakim Noah on Chris Bosh, which leaves Carlos Boozer to defend Joel Anthony (also known as playing center field).

The Heat normally switches back to the more traditional matchup of PF vs PF and C vs C. But now that Joel is a starter, it wouldn't be surprising to see Joel stay on Boozer and Bosh on Noah. Joel has shown he can play great one-on-one defense against post players, as he did against Kevin Garnett. And if he can limit Boozer, that leaves Bosh to basically box out Noah, whose primary responsibility is to rebound.

And if that works, don't be surprised to see the Heat go small quite often in this series, with LeBron James at the power forward spot. If Bosh can hang with Noah or Omer Asik, LeBron can certainly handle a Taj Gibson type at PF, and then have an advantage on the opposite end. Basically, the pressure is on Bosh and LeBron to rebound out of that lineup, but the Heat has been close to unstoppable with LeBron at the power forward spot toward the end of the year and in the playoffs.

Don't expect to see much of Udonis Haslem in this series, because Spo is in a tough spot with that. Do you insert him when things are going well and threaten to disrupt harmony? Or do you put him in when things are headed south and ask a rusty UD to help carry them out? Spo said he'll read the situation and see if he uses Haslem, but unless the Heat has its way with the Bulls, and not many see that happening, then it's likely Spo will once again keep it close to the vest and stick with the current rotation.

 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

That was easy

Actually, that was the hardest thing to watch for an extended period.

Other than Dwyane Wade, there wasn't a whole lot working well for the Heat through the first 44 minutes or so. So James Jones made a three-pointer and turned the whole feel of the game.  Wade over oneal

After that, though, it was an amazing display of talent and desire. Talent on the offensive end, as LeBron James made a pair of threes he'll never forget. Threes more memorable than even that buzzer-beater against Orlando a couple years ago, because that was just a desperate heave, and his Cavs lost that series anyway.

The desire came on the defensive end, as the Heat rattled the Celtics into misses and turnovers. Two plays that stand out were Jones' hard close on a wide-open Ray Allen. Ray still got off a good look, but that close may have disrupted his rhythm just enough. The second was the help Wade provided on the driving attempt from Jeff Green. It was perfectly timed and perfectly executed help from Wade.

And LeBron's steal and dunk to seal the win was both athleticism and desire rolled into one game-sealing highlight.

For a while there -- before Jones' three and the that sick 16-0 run to close the series -- it looked like Erik Spoelstra was making all the wrong calls. The Celtics had just one big guy in there to start the fourth, Nenad Krstic, and yet the Heat was still playing with both Chris Bosh and Juwan Howard. And when that Celtics lead ballooned to seven, he finally took out Howard, but brought in Joel Anthony. The game appeared to be begging for Jones. When he did finally bring in Jones, it was for Mario Chalmers instead of Anthony, but by then Kevin Garnett was back in the game, and Anthony was the best defender against him, so that was the right choice.

And because of that 16-0 run to end it, the supporting cast's performance looked a lot better. Howard led the non-Big-Three with five points. Anthony played great late defense on Garnett. And Jones had the biggest shot of the game, kicking off that final run.

The Celtics are done, and even though it wasn't the healthiest, most complete version of the Celtics, it feels like a huge accomplishment for this team.

It should also provide quite a confidence boost throughout the rest of the playoffs. Because the Celtics were everyone's bullies. And now it's the Heat that every team left in is probably fearing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Signature win

It was interesting to hear Dwyane Wade and LeBron James talk after the game about how big a game it was for them, and how they talked before the game about how important it was to them.

It was interesting because had the Heat lost, you would've heard them say that the series was just tied and that it was still in their hands because they had homecourt advantage. But you could tell that they really meant what they said Tuesday night, and that this would've been a pretty devastating loss had they gone another game in Boston without winning.

What made this particularly impressive for the Big Three is that they had to essentially do it on their own on the offensive end. No other player even took a shot attempt after the 10 minute mark of the fourth quarter, when Mike Miller missed a three-pointer.

This was a major breakthrough for this group, and Chris Bosh was particularly impressive. All eyes were on him after his poor game and his subsequent words about his emotions getting the best of him.

And he showed up by doing exactly what Wade said he should do, getting involved even when he's not scoring. That tip-in at the end may have been against Ray Allen because a switch had Kevin Garnett defending LeBron, but it was still Bosh being active and finding a way.

Wade said Erik Spoelstra said before the game that the team needed 12 rebounds from Bosh. That tip-in gave him 12 rebounds.

And kudos to Joel Anthony for being the primary defender on Garnett and essentially shutting him down. Garnett was 1 of 10 from the field after his huge Game 3.


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