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19 posts from November 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

LA Clippers 97, Miami Heat 96 (Beyond the Box Score)

LOS ANGELES—The Heat lost 97-96 to the hapless Clippers Saturday night at the Staples Center. There’s plenty for the Heat to ponder following this loss. The most painful part was what unfolded with 7.2 seconds left. The Heat trailed by 1 point, Dwyane Wade stole the ball from Clippers point guard Baron Davis, who was trying to make a desperation pass to avoid receiving a five-second violation on the inbound. As Wade tried to throw the ball upcourt, where Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and Shawn Marion were wide open and in position to catch a pass and get a dunk for the win, he wound up out of bounds and collided with referee Courtney Kirkland. As a result Kirkland inadvertently blew his whistle, stopping the play.

             Wade clearly was inbounds as he made the pass after the steal. At first it seemed like the officials had ruled that Wade was out of bounds. The Heat was given possession but by then the Heat’s golden opportunity was gone.

            The Clippers had a foul to give and rookie Mike Taylor fouled Wade with 2.9 seconds left in the game. Rookie Mario Chalmers in bounded the ball and Wade fired a 27-foot shot with Marcus Camby in his face, but Wade’s shot fell short.

            This game will be remembered for the controversial end, but several other factors contributed to the Heat’s loss.

Player of the Game:  Dwyane Wade scored 26 points and if not for his late heroics to help erase an eight-point deficit with 1:24 left this game would not have been as close. Wade again provided a highlight reel of dunks and continued sinking jumpers and even three-pointers (he was 2 of 7). On the night, he shot 12 of 21. He also had a season-high 11 assists. Overall a solid follow-up performance for Wade, a night after scoring a season-high 43 points.

Surprise, surprise: Rookie Michael Beasley provided a spark off the bench, scoring 24 points (one shy of his career high) in 27 minutes. He had 17 points in the second quarter. He shot 10 of 16, including converting a career-high 3 of 4 three-pointers. Beasley started the game 0 of 3 from the field, making him 0 for 8 including his Friday performance but then he was on fire. Beasley had five rebounds, but Wade seemed upset with Beasley’s late game-defense. After Clippers forward Zach Randolph hit a three-point that gave LA a 90-86 lead with 3:56 left, Wade got in Beasley’s ear. Beasley’s body language indicated that he felt like had done what he could.

Tough night: Shawn Marion had a team-high turnovers and overall an off night. Did he leave all his energy in Phoenix? On Friday, Marion played his first game against his former team the Suns, scoring 10 points, and adding nine rebounds and six assists. He was 1 of 6 from the field and finished with five points thanks to hitting three free throws. Marion had nine rebounds but that didn’t negate the obvious: He missed several shots near the basket, including at least one dunk. 

Light em’ Up: It’s a toss up between the Clippers’ Randolph and former FSU standout Al Thornton. Both finished with 27 points and accounted for 20 of LA’s 29 fourth quarter points.

Stat of the Night: LA attempted 35 free throws, compared to the Heat’s 11. That easily could have been the difference in the game. The Clippers managed to miss 12 free throws, but still the Heat didn’t get to the line enough and had the Heat been in the bonus in the fourth quarter, Mike Taylor’s foul of Wade with 2.9 seconds would have sent him to the line. Wade had an impressive game so it’s hard to pick on him but when his game features mostly jumpers and dunks he doesn’t get to the line as much. He attempted two free throws Saturday, and when Wade isn’t getting to the line the Heat has few other players capable of drawing a lot of fouls.

That says it all: “We won the game, they took it from us.” –Wade’s reaction to what unfolded with about seven seconds left.

Next up: Heat at Golden State Warriors Monday, 10:30 p.m.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Miami Heat 107, Phoenix Suns 92 (Beyond the Box Score)

PHOENIX--Facing Shaq for the first time since being traded wound up being more of a footnote than the main attraction. The Heat stole the show. From start to finish the Heat dominated and 15-2 first quarter run allowed Miami to seize control of the game. The Heat climbed back to .500 (8-8) and this victory should not be understated. This was big. The Heat lost by 38 points Wednesday to open its five-game West Coast road trip. Erik Spoelstra put players through an intense Thanksgiving Day practice in Phoenix and his team responded against Phoenix. Yes, the Suns played without their MVP Steve Nash, and the Heat took advantage. The Heat has played without Shawn Marion three times this season and no he's not the floor general but the point is that Miami did what a good team would--take advantage.

Dwyane Wade led the way again but he got support from the rest of the starters. This was one of the Heat's most complete wins of the season and a good sign that the team is capable of bouncing back. Spoelstra and his staff came up with an excellent plan to contain Shaq and Amar'e Stoudemire and the Heat's defense prevented the Suns from making a run that truly made this a game. Shawn Marion provided sound defense in his first game against his former team and finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.

Player of the game: Dwyane Wade had another performance that left you saying, "There's nothing more he could have done." He scored a season-high 43 points, hitting 15 of 24 from the field and he had six assists, one block and one steal. Wade managed to find a way to outdo himself in this nationally televised game. For only the second time in his career, Wade scored at least 20 points in both halves.

Wade was in the zone and nothing could stop him. In the first half he slipped twice on what appeared to be Shaq's sweat, from the spot the Big Fella had been standing in defensively. This was a physical game for Wade will several spills and it is worth watching how he feels Saturday against the Clippers. No major cause for concern, but probably some bumps and bruises.

Surprise, surprise: The Heat's new look starting lineup that saw Joel Anthony at center, Udonis Haslem at power forward worked. Don't expect this lineup to become the norm. Spoelstra said that the Heat has struggled early in games where they had faced "size" up front so he decided to give Miami more by using the 6-9 Anthony (whose wingspan is about 7-4). The box score said Anthony had five points, two steals, two assists and three rebounds but those numbers don't tell the story of his contributions. He provided a noticeable post presence against O'Neal and his energy was solid in his 27 minutes. Anthony had ice on his left elbow after the game but he said it was no cause for concern, just so wear and tear from the game. The second-year kid deserves big kudos in the second start of his career. He did exactly what the Heat asked.

Tough night: Rookie forward Michael Beasley had the first scoreless game of his career, playing 13 minutes as a reserve and shooting 0 for 5. But he had five rebounds and at 19 he seems to be handling the highs and lows of his rookie season about as well as you could want. He said all the right things after the game about how he had no problem coming off the bench and just was happy the team was winning. This was not a case of a player just saying what you might want to hear. He meant it. Beasley knows that until his defense improves his playing time is likely to fluctuate.

Light em' Up: Second-year guard Daequan Cook broke out of his shooting slump (in his previous four games he was 5 for 25) and provided a spark off the bench, going 6 of 11 with 15 points. He also played sound defense. Cook hit several impressive jumpers and on a night that the Heat bench struggled offensively he was a difference-maker. Center Jamaal Magloire (making his season debut), Beasley, Yakhouba Diawara and Chris Quinn combined to shoot 1 of 13.

Stat of the night: The Heat forced 19 turnovers that led to 21 points, and when the Heat's defense is helping generating its offense the team usually has a good game.

Next up: Heat at Los Angeles Clippers, Saturday 10:30 p.m., Staples Center

Friday, November 28, 2008

Miami Heat vs. Shaquille O'Neal Part I

Emptying my notebook before the Miami vs. Phoenix game Friday on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, the first of two regular season meetings between the teams. This is the first time Shaquille O'Neal and Shawn Marion are facing their former teams. The game at U.S. Airways Center comes nearly 10 months since the blockbuster trade sent Marion and guard Marcus Banks to Miami and O'Neal to Phoenix.

Steve Kerr, Phoenix Suns general manager:

(on how the trade for Shaq has worked out for the Suns): "Shaq has been great for us. He came into this season in great shape, he’s playing better than he has in years. We’ve been thrilled. He’s been a great teammate, he’s done everything we’ve asked of him."

(why Shaq is playing better than he has in the past few years): "Well he’s definitely in better shape a year ago when we got him. We’re definitely going to him more. Last year he played well but we didn’t go to him a whole lot in the post. He did a good job of adapting to our style. Now we’re trying to forge a new style and he’s trying to help us with that."

ESPN analyst Jon Barry, who is on the broadcast team calling Friday's game:

(on whether the trade has worked out better for Phoenix or Miami):  "Well, can we say neither? Obviously Phoenix rolled the dice bringing Shaq in to an up-tempo team and they had to change the way they played. Losing in the first round (last year) obviously you wouldn't say it was a success.

     "On the Miami side Marion was banged up a little bit, and this is a team that doesn’t have all the pieces it needs to be a contender in the Eastern Conference. Certainly lack of size is a problem. I think Shawn Marion is a good compliment to Dwyane Wade and very capable player. I don’t think the team is where it needs to be for the future. A lot of moves need to happen."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Portland Trail Blazers 106, Miami Heat 68 (Beyond the Box Score)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- So much for a happy ending to first-year Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's homecoming. He went to Trail Blazers game as a child, as his father was a team executive, and Spoelstra played point guard at the University of Portland. The Trail Blazers dominated from start to finish. The Heat sorely missed forward Shawn Marion, who was attending a family funeral, but is scheduled to rejoin the team in Phoenix for practice Thursday.

Player of the Game: It's hard to pick one in the Heat's worst game of the season but based purely on stats forward Michael Beasley had the best offensive night with a team-high 14 points.

Surprise, Surprise: There were several. Center Mark Blount played for the first time since Nov. 19 and finished with 7 points, two rebounds and a blocked shot in 23 minutes. With Udonis Haslem starting at center and Joel Anthony moving into the backup role lately Blount has been the odd man out. Honorable mentions go to guard Marcus Banks, who played for the first time since Nov. 14 and in his fifth game this season. Banks shot 5 of 6 for 11 points and Shaun Livingston played his first game since the Heat's home opener Oct. 31. Livingston played 7 minutes and was 1 of 2 from the field with two points.

Tough Night: Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade both had rough nights. Wade had a season-low 12 points on 5 of 14 shooting and Haslem was 2 of 9 and had 6 points. For Haslem it continued his recent shooting struggles as he is 11 of 35 in his past four games.

Light em' Up: Portland forwards LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 points on 7 of 10 shooting and rookie Nicolas Batum had a career-high 15 points on 6 of 9 shooting.

Next up: Heat at Phoenix Suns, 8 p.m. (ESPN).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rockets 107, Heat 98

It wasn't a fair fight.

Udonis Haslem has been asked to handle many tasks during his career as an undersized power forward. But it was simply too much to expect Haslem, now playing as a super-undersized center at 6-8, to contain Yao Ming - even with ample help.

As expected, Yao dominant ed the matchup against the Heat front line, going for 28 points and 11 rebounds in the Rockets' 107-98 victory against the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The combination of Haslem being unfairly overmatched and Dwyane Wade not having one of his better nights with Ron Artest on the prowl made for a tough night for the Heat, which has alternated wins and losses over the past 10 games. Miami carries a 7-7 record on its five-game Western Conference road trip that begins Wednesday in Portland.

We move beyond the box score.

Player of the Game: Mario Chalmers - The rookie point guard has been on an up-and-down cycle throughout the opening month of the season. There was an upswing Monday night. Chalmers scored a career-high 23 points on 5 of 10 shooting from three-point range. He also six assists, four rebounds and four steals in 37 minutes. But Chalmers seemed to have problems keeping up with Rafer Alston in the fourth quarter. He was beaten badly on one of Alston's late drives that led to a three-point play.

Surprise, Surprise: Yakhouba Diawara - Had a season-high 12 off the bench for the Heat. Diawara, who was signed in the offseason for his defense and three-point shooting, provided a decent spark. But these type of performances have been few and far between so far this season. If he can keep this going - at least until James Jones returns from wrist surgery - it would be a boost for the Heat.

Tough Night: Udonis Haslem - Haslem had a season-low two points to go with seven rebounds in 23 minutes. He was 1 of 5 from the field. But his offense was the least of his problems. Haslem was giving up nearly a foot in size to Yao Ming. It was the league's tallest center going against the smallest. And it was a mismatch from jump ball. Still, Haslem had some fight. He never backed down.

Lit 'em up: Yao Ming - The Ming Dynasty ruled in Miami. He had 28 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. But Yao was just as effective as a facilitator on offense. The Rockets made many of their 10 three-pointers off feeds from Yao as a result of an effective inside-outside game.

Stat of the Night: 52.6 - That's what the Rockets shot from three-point range against the Heat. They were 10 of 19 from beyond the arc.

That Says it All: "He had an awful night. He didn't play like I'm used to seeing him play. I guess it had a lot to do with the back line. I guess I'm one of the better defenders. If I'm on him, I have a better chance than some other guys. It was a great team effort." - Rockets forward Ron Artest on Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who missed 16 of his 23 shots and had 5 turnovers.

Next Up: Heat at Portland Trail Blazers, 10 p.m. Wednesday, Rose Garden

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Heat 109, Pacers 100 (Beyond the Box Score)

Here's a suggestion. Maybe the Miami Heat should just skip the first half of games completely and then start playing in the second half.

Either these guys are the kings of comebacks or the superiors of slow starts. The good news is that Erik  Spoelstra is the league's youngest coach at age 38, and can handle the heart-wrenching roller-coaster this team has become on a nightly basis.

The Heat left its fans as exhausted as they were exuberant in Saturday's 109-100 come-from-behind Heatpacers_3 victory over the Pacers at AmericanAirlines Arena.

There was superior late-game defense.

There was a bounce-back performance from recently-struggling rookie Michael Beasley and there was heart, hustle and inspired play from the supporting cast.

Most of all, there was D. Wade when the team needed him most.

We move beyond the box score.

Player of the Game: Shawn Marion - Wade would like to donate this night's award to Shawn Marion, who is slowly getting back to his Mr. Matrix ways. Marion posted his second consecutive breakout performance with 18 points, 9 boards, 6 steals and 4 assists in 43 minutes. Still checking to see if there was anything he didn't get done on the court Saturday night. This comes on the heels of Marion's 20-point, 14-rebound outing in Wednesday's loss to the Raptors.

Surprise, Surprise: Michael Beasley - No need to have your eyes checked first thing Monday morning. Yes, that was MB-Easy you saw on the court in the fourth quarter. The same rookie forward, and second overall draft pick, who had been relegated to the bench because of foul trouble and defensive lapses the previous two games, when Beasley didn't even touch the court in the fourth. This night was different. His offense was on, so he was motivated to play defense and stay on the court. Beasley scored 10 points in the pivotal third quarter, when Miami outscored the Pacers 31-19 to get back into the game.

Tough Night: Daequan Cook - Went 0 of 4 from the field and finished with only 2 points and 4 fouls. This was a tough matchup for Cook, who had trouble off the bench keeping up with the active, slashing Marquis Daniels, who had a team-high 25 points. Overall, the Heat's bench did provide 15 points.

Shut 'em Down: Danny Granger - Scored only 8 of his 23 points in the second half. A fourth quarter ankle injury disrupted his rhythm, and it couldn't have come at a worse time for the Pacers. Granger tried to come back. But by then, the Heat was swarming on defense and Wade was just getting warmed up en route to a 14-point fourth quarter.

Stat of the Night: 21 and 21 (Blackjack). The Heat scored 21 points off 21 Indiana turnovers. It was the fifth time in 13 games the Heat has forced at least 20 turnovers.

That Says it All: "We guarded a lot better in the second half than we did early. We put more pressure on them and really made the feel us when the game was on the line." - Heat forward Shawn Marion, on the team's second-half defense against the Pacers.

Next Up: Houston Rockets at Miami Heat, 7:30 p.m. Monday, AmericanAirlines Arena

Friday, November 21, 2008

Breaking Down, Building Up

Forget, for a second, about the fame and fortune that come with being the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.

Dismiss, for a moment, the care-free nature and playful demeanor that define him.

Put aside, if you will, the fact that the future of the franchise rests partly on his 19-year-old shoulders.

The simple reality is this: It just ain't easy being Beasley. Beasleypractice

That's the message Heat rookie forward Michael Beasley was trying to get across after Friday's practice at AmericanAirlines Arena. And it's a humbling process for a man-child who owned the college basketball world last season as the most productive player in the nation.

But things have since changed drastically for Beasley.

Never before has Beasley been expected to play - I mean really play - defense. Never before has he grasped the proper technique required to draw an offensive foul. And, as a result, never before has he had the best seat in the house - while in uniform - during crunch time in basketball games.

But here Beasley stands. Or sits, depending on the view. Beasley has seen his playing time dip to near Mark Blount levels the past two games. Early foul trouble and late defensive lapses were the cause.

After meeting with Beasley before Friday's practice, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the rookie forward responded with one of his better workouts and seems more focused, that he wants to do better.

"He's not out of the rotation," Spoelstra deadpanned.

Beasley has a diverse arsenal of offensive moves. But he's defensively deficient. And he knows it. He's also accountable and humble, at least publicly. And he showed that side of himself Friday.

"It's hard, man, especially with me being so young and new to the league," Beasley said. "I've already played 12 games. Last year, in college, (the) 12th game came in January. You can have all of the physical attributes. But if you don't have it up there (pointing to his head), it doesn't really mean anything."

Of course, Beasley was being a bit too hard on himself. And Spoelstra, who demands accountability, appreciated every minute of it. But Spoelstra also knows that this is a fragile situation, which is why he was careful to point out just how far Beasley has come defensively since he arrived in the summer.

Still, that only tells you just how bad, really, Beasley's defensive fundamentals were. Keeping up with the power forward at Baylor in the Big 12 is a lot different than guarding the one in the NBA at Boston.

So much attention has been paid to Beasley's defensive struggles that he's become a target of opposing teams, who have simplified their sets to simply getting the ball to whoever Beasley is guarding.

"I think so," Beasley said, when asked if he believes he's being picked on. "But other rookies before me and other rookies now are getting the same treatment."

But that won't last too much longer, Beasley insists. He'll learn faster. He'll be more hungry. He'll grasp - and execute - the team defensive concepts.

Beasley better, for his sake.

Because it should be obvious from Beasley's view on the bench late in games that Spoelstra has quickly run out of places to hide him on the court.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Michael Beasley's growing pains

It's to be expected that forward Michael Beasley would have an up-and-down rookie season. The Beasleyfouls20_heat_1st_spt_3 biggest challenges for him are defense and avoiding foul trouble. He picked up three early fouls in Wednesday's loss to Toronto and wound up playing a career-low 12 minutes. (Pictured left: Beasley's reaction after picking up his second foul 72 seconds into Wednesday's game). The night before he played 16 minutes and scored a career-low 6 points in the Heat's win against the Wizards.

There's no reason to skewer the kid. He's 19 years old and certainly will improve this season. No matter how he has performed he has willing to answer questions pre- and post-game and seems to be taking the highs and lows with stride. Through 12 games he is averaging 14.7 points and 5.5 rebounds. In the last five games his playing time has decreased to 24.2 minutes a game, while fellow rookie, point guard Mario Chalmers, is averaging 28.6 minutes in that span.

What are you thoughts on Beasley's performance so far this season?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Toronto Raptors 101-Miami Heat 95 (Beyond the Box score)

The Miami Heat nearly overcame two double-digit deficits for a stirring comeback, but instead the Heat fell to the Toronto Raptors for the second time in as many days. The Heat (6-6) struggled with Toronto's inside-out game. Even after the game, Dwyane Wade commended Toronto's front office for constructing a well-rounded team. The Heat had to deal with a front line of Jermaine O'Neal, Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani. At 7-feet, Bargnani played small forward and the Raptors' guards Anthony Parker and Jose Calderon also were effective.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Dwyane Wade had a season-high 40 points, and added 11 assists and a career-high blocked shots. On the game he was 16 of 30 from the field. He had 25 second-half points and a highlight reel of dunks and jumpers. He also was sound defensively and had an MVP-type night. After Wade received his first technical foul of the season, a flagrant foul with 1:35 left in the third quarter, he went on a tear. He said he was "mad" because he's not that kind of player. Shawn Marion deserves at least an honorable mention. He had 20 points and 14 rebounds and a solid game.

TOUGH NIGHT: Rookie Michael Beasley played a career-low 12 minutes. He got into early foul trouble, picking up two fouls within the first 72 seconds of the game and picked up his third with 8:27 left in the second quarter. He finished with seven points on 3 of 6 shooting, four rebounds and two turnovers. The shots he hit looked good but the combination of his foul trouble and shaky defense were reason enough for coach Erik Spoelstra to keep him on the bench down the stretch. Udonis Haslem had a tough night defensively, converting only 1 of 8 from the field but he had 10 rebounds.

SHUT' EM DOWN: Holding Chris Bosh to 15 points on 7 of 17 shooting might count as containing him, considering he had averaged 32.3 points on 63.3 percent shooting (31 for 49) in his past three games (entering Wednesday).

STAT OF THE NIGHT: Toronto hit 8 of 8 three-pointers in the second half and 9 of 13 on the game (69.2 percent.

THAT SAYS IT ALL: "We're going to build on this," Spoelstra said. The guys' spirits are going to be fine."

NEXT UP: The Heat hosts the Indiana Pacers Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

James Jones injury update

Heat forward James Jones said before Wednesday's game against the Toronto Raptors that he had the cast on his right wrist taken off and he can begin dribbling and shooting drills. He said he hopes to return in about a month, which would put him at the short end of the projected 8-12 week timetable. Jones underwent wrist surgery nearly five weeks ago. to repair a ruptured tendon.

"I'm pain free," Jones said. "This is the first time I've been pain free shooting in like three months. For me it's a weight off my shoulders."

Jones said he will have his wrist taped and wear a brace as he works his way back. He said once he gets to a point where he needs neither, he is probably a week away from playing in a game. He has not been cleared for contact, but said being able to shoot is a huge step.

Jones said his wrist began hurting after his hand got caught between players during a pickup game in late July at Cooper City High.



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