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27 posts from February 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Heat 120, Knicks 115 (Beyond the Box Score)

The Knicks drew first blood.

Dwyane Wade drew last.

Apparently, the taste of Wade's own blood gave him a thirst for revenge. After taking what he believed was a cheap shot elbow from Danilo Gallinari with eight minutes left in the game, Wade took over to spark a 19-0 run that put the Heat on course for its 120-115 victory over the Knicks.

Gallinari's blow caused a gash in Wade's lip that required three stitches to close after the game. Wade came up spitting blood on the court. Then he proceeded to deliver the Heat (31-27) from what was on the verge of becoming an embarrassing loss. Instead, Miami improved to 3-3 since the All-Star break.

Coach Erik Spoelstra said this was the kind of win that could spark the team down the stretch. At the very least, it allowed the Heat to move past its dismal performance from Friday's loss to Atlanta.

Player of the Game: Danilo Gallinari - Credit the Knicks rookie for doing the damage that woke the Heat and brought out the Wade of the 2006 NBA Finals. Wade capped a week in which he simply continued to outdo himself with perhaps his most incredible outing of the season. He scored 24 points in the fourth, matching his own Heat record for points in a quarter, and put together a remarkable stat line: 46 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, four steals and three blocks. He was 16 of 29 from the field and made all 12 of his free throws (a career-best for attempts without a miss).

Surprise, Surprise: Jamario Moon - Made his first start since he was traded to the Heat on Feb. 13. After a performance like that, you have to wonder what in the heck took Spoelstra so long to make the lineup switch. Moon scored a career-high 17 points and added 12 rebounds. He was Shawn Marion, but at a $17 million discount. It would have been a shame had the Heat wasted Moon's energy and inspired play. Before bloodgate, Moon was the most effective player on the court for Miami. Let's just say Miami has found its starting small forward for the playoff push.

Tough Night: Daequan Cook - His search for consistency continues. Cook has been off since he won the three-point shootout championship at All-Star weekend. Maybe that title was bad omen. He has the kind of stroke that gives you confidence he can snap out of it at any time. But he was 1 of 5 from the field (all from three-point range) against the Knicks. He's percentage is hovering around 30 since the break.

Shut 'em Down: Nate Robinson - Had 24 points in the first half, which ties the most scored by a Heat opponent in any half this season. But Robinson, the 5-9 explosive guard, was held to just 1 of 9 shooting in the second half. He couldn't get anything done in the fourth quarter. Credit Mario Chalmers and Jamario Moon for slowing him down after such a hot start.

Stat of the Night: 24 - Kiefer Sutherland couldn't have done 24 any better justice than Wade on this night. Wade was 7 of 11 from the field, made all eight free throws and drilled a pair of three-point daggers in a span of 10 minutes. It tied a franchise record for most points in a quarter.

That Says it All: "I think we need to punch him in his lip every night." - Heat forward Michael Beasley said of Wade.

Next Up: Monday - Cavaliers at Heat, 7:30 p.m. AmericanAirlines Arena 

Atlanta Hawks 91, Miami Heat 83

ATLANTA -- This was a statement game. And the statement the Heat made wasn't what the team wanted. The Heat did not rise to the occasion in a crucial game against the Hawks that could have impact on playoff seeding. The Hawks lead the season series 2-1 and the final regular season match-up is April 14 at Philips Arena. What made this disappointing for the Heat wasn't so much the outcome, but the lack of urgency for the better part of the first three quarters. The Heat trailed by as many as 14 in the second half and cut Atlanta's deficit to four points with 1:16 left in the game. Miami was not really a threat. The Heat continued its string of subpar defensive performances, and if you're keeping track the Heat is 2-3 since the All-Star break.

Player of the Game: Michael Beasley had a team-high 23 points on 10 of 16 shooting. His lay-up with 1:16 cut the Hawks lead to four points, and he had 16 points in the fourth quarter. It's been a while since Beasley had this kind of impact on a game (the last time he had this many points was Jan. 11 against the Lakers). Right now he is the Heat's most consistent option off the bench offensively because Daequan Cook has been erratic.

Surprise, surprise: Udonis Haslem had a double-double 10 points and 11 rebounds on 5 of 10 shooting. He's been slowed by back pain but it didn't show against the Hawks.

Tough night: Jermaine O'Neal had a rough night. He went 3 of 10 from the field with 8 points. He did manage 11 rebounds but played only 4:50 in the fourth quarter and went 0 for 3 from the field. The Heat need more for him. This is not to suggest that he needs to have 20 points and 10 rebounds, but after a good start he was not much of a factor in the second half. He had one point and three rebounds in the second half and did not play the final 3:57.

Lit 'em Up: Al Horford went 8 of 14 and had 21 points and 22 rebounds. He had his way, and many of his points and boards came from effort. "It shows you what a man can do when he comes in with just an incredible effort on the glass, the garbage points," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He made a couple of open shots but everything else seemed like it was just an overwhelming, honest, genuine effort."

Stat of the Night: The Hawks attempted 16 more free throws than the Heat. This was a night that really frustrated the Heat, and at one point Spoelstra pointed out the free-throw disparity to one of the refs. Dwyane Wade attempted just two free throws, and it took until midway through the fourth quarter for him to get to the line.

That Says It All: "If we're going to face this team in the first round of the playoffs, this lets us know how to play them." -Hawks forward Josh Smith

Next Up: Heat vs. New York Knicks, Saturday 7:30 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena 

Friday, February 27, 2009

The return of the headband

While the league imposed a band-aid ban on Dwyane Wade, the Heat lifted its headband ban for Jermaine O'Neal.

O'Neal went through four games without wearing it, following the long-standing Pat Riley rule. Well the Heat needs to get O'Neal going so apparently he gets his wish. O'Neal had said before his Heat debut he felt naked without the headband. In his first Heat game with the headband Friday, he had a rough night, going 3 of 10 from the field. He finished with 8 points and 11 rebounds.

When asked about O'Neal being allowed to wear the headband, coach Erik Spoelstra said: "Pat is old school but new school. We've had a rule in place for a long time. Anybody could wear a head band if you had the guts to go into his office and ask. Jermaine asked and we're progressive now." (Didn't Smush Parker ask to wear a headband last season?)

No reaction from O'Neal, as he declined comment after the game.

The Band-aid Ban (UPDATED)

Hope you got your fix of Dwyane Wade's colorful band-aids, because you won't see him wearing them in games anymore. The NBA banned them. Why?  The league prohibits players from displaying "any identification (promotional or otherwise) during games on their body," league spokesman Tim Frank explained in an e-mail Friday.

Sports_bkn_sixers_heat_5_mi The band-aid went from being something Wade needed to cover the stitches below his left eye to part of his game attire. Even Wade admitted that it had not become a necessity in recent days because his stitches were gone.

Perhaps the league wouldn't have intervened had the band-aid still been needed for medical purposes. Wade sure had fun with it, sporting various designs including an American flag and the words "Wade" and "Flash."

UPDATE: Jermaine O'Neal, who had been banned by the Heat from wearing a headband, is wearing one tonight. The headband ban was a Pat Riley rule. O'Neal had said he felt naked without one but followed the rule for four games. Could Wade's band-aids have played a factor in the Heat allowing O'Neal to wear a headband? I guess we'll find out after the game.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wade: "We Haven't Done Anything Yet..."

Dwyane Wade, sporting his band-aid below his left eye (of course), said during an in-studio TNT visit Thursday that the Heat hasn't "done anything yet until we've solidified ourselves." Of course already doubling last season's win total is an accomplishment but Wade would now like to see the Heat get homecourt advantage in the playoffs. Going into the season the goal was just make the playoffs. Now based on the way the Heat has played and with the Jermaine O'Neal and Jamario Moon trade, Wade said the Heat should be able to get the fourth or fifth seed. Fair enough. Has the Heat exceeded your expectations? Realistically would you consider the fifth seed disappointing?

In case you missed it, here's much of what Wade said:

(On the Heat's season): With the team we have, the young team coming in with very low expectations we've done a pretty decent job up until this point. But we have to do a much better job.

(On whether he's worn out): I'm not worn out, I missed a lot of game the last two years. I've got that to bank on. I'm focused, I'm determined, I've got a great challenge on my hands. As athletes, as competitors you love a challenge. I have a challenge to lead this team.

(On whether getting homecourt advantage in the playoffs was a realistic expectation going into the season): No, early on let's see if we can crack that top 8. We had a very young team...They play a lot minutes for us. Those guys have stepped up and played a great role.

(On his message to the young guys going down the stretch): Every game is going to be a playoff atmosphere. We have 26 games left. We haven't done anything yet until we've solidified ourselves.

(On the best team in the East): Well, you still have to give it to Boston.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dwyane Wade's famous band-aid

By now you must have noticed the colorful, customized band-aids Dwyane Wade has been sporting below his left eye in recent weeks. At first he wore it to cover several stitches, after getting elbowed by Charlotte's Juwan Howard earlier this month. He now wears different band-aids for each game, even though the stitches are out.

It's now become the latest fashion statement at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat's mascot Burnie rocked one Tuesday against the Pistons. The cheerleaders and rapper Lil Wayne, who was sitting courtside, did too.

"I need it but I don't need it, you understand what I'm saying?" Wade said smiling, after Wednesday's practice.

"When the game comes, on my face is still sensitive here," he said, pointing to small scar where the stitches were, "so I need it."

The band-aid has been a hit. He scored a career-high 50 points Sunday while wearing it for part of the game, and Tuesday night with one emblazoned with "Flash" had a career-high 16 assists.

"I like it," Wade said, about what he has been able to accomplish with the band-aid.

He doesn't wear it during practice and joked that whether he wears one in Friday's game in Atlanta would be a "game-time" decision.

"When I first wore it was an ugly band-aid so i had to try to (jazz) it up," Wade said. "It's good. I get a lot of kids and mom asking me where my Band-Aid is when they don't see me with it. I say it's a part of my (game) outfit."

Practice update

*Two days before the huge game against the Atlanta Hawks (4th in the East), Dwyane Wade, Jermaine O'Neal and Udonis Haslem got a breather during part of practice as the rest of the team scrimmaged

*James Jones practiced wearing a protective elastic brace over his right hand and is ready to play coach Erik Spoelstra said. Spoelstra said he shot "lights out" Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Heat 103, Pistons 91 (Beyond the Box Score)

At this rate, the Hawks better be prepared for Dwyane Wade to go on a rebounding tear when the teams meet Friday in Atlanta.

After scoring a career-high 50 points in Sunday's loss at Orlando, Wade mixed it up and dropped a career-high 16 assists to help the Heat blow by the Pistons Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

If anyone in the league still doubts Wade's versatility, he's apparently making it a point to convert any non-believers. Along the way, the Heat regained its balance, with six players scoring in double figures. This was a crucial win for the Heat (30-26), which pulled to within two games of the Hawks for fourth place in the conference standings. Miami also cushioned its lead to two games over Detroit and Philly.

Player of the Game: Dwyane Wade - No explanation necessary. Just consider the numbers: 31 points on 11 of 20 shooting, 16 assists and seven rebounds. Somehow, I think he might be forgiven in Wednesday's film session for those six turnovers he scattered over the course of 42 minutes.

Surprise, Surprise: Daequan Cook - Snapped out of his post All-Star weekend slump with 16 points on 4 of 8 shooting from three-point range. The kid is looking like the reigning NBA 3-Point champion again. And it couldn't have come a second sooner for the Heat's taste. But Cook is going to feel that blow to the abdomen he took midway through the game.

Tough Night: Mario Chalmers - Another in a disturbing line of games in which the rookie point guard barely registered a pulse. He had two points, two assists and five fouls. Chalmers has been in foul trouble for about two months now, it seems. Fortunately, he had Wade that to pick up the slack. But the Heat might have cause to go out and get some help at the position.

Shut 'em Down: Rasheed Wallace - Once one of the most clutch-shooting big men in the game, Wallace is now just fading fast. He was 2 of 7 from the field, with six points and six rebounds. He also missed all three of his 3-point attempts.

Stat of the Night: 39 - That's 39 points off the Heat bench. Cook had 16, Michael Beasley chipped in 11 and Jamario Moon added 12. The trio also contributed 17 boards and two steals.

That Says it All: "It's hard to defend him when he's doing that. We're trying to double-team him, but I guess that didn't work." - Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey on Wade's performance.

Next Up: Friday - Heat at Hawks, 7:30 Philips Arena

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Magic 122, Heat 99 (Beyond the Box Score)

ORLANDO - And the winner for best actor in a high-stakes production that quickly went horribly wrong - Dwyane Wade.

Wade had his way on the the way to a career-high 50-point performance in Sunday's 122-99 loss to the Magic. But it resulted in yet another O-Town beatdown of the Heat. The Magic has won 11 of the past 12 games in the series between intrastate rivals.

This one got away early. It was 27-12 only seven minutes into the first quarter. The only suspense left in this nationally televised game by the fourth was to see if Wade could join Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and MVP candidates to notch 50-point games this season.

Of greater concern for the Heat is its 4-7 mark in its last 11 games. This is a time when the Heat has to turn it up as it heads down the stretch. The schedule doesn't offer any favors for quite a while.

Player of the Game: Dwyane Wade - Debate if you will whether Wade should have gone back into the game with seven minutes left in a blowout, needing only six points to reach 50. How great of a risk was Wade placing himself - or the coaching staff placing him in - by putting him potentially in harm's way? Good thing for the Heat he didn't get hurt. Wade finished 17 of 30 from the field and 14 of 15 from the free-throw line, with five rebounds and five assists in 37 minutes.

Surprise, Surprise: Mark Blount - The Heat was so desperate to find an answer for Dwight Howard that it searched to the end of the bench to find Blount, who had fallen way out of the rotation in recent weeks. But he came in midway through the third and hit a jumper that cut the Heat's deficit to 14. That might have been the only basket a Heat center scored on Howard all night. And that, too, was as close as Miami would get to the rest of the way.

Tough Night: Mario Chalmers - There were many deserving candidates for this distinction. Jermaine O'Neal ( 2 of 10, 2 rebs.) certainly stated his case. So did Udonis Haslem (2 pts., 8 rebs.) But Chalmers, the struggling rookie point guard, had another forgetful effort. He was 1 of 7 from the field and closed with 2 points and 2 assists in 23 minutes. Meanwhile, Orlando's point guards (Rafer Alston/Anthony Johnson) combined for 24 points and 10 assists.

Lit 'em Up: Dwight Howard - Perhaps losing to Nate Robinson in the dunk contest ticked Howard off. He was already having a remarkable season. But he's putting up Playstation-type numbers since returning from the All-Star break. He had 32 points and 17 rebounds and four Heat centers for Sunday dinner.

Stat of the Night: 53.1% - The Magic made 17 of 32 attempts from three-point range. Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and Courtney Lee each made four from beyond the arc.

That Says it All: "If you can't be in a game and (Wade) scores 50, then there are concerns." - Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on the team's blowout loss.

Next Up: Tuesday - Pistons at Heat, 7:30 AmericanAirlines Arena

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Miami Heat 97, Philadelphia 76ers 91

Dwyane Wade said these are the types of games the Heat must win. He's right. In beating one of its closest playoff pursuers, the Heat gained valuable ground in the standings, pulling to 2 1/2 games behind Atlanta for home-court advantage. This was a must-win because the Heat's next three games are: Orlando, Detroit, Atlanta.

The Heat's new players were solid and the team's defense set the tone in the final 22.9 seconds when the Heat held Philly scoreless. Miami went on an 8-0 run during that stretch.

Also worth noting, the Heat has scored at least 50 points in the paint in both games since acquiring O'Neal. This win marked No. 800 in franchise history.

Player of the Game: Jermaine O'Neal had 17 points, 10 rebounds, his first double-double with the Heat. His presence arguably was the difference in this game. Even though he had only one blocked shot, forward Udonis Haslem pointed out that he impacted th game "altering shots and making guys take tough shots when they got in the paint." The Sixers frontline of Samuel Dalembert, Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala combined to shoot 9 for 27. It wasn't just O'Neal that held them in check, but he was a big reason.

Surprise, Surprise: Jamario Moon had a nice game too, scoring 12 points. He played the entire fourth quarter, a sign of the Heat's growing confidence in him. If he's not starting Sunday at Orlando, it probably will happen soon. He was solid defensively and showed off his athleticism. Even Wade acknowledged after the game that Moon should be able to fill the void left by trading Shawn Marion.

Tough night: Mario Chalmers again got into foul trouble, finishing with five and the opposing point guard against finished with 30 points. It wasn't totally Chalmers' fault that Andre Miller went 11 for 21 but this game again showed why the Heat might need a third point guard. Chris Quinn struggled some behind Chalmers, putting more of the burden on Wade. Also Chalmers shot 3 of 8 (1 of 6 from beyond the arc.)

Shut 'em down: Iguodala scored 14 points but the telling stat is that he missed 12 of 16 shots and went 0 of 6 in the fourth quarter. Yahkouba Diawara and Moon did a stellar job defensively.

Stat of the Night: The Heat held the 76ers to 37.1 percent from the field. Marreese Speights and Miller were the only 76ers to shoot at least 50 percent from the field.

That Says It All: "Probably the most important game of our season so far," Haslem said.

Next up: Heat at Orlando Magic, Sunday 5:30 p.m. (ESPN), Amway Arena

James Jones update (UPDATED)

Heat forward James Jones was inactive for Saturday's game against Philadelphia and said he would probably miss Sunday's game in Orlando with a bruised right hand. Yakhouba Diawara got the starting nod at small forward against the 76ers.

Jones said he would not travel to Orlando, so he can get treatment at the Heat's facility.  (UPDATE: Jones is traveling with the team, a team spokesman said after the game, but since Jones still is experiencing swelling and said he couldn't yet shoot, it makes him questionable against the Magic.)

He did not rule out returning for Tuesday's game, but his return seems iffy. He said he would need at least one practice before playing and the Heat is scheduled to be off Monday (following back-to-back games). Jones' hand still is swollen, though it's gone down "significantly" he said. Right now he said he is unable to shoot, or even grip the ball.

He said the tendon in his surgically repaired right wrist is sore too from the collision with Minnesota's Mike Miller. But Jones said the surgeon who repaired the ruptured tendon assured him that it's fine. Jones got injured Wednesday against Minnesota, his first start of the season.

Jones acknowledged that this season continues to be a "uphill battle" for him. He has struggled in 16 games, shooting 30.8 percent from the field, and 21.9 percent from beyond the arc. He said that he's going through "growing pains" still with his wrist but assured that the surgery worked. 

It has been more than four months since he underwent surgery to repair the ruptured tendon and Jones said that two months from now he should regain full flexibility of his wrist. He said that six months is the full recovery period from the surgery (to regain flexibility etc). That means that Jones will be using the rest of the regular season trying to return to form.



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