« March 2006 | Main | May 2006 »

10 posts from April 2006

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Wade-Hinrich "rivalry"

OK, so here's what I see in the whole Wade-Hinrich matchup. Now, I have to stress that this is strictly my perception of what's happening, and it's really impossible to get into Dwyane's head on stuff like this (partially because he's such a popular figure now it's nearly impossible to get a private conversation with him), but I'm usually pretty good at picking up on things like this.

First of all, it goes back to the past two years of playing against the Bulls, where Dwyane has had his struggles, and Hinrich having a good amount to do with that. But Dwyane believes Kirk gets away with some things, including getting hit on the elbow and on his legs as he's shooting, that the referees don't pick up on. That gets pretty annoying after a while, especially when people start talking about how well Hinrich defends you.

So, in Game 2, when the Heat had a big lead and the Bulls were just starting their brief run back into the game, the two of them were jawing at each other back and forth. As Hinrich said, "It got competitive." In fact, for a few possessions there, Dwyane made it into a one-on-one thing, and he rarely falls into that trap.

Then, after Game 3, another game where Dwyane felt like he got very few calls and was frustrated throughout, the two guys crossed paths in the postgame interview room. Now, again, this is strictly my view of what happened, and I could be reading things wrong, but here's what I saw. Luol Deng and Hinrich walked into the room together, just as Dwyane was about to walk out. When Dwyane saw them, he kind of hesitated a second, then kept walking. He walked past Hinrich without saying a word, then had a quick hello for Deng on his way out the door.
I'm pretty sure Hinrich noticed the cold shoulder act and looked back at Deng and smiled after Dwyane left the room.

I thought it was a subtle-but-funny encounter, and it feeds into my theory that Dwyane isn't a big fan of Hinrich's. We'll see if the two get into it in Game 3. I actually think it'll help Dwyane's game if he gets motivated and starts talking trash with Hinrich. He's clearly the better player, so it wouldn't hurt if he decides to show it.

Friday, April 28, 2006

perimeter troubles

That was about as ugly as it could get for the Heat. Not only was Shaq taken out of the game by the Bulls, but by his own teammates. The perimeter players' inability to contain their man left him exposed underneath to pick up bad fouls.

The way the Bulls break down the Heat defense reminds me of how some of the Allan Houston-Latrell Sprewell Knicks used to do it (I believe it was them). They would run the play through and through and force the Heat to make rotation after rotation until someone was either wide open outside or could find his way to the basket.

These Heat players, though, aren't even making the rotations the problem. They're giving up the lane too early, and that does nothing but collapse the defense and create open shots left and right.
It'll be a matter of pride if the Heat's going to be able to recover, defend better and win Game 4 on Sunday.

And my guess is they won't have James Posey, either. His shot on Kirk Hinrich is comparable to the one Ron Artest gave Manu Ginobili and earned Artest a game suspension. It wasn't a forearm, but it was a shot in a game that was out of hand, and the league wants to avoid such cheap shots in those situations.

So I was wrong about the sweep. I also didn't think the perimeter defense could be THAT bad. It was.
Given Antoine Walker's defense on Andres Nocioni, look for Udonis Haslem to take on that responsibility from now on, leaving Walker to deal with Malik Allen. Although, I still wouldn't be surprised if the Bulls start Luol Deng from now on. He looked great.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Two down...

Anybody who said the Bulls couldn't keep shooting as well as they did in Game 1 was pretty much just guessing. And based on Game 2, they guessed wrong. Who knew this Nocioni kid was the right-handed version of Chris Mullin?
I mean, 13 of 15, with most of them pretty decently contested? That's insane. If he and Gordon and Hinrich can ever have big nights at the same time, good night.

At first I wasn't convinced that Dwyane was limited by the calf, but then I realized he wasn't really attacking the basket as aggressively because of his it (only one free throw for the game). He clearly loosened up in the second half (those blocks were incredible), but couldn't do everything he usually does. And, yes, it's still just a cramp.
Anybody who says a cramp can't last for more than a day doesn't know how a severe cramp can make the muscle remain tight and sore, which makes it harder to move on.

Anybody notice Dwyane and Hinrich jawing at each other in the fourth quarter? I didn't think Kirk would get into that stuff, but they were yapping for a few possessions. Two of those included possessions where Dwyane pulled up for jumpers relatively early in the shot clock despite the big lead. I think he would've taken one of those back if he had the chance. Hope the jawing continues. I love that stuff.
Thought Posey played great, making up for UD's defense.

Games in Chicago should be a lot tougher, but I think the Heat will be able to stay close, leaving the outcomes to be decided in the final minute or so.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


... both of myself, and then the Heat and Bulls.

If anybody heard me on the 790 The Ticket on Sunday just before 8 p.m. (what are the chances?), you might have heard me say that Udonis Haslem personally apologized to Joey Crawford for the mouthpiece throwing thing. He actually just tried to but didn't, only managing to apologize through the media. My bad.

Anyway, here are a few differences you'll see in Game 3, first for the Bulls.
--I think you'll see more of Luol Deng. The small forward wasn't anything special in his 22 minutes Saturday, but he had a nice game against Miami on April 16 (26 points on 17 shots).  And he has the size to shoot over people, which Hinrich and Gordon can't do regularly.
--Gordon's going to have to have another huge game before the Heat really start keying in on him defensively, because he's pretty streaky and isn't the kind of guy you run special defenses against.
--Somebody other than Nocioni is going to have to rebound. He had 16 of Chicago's 40 rebounds, and the Heat will be zeroing in on keeping him off the boards.

For the Heat,
--Jason Williams got to the foul line a few times when he attacked, so he'll probably be more confident against either Hinrich, Gordon or Duhon and look to get to the rim more often.
--The only difference between Antoine Walker's game Saturday and his last handful in the regular season is the shots didn't fall. He took mostly good shots, especially the three-pointers, and they just didn't fall. If a couple more of those drop this next game, he'll be looking at a pretty nice line.
--If Udonis doesn't play, it won't be the end of the world because it'll give the Heat a chance to put a quicker small forward on Nocioni, who is currently guarded by Walker, and let Walker hang with a less mobile Malik Allen. Depth will be a problem, though, so either Wayne Simien will have to play tough and mix it up inside or you'll see a lot of Shandon Anderson at both forward spots.

Hurling mouthpieces

...I'm gonna stick to my guns here (even though I don't really know what that means or where the phrase originated) and say Heat in a sweep. The Bulls hit 13 threes, more than any Heat opponent ever, which is where the Heat will concentrate its defensive efforts from now on...

...I just saw the replay closely (on a TV bigger than those tiny monitors we get courtside at the game) of the Udonis mouthpiece toss. Initially I thought there was no doubt he threw it at Joey Crawford, but if you look at his arm, he's throwing it at the floor. And if you look at the mouthpiece, it definitely hits the floor right in front of him. He must have one of those mouthpieces made out of super-ball rubber or something, because it bounced pretty far, and that mught just cost him a one-game suspension.
I also was told about the commentators on the broadcast saying UD should get more than one game. I think those guys don't realize how much of an influence they have on these types of decisions. They sort of set the public opinion, and Stu Jackson kind of responds from there. And that's unfair to do based on the fact they are making instant judgments based on what they saw...

...Did anybody else notice Shaq getting on Antoine Walker early, basically telling him to get his game going because they need him? As if Shaq didn't put enough pressure on Antoine by saying he's the key to the championship, apparently he's going to tell it to his face on the court. Should be interesting to see how Antoine responds to that kind of leadership...

...When you watch Game 2, watch Chris Duhon and count how many times he flops, even on the most meaningless plays (sounds like a drinking game to me)...

...Shaq looks good, motivated and mobile enough to avoid some of those silly charging fouls he got called for a lot in the regular season. We'll see if that holds up...

...Dwyane gets frustrated when the Bulls guys nudge him or buzz him on the elbow when he's shooting, which results in his poor shooting percentage against them. But he might just need to go faster, harder, earlier on when attacking the Bulls (it's what he did in the fourth quarter) and then he'll get his usual shots at the basket, or get fouled more obviously...

Thursday, April 20, 2006


So, the Bulls. What does that do for you?
I think there are a few things to look at. First, it's tough to be a perimeter-oriented team like the Bulls and win in the playoffs. And, yes, the Heat has struggled guarding the perimeter this season, but the defense will be consistently better in the playoffs, because it just always works that way. And besides, even with that questionable defense on the perimeter, the Heat won the only two games it played against the Bulls that mattered.

The Bulls are as good as any team in the league at taking away Dwyane Wade. And if they manage to slow Shaq, too, then Jason Williams becomes huge on the pick-and-rolls, attacking the basket and finding his open guys. Antoine Walker should also be important, but not necessarily scoring, because the Bulls will collapse on him, too, if he gets close to the basket.

Here's how I see it playing out: Heat get a big game from Wade in the opener because, let's face it, all he's going to hear for the next two days is how the Bulls and Kirk Hinrich shut him down, and he's going to want to explode. After that, it'll be close games in which the Heat will need a dominant Shaq and then help from various sources.
The Bulls will play their usual multiple pick-and-rolls and find their share of open guys, but unless Ben Gordon goes nuts on his own, I can't see Chicago's offense being very consistent.

I know the Bulls are hot and all, but I'm going to predict a Heat sweep. I just don't see putting it together for a complete game against a Heat team that's in full, slavering playoff mode. And the Bulls defensive style will actually be good preparation should the Heat take on the Pistons two rounds later.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Antoine's attitude

I don't think this season could be ending any better for Antoine Walker. After a season of sitting on the edges and waiting to be included, he has taken a more aggressive approach, which makes him a better player. Say what you will about Walker's ugly misses, when he's playing like a guy who's relied upon, rather than a guy who's hoping not to mess up, he's capable of having that huge impact everybody's been hoping for all season.
The reason the timing is important is (warning, cliche approaching) Antoine has his swagger back. It sounds cheesy, but it's important for a guy like Antoine. And with that confidence and aggressive approach, maybe he'll even get to the foul line more often. It's kind of hard to believe how few free throws he attempts -- just 1.6 a game. Just compare that to other sixth men, or players from potential first-round playoff opponents in a similar role to Walker, and it's clear he should be getting to the line more.

Antoine Walker, 1.6 FT attempts
Maurice Williams, 2.0
Austin Croshere, 2.1
Fred Jones, 2.4
Mike Miller, 2.9
Andres Nocioni, 2.9
Shareef Abdur-Rahim, 3.9
Antonio Daniels, 4.2
Matt Harpring, 4.4

I guess we'll see if 'Toine can carry his new style of play into the playoffs.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Fresh perspective

I know he's new to the whole Heat-Pistons thing, but I thought Derek Anderson had great things to say about the Heat's troublesome patterns against the Pistons.
Here's what he told me about whether or not Thursday's game meant something, if you didn't read it in the paper:


“Yeah, it means a lot. It means a whole heck of a lot. Especially when you’re trying to win and you can’t beat a team that knows how to beat you when it’s time. You don’t just click it on and say, ‘Yeah, we can beat you when we want to.’ You’ve got to find a way of beating people and you have to change things.
“A friend of mine told me one thing: If nothing changes, nothing changes. And it’s obvious something hasn’t changed yet.
“There’s got to be something else changing. I don’t know, from a coaching standpoint, what he would like to do. I can’t justify what I think is right either. But something has to be different when these guys continually beat us.”

Now, he didn't say as much, but it's pretty clear  that a complementary player like Anderson doesn't feel like he's a threat out there, which allows for the Pistons to defend Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal a lot easier. A lot of that falls on Pat Riley, who has often been criticized for running a predictable offense. The same thing could be said about Antoine Walker. I know a lot of fans don't like Antoine, but the Heat has him, so they might as well utilize him. And it's really not good enough to just make Antoine a spot-up shooter or the guy you run one single post-up play for when Dwyane's gone cold and Shaq's on the bench.
Riley has already said he's not going to "reinvent the wheel" when it comes to the Heat's offense. But he's going to have to put some air in that thing because right now it's pretty flat. And like Derek said, when it comes to the Heat playing the Pistons, if nothing changes, nothing's going to change.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Falling apart

Clearly Pat Riley sold his soul to the devil to win those championships in Los Angeles because he has had absolutely NO luck since then. From Doc Rivers being hurt for the 1994 playoffs and John Starks going 1-for-infiniti against the Rockets in Game 7 of the Finals, to Tim Hardaway's constant injuries in the playoffs to the Knicks getting lucky bounces in winner-take-all playoff games to Zo getting a kidney disease in his prime to last year's injuries to Shaq and Dwyane in the playoffs (he's not even lucky when he's just a team president), it has just been one thing after the other.

Well, here it goes again. First it was Mourning's calf injury. Then James Posey and Jason Williams miss games with usage injuries. Then we learn today that Jason Williams is going to shut it down until the playoffs, in hopes that it helps him stay healthy for the playoffs (they're basically crossing their fingers), and Udonis Haslem even has a partially separated left shoulder, which he plans on playing through, but who knows how it could affect him.
I know there are still a couple weeks before the playoffs, but none of these things can help the team prepare for the games that really matter.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Confident? Scared?

What kind of feelings do you have with the playoffs coming up (FYI, I'll be blogging a lot more often now that the postseason is real close... the past month has just been too repetitive)?
I know, the Nets scare the crap out of you.
I would agree, but here's my theory on that. I think, first of all, the Heat would be better off facing Indiana in the first round because the team would be better off being tested as often as possible, and Indiana can do that early.
Then, in the second round, the Nets can take the Heat to seven games in a series that neither team wins a game on the road.
Both those series against a pair of good defensive teams would prepare the Heat for the Pistons way better than waltzes past the Bucks and Wizards would.

Now to more specific concerns right now:
Big Dee, I hear you about Gary. He's not the old GP because the rules don't really allow it. But I think, like Dwyane, he turns on the defense late in the game in desperate situations. I think both those guards can play better defense early in games. And who knows, maybe you'll see that in the playoffs. Part of the problem with Gary, though, is Riley is asking him to guard bigger guys like Vince Carter or LeBron on occassion. I think that's asking too much for a guy who plays defense with his feet, not with his length or athleticism. He can't get up to bother any of those guys' shots.
Defense on those guys has to be up Posey, the Andersons and Dwyane.

I like what I saw against the Bucks, with the Heat running and moving the ball, which puts guys like Antoine in position to shoot 6 of 7 from the field.
But that starts with defense. You can't run when taking the ball out of the net. So what you should look for Thursday against Detroit is not necessarily how the Heat responds to the Detroit defense, but how the Heat defends the Pistons. If they get stops, then the Pistons won't be able to trap Dwyane or deny him the ball.

Good to see Derek Anderson hitting some shots. He had been shooting 25 percent in 14 games with the Heat before a nice night against the Bucks... Jason Williams missing some time isn't the worst thing in the world because he gets back in the mix relatively smoothly no matter how much time he misses... Look for the Pistons, particularly Rasheed Wallace, to be angry Thursday, their first game since the one-game Rasheed suspension for technical fouls... And last, anybody think the Cavs, with Larry Hughes back, could beat the Pistons in the second round? LeBron is playing sick basketball right now.



Powered by TypePad