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18 posts from December 2009

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Postgame Breakdown: Spurs 108, Heat 78

SAN ANTONIO -The Heat ended 2009 the same way it started the year. And that wasn't a good thing.Heat Spurs Duncan

Far from it, actually. After opening the year with a double-digit loss to Orlando on Jan. 2, the Heat closed out the year with its worst loss of the season in a 108-78 setback against the Spurs.

Remember that stretch of good play that resulted in a 5-1 run for the Heat? Well, it collapsed. The Heat (16-14) has dropped two in a row on its two-game road trip, with disappointing losses at New Orleans and San Antonio. On Wednesday, the Heat showed some fight in coming back from a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter before falling to the Hornets.

On Thursday, the Heat spent much of the night as a bystander. The Spurs ran away from the Heat in the second quarter and went all Usain Bolt on Miami in the second half. Just like what transpired after the 28-point loss at home to Memphis last month, Spoelstra took an awful long time to emerge from the locker room to meet with the media after this one.

And also just like after that game, he hinted that changes might be on the horizon after he speaks with his players at length to analyze what has gone so wrong so quickly again for the Heat.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: There was nothing productive about Wade's night. He missed 12 of 18 shots from the field and 4 of 5 from three-point range. He also squandered half of his free-throw attempts. And that wasn't even the worst part of his night. He had a season-high seven turnovers, unable to force his way through an opponent's trapping defense. And to top off the night, he tipped the ball into the Spurs basket on a bucket that had to be credited to Tim Duncan. He closed with 16 points in 29 minutes, tossing in the white flag after the third quarter.

TURNING POINT: The Spurs used a 8-0 run to open the third quarter and would outscore the Heat 28-13 to build on their nine-point halftime lead. Balance was the key for San Antonio, with Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all shooting well above 50 percent from the field. The Heat had no answers. And then when Roger Mason and George Hill started to get going, it turned into a rout.

LOSING EDGE: Through three quarters, the Spurs were 18 of 20 from the free-throw line. The Heat was 4 of 8. The attempts sort of evened out at the finish. But this was clearly a case of two things. The Spurs got plenty of calls early and the Heat just wasn't as aggressive.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: It's hard to fathom. But after scoring 20 points in the first 20 minutes of the game, Heat Spurs Beas Michael Beasley might have gotten a bit of the Michael Jordan treatment from that 1985 All-Star Game. Remember the Freeze Out? It's hard to argue against the evidence for a stretch in the second quarter of Thursday's game. After opening 7 of 15 from the field in the best half of his career, Beasley didn't attempt another shot over the final five minutes once Wade re-entered with 5:01 left. Wade, Jermaine O'Neal, Carlos Arroyo and Quentin Richardson shared all eight field goal attempts the rest of the half. Beasley swung the ball to the weak side, rebounded and ran plays. But he didn't shoot, or really get a chance to shoot. This comes just hours after Beasley said he'll take a more selective approach to the advice he accepts from teammates and speak his mind more amid Wednesday's on-court feud with Richardson in the loss at New Orleans. I'm no conspiracy theorist. But you had to scratch your head at how the half played out. San Antonio didn't defend Beasley any differently. I still say it's all coincidence. I think. Right? But file this under Arsenio Hall's category of Things That Make You Go Hmmm. Full disclosure, Wade passed to Beas on the first play of the second half for a missed jumper. So there goes that theory, right?

KEY CONTRIBUTION: It's a shame Beasley's night had to end like this. He honestly had no clue why BEASLEY_MICHAEL things sort of went away from him after this one. But he was 12 of 21 from the field for one of his most productive and efficient efforts of his two-year career. There's gotta be an explanation coming somewhere.

NEXT UP: Bobcats at Heat, Saturday 3:30 AmericanAirlines Arena (Tickets still available)

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Postgame Breakdown: Hornets 95, Heat 91

NEW ORLEANS - Honestly, the Heat probably should have never been in this one at the finish, consideringHornets-West the way things started. Yet still, Miami was right there.

The Heat overcame a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter and led 88-87 with a minute left. But it finished the way it started, and the Hornets avoided a major collapse at home to hold off the Heat 95-91 on Wednesday at New Orleans Arena.

The Heat (16-13) took a slight step back after having won five of its past six games, including three in a row entering the matchup with New Orleans. The Hornets (14-16), meanwhile, remained hot at home, having won their fourth consecutive game at The Hive.

The Heat was at its inconsistent best Wednesday. At times, there was a smooth low-post game flowing through Jermaine O'Neal. There was Carlos Arroyo finding his stroke on the way to 11 points, one off his season high with the Heat. There were clutch shots and on-the-spot plays from Quentin Richardson. There was Beasley banging early with David West.

But there were also uncharacteristic mistakes. Plain, dumb mistakes. Dwyane Wade's turnovers. O'Neal's inability to even jump for the jump-ball to start the game. Players challenging one another and pointing out mistakes on the court. You name it.

Still, there was a chance at the end to pull out a win on the road. It just wasn't meant to be. The Heat essentially played its way out of the game, back in it again, and then out of it at the finish.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Hard to imagine, but Wade only had nine field goal attempts through the first three quarters and didn't find much breathing room until the fourth. Wade finished 7 of 13 from the field, 7 of 10 from the free-throw line, for 22 points. He also had six assists, but matched his season high with six turnovers. There were a few moments of fierce frustration. Wade dug into his team a bit after the game for his supporting cast's inability to consistently capitalize on New Orleans' trapping defense. "We've seen every trap there is," Wade said afterward, before pointing out how his team had "no focus" at times in the game. "We let them play their game," Wade also said. Regardless, six turnovers are six turnovers.

TURNING POINT: There were plenty of those. But the final turn in the final minute made the difference. Chris Paul carved up the Heat's defense with his pick-and-roll execution. He's a wizard with the ball. And he made the Heat look silly in finishing with 18 points and nine assists. Paul split the defense and found David West on the baseline for the jumper that gave New Orleans the lead for good with 53.4 seconds left.

LOSING EDGE: This game was decided on the slimmest of margins. Look at the stats, and it's almost even across the board. Both teams had 78 field goal attempts. Both made 7 threes. Both made 20 free throws. But the Hornets made two more shots than Miami. As Wade also said, "We gave ourselves a chance to win. They just made a few more shots."

HEAD-SCRATCHER: With six minutes left in the third, Beasley and Richardson were jawing at one another Hornets-Beas near the bench while the coaching staff met briefly out on the floor after a timeout. Beasley was replaced less than two minutes later and would only play six seconds in the fourth quarter. Six seconds. Wow. Richardson, Beasley and Jermaine O'Neal each had moments on the court when they were frustrated after West or Emeka Okafor or someone else in a Hornets uniform grabbed an offensive rebound or scored on a back-door cut. But Richardson was animated in the first few seconds of that timeout, and then Beasley appeared to be defending himself. After the game, Beasley acknowledged that the exchange was partly about defensive breakdowns and the other part was to figure out why there were times when "nobody acted like they wanted to play." It was hard to figure out who was right and who was wrong. But the fact that Beasley stepped up and spoke out with pride and emotion was a good step. Coach Erik Spoelstra always talks about healthy controversy.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Arroyo was aggressive. He was 5 of 10 from the field for 11 points in one of hisHornets-Paul better-scoring games of the season. He also had three assists without a turnover. Among his biggest shots were a pair of jumpers in the second half during the Heat's rally from that 16-point deficit. He played 26 minutes and took another big step toward maintaining the starting job on merit. Unfortunately for Arroyo, he also had the assignment of trying to stay in front of Chris Paul. Let's just say that in the fourth quarter second half, CP3 left Arroyo's ankles feeling like jelly. Still, it was a supporting performance from which Arroyo can build.

NEXT UP: Heat at Spurs, 7 p.m. Thursday AT&T Center

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Heat First Trimester Grades

The date Dec. 29 could only mean one thing. Beasley-action

Yes, it's four days after Christmas and three days before the New Year. But it's also been exactly two months (and one day) since the Heat opened its season with that Oct. 28 victory against the New York Knicks. In other words, I should have filed this yesterday. But the methodical drive from New York to Miami hit an extra overnight snag right around Gainesville and required a pit stop.

Still, this officially (or otherwise) brings us to the first trimester of the season. Two months down in the regular season. Four to go. So as the Heat wrapped up practice today in advance of its two-game road trip to New Orleans and San Antonio, Prof. M-Dub couldn't find a better time than now to hand out first trimester grades for the Heat.

In many ways, at 16-12, the Heat is right where it should be, under the circumstances. There isn't quite enough depth and talent on the roster to consistently trade blows with the Big Four in the East (Orlando, Boston, Cleveland, Atlanta). On the other hand, with a healthy Dwyane Wade, there's still enough here to avoid falling too deep into the conference wastelands that exist in the bottom half of the East.

In an effort to provide a truly fair evaluation, these grades are based on how each Heat player has done through the first two months in terms of reaching general expectations and potential. That means Carlos Arroyo's grade might be higher than, say, Jermaine O'Neal's.

But that doesn't mean Arroyo has outperformed O'Neal from an overall team perspective. It simply means, Arroyo has come closer to meeting, or surpassing, what was generally expected of him in this evaluator's humble opinion. So feel free to evaluate the evaluator - or simply chime in with your own studious observations and grades.

Joel Anthony (B+): There have already been a handful of times when Joel - or ZO-el, as we call him on press row, dominated a game on the defensive end. His blocks-per-minutes-played stat makes him one of the most productive shot-blockers in the league. He's even sprinkled in a hook shot, pick-and-roll finish and dunks on lob passes. But the operative word is "sprinkled." Anthony's hands of stone still prevent him from providing heapings of anything on offense. But defensively, he's gone from project to impact player.

Carlos Arroyo (C+): There was a reason Arroyo was available as a free agent well into training camp. He's no longer the flashy, streaky, take-over-a-game point guard. But he's been a productive, steady, veteran option for this team. He doesn't make mistakes and gets the team smoothly into offense. Arroyo still has a great feel for the game and his teammates. Considering he's now starting just two months after the Heat signed him off the Miami playgrounds to a non-guaranteed contract, he's already done more than expected.  

Michael Beasley (B): There are some out there who will give Beas an "A" no matter what he does. But the truth his, the kid is coming around nicely this season after showing flashes last season. Beas still has a few more levels to go before he reaches the peak of his game. That's not a knock on him. That speaks to how much of a star he could be in this league if he continues to develop (and be allowed  to develop). But he is on course to be that "20-10 guy even on a bad night" D. Wade believes he soon will become.

Mario Chalmers (C-): Really, about the only thing Chalmers has shown that's different from his rookie campaign is the ability to lose his starting job. You have to wonder at times why Pat Riley made such a firm public commitment to the kid instead of upgrading the position last summer. Money was a factor. But still. The good news is that Mario can still be a long-term starter. But he's seeing you can't walk into the league and pick up point guard skills on the fly.

Cook Shooting Daequan Cook (D-): The shoulder problems have lingered, the shot isn't falling and he's dropped out of the primary rotation again. Hopefully, he'll come around in the next few weeks to justify defending that Three-Point Shootout championship at All-Star Weekend. This could become another second-guess situation from a previous draft, when Miami took Dorell Wright while Jameer Nelson was on the board. Cook was acquired three drafts ago when a fella by the name of Aaron Brooks was still there to be had.

Yakhouba Diawara (C-): You won't find a nicer, more intelligent, funnier guy in the Heat locker room than Frenchie. But he's not making almost $1 million to be those things. He was brought in to be a three-point shooting, defensive stopper. For whatever reason, he hasn't had done either of those things consistently.

Udonis Haslem (B-): You know what you're going to get from UD year in and year out. Somewhere around 10 points and close to 10 rebounds. That’s both good and bad. You would like to see Haslem follow through on his wish to expand his game, since he always talks about how much he’s had to sacrifice to accept his role with the Heat. He watched Michael Beasley take over the starting power forward role in a move that seems to be paying off for both, even though the staff hasn’t consistently found a way to keep both in the mix at the end of games.

James Jones (D): He was brought in to be the stretch-the-floor, three-point specialist at near mid-level money to complement Dwyane Wade. So either James Jones hasn't truly gotten his chance or the Heat is getting an absurdly low return on its $4.2 million a year investment. Jones hasn't been a factor with this team, despite all of the high praise from coach Erik Spoelstra coming into the season.

Jamaal Magloire (C): When Big Cat plays, he punishes people. He pounds in the paint, and he's a productive rebounder. But the minutes have been sparse for the Heat's resident enforcer. Magloire's biggest accomplishment this season was getting suspended for those two regular-season games for his role in that preseason skirmish with the Pistons.

Jermaine O'Neal (C+): When the offense runs through J.O., good things tend to happen. But the question lingers. Were those 22-point, 12-rebound performances in the first two games just a tease, or a true testament of what should be expected from O'Neal game in and game out? Nagging injuries have rendered his production sporadic. But just when you count him down or out, he bounces back with a big game.

Chris Quinn - I (incomplete): He hasn't played and might not get a chance to do so this season if the Heat decides to keep Arroyo on board beyond the Jan. 6 guarantee date for contracts. Still, a permanent spot on the inactive list is not a bad way to earn a cool million bucks for Quinn.

Quentin Richardson (A): If I've said it once, I've blogged it a dozen times. What essentially was a throw-away trade for the Heat in dumping Mark Blount turned out to be a treasured situation for Q-Rich. He has gone from being buried on the Knicks bench to being traded four times last summer to becoming the Heat's X-factor this season. Q-Rich's shooting, defense and swagger have been huge in support of Wade. Now, all he has to do is stay healthy.

Dwyane Wade (B-): Because greatness is graded on a steep curve, D. Wade's low B would be aJazz Heat wade high A for 90 percent of the league. But his shooting woes, conditioning flap and turnovers have left the door open for a bit of criticism. The expectation is that Wade will shut that door during the second Trimester and get back to being one of the top-3 dominant players in the league. It's not like he's slipped far off that mark - even with his relative dip in production so far.

Dorell Wright (C+): The re-emergence of Dorell Wright has been a bit overstated in recent weeks. But the reality is that Dorell is still young enough at age 24, athletic enough, long enough and skilled enough to make a fool of a front office if it gives up on him too soon. The key to Wright's recent improved play has been the stability in his surgically repaired knee. If he sustains this, his grade will certainly rise.

Coach Erik Spoelstra (C): Although he has been a huge target of criticism among a section of fans, Spoelstra still hasn't really done anything to distinguish himself as a game-day coach. We know he prepares like heck. He knows how to run a practice. He can relate to his players. But the fact is Dwyane helps to hide what may be a few blemishes. The rotation is still his issue. But it's SPO-Coach too soon to say he's a perfect fit or not a fit at all for this team.

President Pat Riley (B-): The natural instinct was to offer a lower grade. But I do give Riley credit for avoiding the sort of desperate moves he's made the past couple of seasons. You know the ones. Smush. Penny. Ricky D. Instead, Riley announced what he was going to do and stuck with it. The plan is 2010. Fate sort of forced his hand on the point guard situation, and he brought in Arroyo. And his biggest accomplishment this season has been his ability to convince the league that he's got a better-than-good chance at bringing LeBron down to Miami to pair with D. Wade. There's hype. And the Heat is winning.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy Holidays

Due to holiday travel, there will not be a post-game blog about tonight's Heat-Pacers game. Check back Tuesday for an update.

Thanks and blessings,
Michael Wallace

Friday, December 25, 2009

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 93, Knicks 87

NEW YORK - Bright lights. National TV spotlight. Christmas day game. Madison Square Garden. DwyaneHeat Knicks Fan Wade at the finish. What could be better for the Miami Heat?

A victory. A much-needed, swagger-building victory.

The Heat handed itself a gift on Christmas with Friday's 93-87 victory against the woeful-turned-hopeful Knicks to kick off five nationally televised Christmas games. Wade scored 30 points, Michael Beasley added 19, Udonis Haslem contributed 12 and Jermaine O'Neal and Mario Chalmers each added 11.

It equated to the Heat's fourth victory in the past five games, and a bit of a defensive resurgence. Beasley and Wade provided just enough offense to complement another solid defensive outing for the Heat, which improved to 7-0 this season when holding opponents to fewer than 90 points.

"They do play good defense," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "You have to give them credit."

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Wade was less than spectacular. Until the fourth quarter, when he scored 10 of his team-high 30 points. He scored eight consecutive Heat points to keep his team from squandering all of what was a 14 point lead at one point early in the fourth quarter. Wade showed again that he's gradually getting his lift back. His dunk straight down the lane and over the entire Knicks defense was one of his most explosive of the season. Wade talked about how special of a stage Madison Square Garden offers elite players. He did his best to live up to the moment - and the building. Wade was 11 of 21 from the field, 7 of 8 from the free-throw line and had nine rebounds, five assists and four steals. He also had four turnovers, including one that triggered the Knicks rally from that 14-point deficit. But overall, this was more in line with the type of games he delivered on a regular basis last season.

TURNING POINT: The Heat used a modest 15-7 run to create its largest lead of the game at 72-58 on  Heat Knicks UD Beasley's driving, pull-up jumper over Al Harrington with 8:46 left in the game. Miami was aggressive on both ends during the mini-spurt, driving everything into the lane. The Heat was also 8 of 8 from the foul line, with Haslem contributing from the line and the field.

WINNING EDGE: In a game that was decided by six points, the Heat's 27-18 edge in points scored at the free-throw line was significant. Miami was 20 of 24 from the line in the second half.

HEAD-SCRATCHER:For all of Wade's late-game highlights, the Heat actually established its largest lead with Beasley carrying the scoring load and Wade resting on the bench at the start of the fourth. When Wade came back in, the offense was all about him. And just when the Knicks started to overload on Wade, he dished the biggest assist of the game on Jermaine's jumper. You have to scratch your head and wonder if it was pure coincidence that this team was more efficient when running the offense through Beasley than through Wade for that stretch. Other than that, I also scratched my head after the game when Wade ended his media session amid laughter by saying he could no longer talk about LeBron James and free agency "because that's tampering." Wow. So now, all of a sudden, that's the case?

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Beasley's two rebounds in more than 34 minutes of action left a lot to be desired in Heat Knicks Beas that category, but he was there yet again to carry the offense when Wade was out. He also did a decent job of scoring with Wade on the floor. It was especially encouraging to see Beasley stop settling for long jumpers. His shot-fake and drive from the three-point line against Al Harrington in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty. He's 6-9, with handles and a crafty dude around the basket. He only limits himself when he bails the defense out by pulling up for jumpers. Beasley closed with 19 points and was 7 of 16 overall, but 5 of 8 in the decisive second half.

NEXT UP: Pacers at Heat, 6 p.m. Sunday - AmericanAirlines Arena

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 80, Jazz 70

It was ugly. But when things have been going the way they have at AmericanAirlines Arena lately, styleJazz Heat main points don't really matter.

Victories do. And the Heat summoned enough in the second half to run away from the Jazz and secure a 80-70 win Wednesday to close out the six-game homestand with a 3-3 record. In doing so, the Heat held the Jazz to its lowest scoring total of the season. The 80 points were also Miami's fewest in a victory this season, falling one point shy of the 81 it scored to beat New Jersey on Dwyane Wade's walk-off three.

The Heat (14-12) and Jazz barely combined for 60 points in the first half, with each producing their lowest output in a half this season. Turnovers were high. Field goals and assists were low. And I'm still not sure if it was great defense on behalf of both teams, or simply putrid offense.

The numbers would suggest good offense for the Heat, at least in the second half. Miami blocked a season-high 11 shots, held the Jazz to 37.5 percent shooting from the field and scored 28 points off 21 Utah turnovers.The Jazz was held 31 points below its season average.

"It was important for us to take a step forward with our mental toughness," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, with the Heat improving to 9-8 at home this season. "Toughness, defensive efforts, pursuits - they're all things that can be built through habits."

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Perhaps there's just something about facing the Utah Jazz that brings out the best in D. Wade. He provided another solid performance Wednesday. The last time Wade played the Jazz, he poured in 50 points in a triple-overtime victory last spring. That outing increased his scoring average against the Jazz to 30 points a game, his highest against a Western Conference team. This time, there was a bit more balance, a bit more lift, a bit more energy in his approach after a recent stretch of less-than-stellar play (to Wade's standards). Wade closed with 29 points on 12 of 28 shooting to go with seven rebounds, five assists and three blocks. He did most of his damage in the decisive third quarter, including two vintage, soaring dunks.

Jazz Heat wade TURNING POINT: Miami used an 18-5 run midway through the third quarter to open its first double-digit lead. Wade found his rhythm during the spurt, flushing down a dunk on an alley-oop pass from Carlos Arroyo and also knocking down a mid-range jumper. Joel Anthony, who started the second half at center in place of the injured Jermaine O'Neal, was active on the boards. He had a blocked shot and a put-back following an offensive rebound to provide an energetic presence in the paint.

WINNING/LOSING EDGE: The 28 points off turnovers were huge for the Heat, which forced the Jazz into 21 uncharacteristic miscues. In a game where points were at a premium, the takeaways were huge.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: Another week, another nagging injury knocks center Jermaine O'Neal out of a reliable role for the Heat. This time, it was a right groin strain/hip flexor he aggravated just three minutes into Wednesday's game against the Jazz. The latest ailment came a day after O'Neal sat out of Tuesday's practice with the strain just below his right hip. But O'Neal also had been slowed by ankle and hip injuries earlier this season. And that's not good, considering this was supposed to be a bounce-back season of sorts for O'Neal, who spent the offseason working life back into his damaged knees and legs while training in Chicago with Tim Grover. The good news is that none of these nagging injuries have worked their way to O'Neal's knees. But it seems the guy can't catch a break and have a sustained run of uninterrupted performances. The Heat knew J.O. was damaged goods when he was acquired at the trade deadline last February. But the hope remains that he'll get right.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Joel Anthony filled the stat sheet with plenty of hustle plays throughout the night. ItJoel-Block was his energy that got the Heat going in the third quarter. Yeah, he did catch a mouthful of Deron Williams' dunk in the fourth quarter in what was perhaps the highlight play of the game. But other than that, Anthony provided rebounding on both ends, blocked shots, tip-outs, tip-ins and everything else you can do to help your team. He finished with eight points, nine rebounds and five blocks, one shy of his career high.

NEXT UP: Heat at Knicks, Friday, noon, Madison Square Garden

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Truth From Wade: It Hurts

It really doesn't make much sense to criticize Dwyane Wade's shot selection at any point in a game.D.wade

The truth is, the guy has made so many from so many angles and at so many different clutch moments, that he's earned the benefit of the doubt there, hasn't he?

And despite the recent rash of speculation and concern about his conditioning, various nagging injuries and shots taken by local and national so-called experts, the truth is that Wade at 80 percent, or even 70 percent, still ranks among the league's most dominant and productive players.

Now, this is not to excuse D. Wade's transgressions when he commits them. Because the view from here is that he expects every single call anytime someone even thinks about fouling him. That's the monster that gets created when one reaches elite star status in the league.

But one point Dywane Tyrone Wade Jr. made in recent days, and reiterated after Monday's practice, was that he treats critics like he does so-called defensive stoppers. He blows by them and does his thing regardless of what's thrown his way.

The truth is, Wade didn't even bother to dismiss his varying ailments and aches Monday after shooting down just about every inquiry about them a day earlier following Sunday's 13 of 31 performance in the Heat's come-from-ahead loss to Portland.

The back spasms came from nowhere and have had a deep impact on his mobility. The sore right shooting wrist does impact his ability to control the ball, follow through on his release and finish strong at the rim. The knees and legs do ache at times. And that's all on top of the general burden he has to carry with this middle-of-the-pack team, one that's heavy enough alone to carry when he's healthy.

"You know what, more so than anything, I'm just happy that I can play through it," Wade said Monday of facing the mental and physical barriers. "Sometimes, certain injuries, some guys might not be able to play. I'm glad that God gives me the ability to at least go play and help my team in some way. That's all I can ask for."

Wade certainly has taken his share of shots. And he's responded by continuing to deliver his own. He's motivated to prove critics wrong. He wants fans to know that he'd love to score 40 points a night. Or, maybe not, actually. He's even cleverly tip-toed around this latest conditioning issue with Riley saying publicly that Wade "has a long way to go" to get back to being the "lean, mean, scoring machine" he was last season.

"I would love to live up to expectations every night, but I'm not looking to live up to other peoples' expectations," Wade said. "It's not my job to go out there and say I need to score 40 every night. That's what the fans want to see? I'm not trying to be in a battle with Kobe and LeBron and those guys in trying to lead the league in scoring. I'm trying to lead this team (to wins)."

But at the end of the day, the situation is what it is. The Heat is 13-12, 8-8 at home. In superior shape or not, Wade didn't get the kind of roster boost this summer he needs in order to contend for a championship right now. So now, it's a waiting game, albeit a productive one still destined for the playoffs. He's still showing up every night and giving what he can on the court, minus a possession or two to complain to officials.

That's nothing he hasn't done during every game over the course of the past four seasons. Having said that, the Heat's best shot at accomplishing anything is by having Dwyane take as many shots as possible. Even those shots from so-called fans, so-called critics, so-called experts that motivate him so much.

Then again, he's already taken plenty of shots this season. Figuratively and literally.

"As long as I'm able to play ... I'm happier than if I would be having to sit on the bench with a suit on."

And despite his latest T-Mobile spots, no one wants to spend another season analyzing his suit collection again. Been there and done that in 07-08.

The truth is, that was too painful for anyone to bear.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Postgame Breakdown: Blazers 102, Heat 95

The question is simple. How? Trail Blazers-Roy

How can a team that had just turned a corner at home play so well for 42 minutes, carry a six-point lead with five minutes left, shoot 50 percent from the field, hold a sizable edge in points in the paint and have even a diminished Dwyane Wade down the stretch let this one slip away?

How? Easy.

Brandon Roy caught whatever hot flash Quentin Richardson was dealing with Sunday. As a result, Roy led the Blazers back to snatch a victory from the Heat's grasp in a 102-95 come-from-behind clinic at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Roy scored 11 points in the final four minutes and finished with 28 to match Wade's output. His perfect touch on five three-pointers also offset Quentin Richardson's 7-for-7 performance as the Blazers dropped the Heat to 2-3 on its six-game homestand.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: It was evident that Wade was a bit off from the outset. He missed five of his first six shots from the field, including three shots in the lane and an airball on a short baseline jumper. The back spasms that kept him out of Saturday's practice "kept coming back and leaving" during the game Sunday. He still managed 28 points on 13-of-31 shooting and 10 assists. But without much lift, many of his shots fell short and he also went without a rebound for just the fourth time in his career. First it was the wrist. Now it's the back. Wade is 25 games into the season and is already banged up to mid-season levels. He'll have two days to rest before the Heat closes out the homestand on Wednesday. He'll need every bit of it.

TURNING POINT: Let's see. The Heat was ahead 87-81 with 5:28 left. Over the next five minutes, Portland Trail Blazers LaM would rally to go ahead 99-92 with 28 seconds left. That's a 18-5 run that sucked the life out of the Heat. Brandon Roy had 11 during the spurt, but he got plenty of help from LaMarcus Aldridge inside, Martell Webster outside and Andre Miller's veteran savvy, ability to hit tough shots and penchant to draw fouls.

LOSING EDGE: The Heat didn't really find a way to lose this one as much as the Blazers just came from behind to snatch victory away. But if there was one critical stat that stands out, it was Portland's 15-9 edge in made free throws.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: In a game where there was no shortage of three-point threats, it remains puzzling as to why Daequan Cook continues to be in such a deep freeze. Cook, reigning 3-point shootout champ from All-Star Weekend, is buried so deep in the rotation these days that he might as well sit alongside special assistant Keith Askins behind the Heat bench. Cook is a great kid with an even better attitude and a solid work ethic, which is why it's so tough to see him struggle. Meanwhile, Richardson has so clearly taken over as the Heat's resident three-point specialist. That means Miami spent a first-round draft pick (Cook) and majority of its 2008 mid-level exception money (James Jones) on something it essentially acquired in what many dismissed as a throw-away trade (Richardson-for-Mark-Blount).

KEY CONTRIBUTION: It's all about the Q. Richardson tied a franchise record for most consecutive made three-pointers without a miss when he finished 7 of 7 from beyond the arc. He closed with a season-highQuentin-standalone 22 points. As good as that effort was, Roy found a way to upstage it and get the win. But the Heat has found a scoring sidekick to complement Wade and Beasley. If Q plays, he's almost good for 20 every time he steps onto the court. He's been that consistent lately. He's also been battling nagging injuries.

NEXT UP: Jazz at Heat, Wednesday - 7:30, AmericanAirlines Arena

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 104, Magic 86

It's official. The Miami Heat has perfected the art of inconsistency. Two games of sheer disaster have beenMagic Heat Wade followed by two outings of total domination.

Two games after being blown out in consecutive contests by Dallas and Memphis, the Heat pulled even in its six-game homestand by throttling Toronto and Orlando.

So where does this team stand? Which team is on display on a given night? If you aren't familiar with the theory of what goes up must come down, and then go up again, just watch a few Heat games.

The latest edition of the Heat produced perhaps its most complete victory of the season with Thursday's 104-86 destruction of the Orlando Magic at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Miami shot 52 percent from the field, 50 percent from three-point range and had 25 assists with only nine turnovers. It was effective. It was efficient. It was energetic. This was the good Heat. This was a precise Dwyane Wade. This was a consistent Michael Beasley. This was an aggressive Dorell Wright. This was a calm, cool and collected Carlos Arroyo. This was complete.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Yes, Dwyane Wade aggravated that sore right wrist when he smashed J.J. Redick's layup against the backboard. Wade emerged from the locker room with his shooting wrist wrapped in a bandage filled with ice. He insists there's no additional damage to the wrist. He didn't want to make that an issue on a night when the Heat took another step toward regaining its footing. Wade did his part with one of his most efficient efforts of the season. He was 10 of 17 from the field for 25 points, seven assists, no turnovers, three rebounds and three blocks. This is about the rate of production Wade insists he's most comfortable with. For the third straight game, he watched the completion of blowouts from the bench. The last two have been of the good variety as far as the Heat is concerned.

Magic Heat Beas-Rio TURNING POINT: This one belonged to the Heat from the outset. Miami opened with a 23-13 run, with Beasley, Quentin Richardson, Wade and Haslem all contributing to the initial spurt. Miami tied its season high with 33 points in the first quarter. That balance would carry the Heat through the rest of the game. It would lead by as many as 29 points and cruise to victory.

WINNING EDGE: It's hard to lose when you shoot nearly 52 percent from the field and go 7 of 14 from three-point range. Better yet, it's even tough to falter when you hold the high-scoring, streak-shooting Magic to 43.6 percent. Orlando also missed 19 of 28 three-point attempts. Simply put, the Heat beat the Magic at its own drive-and-kick, inside-out offensive game.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: Two words: Miami Heat. You just can't help scratching your head when you watch this team from one game to the next. You'll get dizzy from all of the up-and-down play. At some point, this team has to level off. Doesn't it? DOESN'T IT?

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Quentin Richardson came back after missing time with a hamstring injury. Yes, Quentin-standalone Beasley had 22 points and eight rebounds. And he was huge once again. These type of games are expected of him now. He's that type of talent. So having said that, Beasley has surrendered his X-factor status to Richardson. When Q-Rich scores in double figures, the Heat is now 6-2. He got the offense going with a huge first quarter. Richardson scored eight in the opening period, including two three-pointers. He finished with 11 points and four rebounds. Carlos Arroyo was also huge, with seven assists and zero turnovers in his second start.

NEXT UP: Trail Blazers at Heat, 6 p.m. Sunday

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Evaluating the Evaluator

Pat Riley spoke Wednesday. Wade-Riley

And when Pat Riley speaks, there's always news. There's always insight. There's always something that makes you go Hmmm. There's always at least a few candid responses. And there's always an answer or two where there's clearly an agenda to disseminate.

There was a bit of it all during Riley's session with select media members inside a private room near the front-office executive suites at AmericanAirlines Arena.

While the juiciest topic was his take on Dwyane Wade's sluggish (by Wade's standards) play this season, and slight concerns about Wade's conditioning, there were several other critical issues Riley addressed. Here's your chance to evaluate the Heat's chief evaluator in his evaluation of the first quarter of the season.

A detailed story on Riley and Wade talking conditioning and efficiency is posted online on our sports section. But there was plenty left over that didn't make the final cut. Riley gave an interesting answer when he was asked about where he felt Wade's conditioning was this season.

But before we go there, I'll make this clear: Wade is a tremendous athlete and to question the conditioning of a guy averaging 27 points a game in the NBA is a bit of a stretch. But Wade is now judged by the standard he set last season, when he led the league in scoring and finished third in MVP voting.

Fair or unfair? That's an individual decision. But even Wade can admit that the process of getting his legs under him this season is a work in progress. Does that mean he's out of shape? Nope. But still. It might be one of many reasons why he's shooting a career-low 42 percent from the field this season.

Riley on what he believes Wade's approach should be at this stage of his career:

"I think he's healthy and there's no real complaints other than the nicks and bruises that a player get. I've always been of the opinion, because I'm an absolute fanatic about it, that as you get older, you (should) get lighter and leaner. You've got to find new methods to condition yourself, and at the same time, gain strength. So (Wade's) got a long way to go. And the hope is that as the season progresses, the season itself will get you in shape, but I know he wants to fast-track that himself."

Riley on whether the move to cut Shavlik Randolph this week was a precursor to a trade:

"We made the move to increase our flexibility. Is it a precursor to something? Anything can happen at anytime between now and the (Feb. 18) trading deadline, so you just want to be ready."

Riley on making a smaller trade now that wouldn't jeopardize the greater plans for free agency 2010.

"We've been pretty diligent on all of the one-year (expiring) deals out there. There are a couple of players, we'll meet today, I'll take my sleuths to lunch today, they're all in town. But there are a number of one-year contracts or players that have two-year contracts where there's a team (second-year) option that we would consider if we feel that player could help this team win. We would pull the trigger on a deal like that. But nothing's really availed itself right now. All we're seeing right now, let's equate it to this: We're seeing the flop (card). We've got two cards, and we're seeing the flop. We're waiting for the turn and the river. So that's in about another six weeks (Feb. 18 trade deadline)."

Riley on anything out there, deal-wise, now that would tempt him to push up 2010 plan:

"If something presents itself that is going to push me in a direction to trade my room (salary-cap space) and to trade my flexibility, somebody is going to have to pay a big price for the room. It's the most precious real-estate in the NBA. Something like that could conceivably happen before February."

Riley on the team's performance and expectations this season.

"I think we're right where we are, with nine other teams, with the opportunity to run past a No. 4 team. So Cleveland is four games ahead of us, and we're four games ahead of the 14th team in the conference. So we're not running place. We're competing like crazy with nine other teams. You can't always get to the next level overnight. We've got a lot of time. There's a lot of time in this season."

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)


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