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18 posts from March 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

When All's Said & Done

Barring a major injury that removes Dwyane Wade or Jermaine O'Neal from the equation for the duration, Haslem-Wade practice Heat owner Micky Arison, team president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra will get to say, 'I told you so.'

In some ways, not all.

That's because when all is said and done, at the end of the regular season, the Heat will finish with a better record than it did a year ago. Miami will enter the playoffs a better team than it did a year ago.

And the Heat will have a better chance to advance than it did a year ago. Funny how quickly things change around here. Just a little more than a month ago, Miami's playoff chances seemed on life support.

I presented in this very blog space 10 logical reasons for playoff panic. And then, this Heat team proceeded to do what it always does. It did the unexpected. This team has had a tendency all season to drive you crazy, and then drive itself right back into contention.

"Just when everybody thinks we're down and counts us out, we've been able to come back and prove that we've got a lot left," Heat forward and co-captain Udonis Haslem said. "That's the way it's been all year."

And now, they're here.

With eight regular-season games remaining against teams all out of play contention and a combined 189 games below the .500 mark, the stage is set for the Heat to storm into the playoffs.

Which, based on its M.O. all season, is reason No. 1 why you shouldn't feel too comfortable. Again, just when there are expectations and high hopes for this team, it has shown a tendency to deliver the opposite.

But March has been a month in which the Heat has made strides in distancing itself from that stigma. Miami has won 11 of 14 games to get to 40-34 going into Wednesday's game at Detroit. It is six games above .500 for the first time since March of 2007.

Bobcats Heat Q When all is said and done, I've got the Heat winning six of its final eight to close at 46-36. Those two potential stumbling blocks could come at Indiana this week and at either New York or Philadelphia in a back-to-back set on the season's final road trip.

Still, when all is said and done, that would be a three-game improvement from last season, when it finished fifth, advanced to the first round of the playoffs and lost in seven games to the Atlanta Hawks.

Unless the Milwaukee Bucks go on another ridiculously successful run despite a loaded schedule down the stretch, a 6-2 finish should give the Heat just enough of an edge to finish a game or so ahead of the Bucks to reclaim the fifth seed in the East.

And that could very well put the Heat in first-round rematch against the Hawks, with the Heat 3-1 against those very dirty birds this season. Of course, it could also mean a matchup with the Celtics, too. And Miami is 0-3 against Boston after squandering late leads in two of those games.

Even with all of the twists and turns of this turbulent season, the Heat is in position to, technically, be the improved team that Arison, Riley and Spoelstra talked about in training camp. But they can't take full credit for those proclamations because the Heat didn't take the route here that was charted.

The development of young players Mario Chalmers, Daequan Cook and Michael Beasley has revealedBulls Heat Jermaine anything but clear-cut progress. The improved play at point guard has come from Carlos Arroyo, not Chalmers. The shooter expected to take pressure off Dwyane Wade has come from Quentin Richardson, not Cook or James Jones. The breakthrough season needed from Micheal Beasley has given way to the late surprising surges from Joel Anthony and O'Neal, who, according to TNT folks, has stepped out of the hot tub time machine.

When all is said and done, this team has delivered on the modest expectations heading into the playoffs. Even though it took a different and much more bumpy path to make that delivery.

(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, March 28, 2010

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 97, Raptors 94

The Miami Heat looked defeat in the eye and didn't blink.Raps-Heat-Main

Instead, the Heat turned a 17-point third quarter deficit around and pulled off their biggest comeback of the season to defeat the Raptors 97-94 on Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

At 40-34, Miami is six games above the .500 mark for the first time since March of the 2006-07 season. It also maintained its hold on sixth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race, where the Heat sits a game behind fifth-place Milwaukee.

Dwyane Wade did plenty, but this was a night when others on the roster clearly stepped up to help the team avoid what could have been a momentum-killing vibe the team has been on the past few weeks. Udonis Haslem scored 23 points, Carlos Arroyo scored 8 of his 12 in the fourth, and sealed it from the free-throw line, and Joel Anthony filled in solidly for the injured Jermaine O'Neal.

A loss would have put the Heat in a very difficult spot, with Miami already losing the tie-breaker edge to Milwaukee and Charlotte. Instead, the Heat earned a season split with the Raptors. The finish sets up pretty well for the Heat, which plays its final eight games against teams with losing records and all but out of playoff contention.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Wade was in a fighting mood. Perhaps it had something to do with his dog, Sasha, being attacked by other dogs while the Heat was away on that three-game trip last week. Sasha remains in the vet as she recovers from injuries that left her in need of a couple of doggy casts. The ordeal clearly troubled Wade, who will spend the team's off day on Monday "at the hospital with her." The man had a lot on his mind. And he clearly didn't want to add to the misery by seeing the Heat blown out at home after its first undefeated road trip of the season. Wade had another of those Magic Johnson-type performances Spoelstra has talked about. He finished with 32 points, seven rebounds and six assists, five steals and three blocks. Those numbers helped to offset his six turnovers. Once Toronto loaded up on Wade, he was more than ready to become a facilitator. That opened the door for Haslem and Arroyo to step up huge.

TURNING POINT: The Heat used a 15-2 run that started in the third quarter to claw back from that 17-point Raps-Heat-Second Raptors lead. Haslem and Arroyo simply took over in the fourth, combining to score 19 points in the period. Toronto simply wilted away and couldn't make a shot.

WINNING/LOSING EDGE: Miami's hot shooting was clearly the edge. The Heat shot 52.9 percent overall and was 61.3 percent in the second half. The Raptors shot 42 percent in the second half.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: Michael Beasley's up-and-down play has hit another dip. He missed 9 of 10 shots and had four turnovers while finishing with only 2 points. It had to be a low-point of the season for the second-year player. He said the other day that he was searching for the player who used to dominate the game in college during his lone season at Kansas State. That search is about to hit a desperation point. It's not a good thing for Beasley that the team is playing so well despite his struggles. But clearly, there's too much talent in Beasley for things to continue this way. At some point, he either has to alter his game or his approach to dealing with this inconsistency. Something's gotta give here, right? Right? The Heat is a much better team when Beasley's confident, loose and productive. The team will need him in the playoffs. He's got a handful of regular-season games left to work his way out of the doldrums.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Haslem always talks about how much of his game he's had to sacrifice in order toRaps-Heat-UD fully embrace the heart-and-hustle role with the Heat. On Sunday, he got back to being the kind of low-post option he was during his days at Florida. Haslem was 10 of 11 from the field and scored 11 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter. This comes a game after he matched his career high with 18 rebounds in the win at Milwaukee. And better still, this comes with him essentially playing on one leg because of that severe ankle sprain. Everyone knows that Haslem is probably one of the league's best spot-up shooting forwards from the baseline. That's his shot. Has been for years. But he showed other parts of his offense. There was the up-and-under move at the basket. There was also the spinning drive into the lane for another score.

NEXT UP: Heat at Detroit Pistons, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday - The Palace of Auburn Hills

(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.)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 87, Bucks 74

MILWAUKEE - Revenge week continued for the Miami Heat. Bucks-Heat-Main

After taking down Charlotte a week ago at home following three consecutive defeats in the season series, the Heat finally got on the board against the Bucks. Miami fended off a season sweep against yet another nemesis with Friday's 87-74 victory against Milwaukee at the Bradley Center.

While the Heat still lost the season series 3-1 to the Bucks, the victory had huge ramifications.

Miami extended its winning streak to four games. At 39-34, the Heat is five games above .500 for the first time since a Nov. 14 victory against New Jersey moved it to 7-2. But most importantly, the Heat closed to within one game of the fifth-place Bucks (39-32) in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Miami has now won consecutive games against the Bobcats, Nets, Bulls and Bucks going into Sunday's home game against the Toronto Raptors. The Heat, 10-3 in March, also has won more games this month than any other since March of 2007.

In other words, the Heat is rolling right now. And, on top of that, it is in position to keep its good times going, with its final nine games against teams with losing records. Not only is a repeat fifth-place finish within the Heat's grasp, it should essentially be a formality at this rate.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Wade flirted with another triple-double Friday, closing with 30 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Coach Erik Spoelstra said Wade has been having a "Magic Johnson-type" impact on this team with the way he's played lately. Wade came out in attack mode and made his first five shots in a near-perfect first quarter. He had 12 points in the period after making all three field goals and all six free throws. Then, came the facilitating. Wade piled up the assists, and would have reached double figures in dimes had a few of his teammates been able to hold onto the ball for layups. Wade was flattered by the Magic comparison, but suggested he wasn't anywhere near that lofty status yet. "Do you have another name? Somebody else? I'm just trying to be a complete player."

TURNING POINT: Just when the Bucks overcome their slow start and cut a 22-point Heat lead to 10 in the Bucks-Heat-Second third quarter, Miami responded with another run to push it back to 19. Dorell Wright was key during that stretch to start the fourth quarter as Wade rested on the bench. Wright scored seven of his 14 in the fourth.

WINNING/LOSING EDGE: The Heat held the Bucks to 31.5 percent shooting, marking the fourth straight game it has held the opposition below 40 percent shooting from the field. Carlos Arroyo won the battle at the point with nine points, six rebounds and six assists. He held rookie sensation Brandon Jennings to four points on 1-of-8 shooting. Michael Beasley led the Heat with two blocks.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: Just when Jermaine O'Neal had his game going at an All-Star level, he hits a bump in the road. This time, it was a pretty bad stumble. O'Neal was knocked out of Friday's game with what was initially diagnosed as a hyperextended left knee. He sustained the injury with five minutes left in the first quarter when his knee buckled as he drove to the basket. O'Neal did not return to the game. Obviously, he was frustrated while sitting in his locker after the game. The last thing he wants right now is for a knee injury - after all the knee trouble he had in the past - to haunt him now. "It's a concern," O'Neal said. "But we'll see how much tomorrow when I see the doctor."Bucks-Heat-JO Miami has a favorable schedule down the stretch, but it needs a healthy O'Neal to take full advantage of that opportunity. This is the second time O'Neal hyperextended a knee this season. He didn't miss any time when he did a few months back against Detroit. Michael Beasley missed two games when he had the same injury. Every knee is different.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: With O'Neal sidelined, Udonis Haslem stepped up big-time to fill the power void. He closed with 18 rebounds to match his career high and also chipped in 10 points. It was a bittersweet night for Haslem, who also inadvertently stepped on Carlos Delfino's head in the second Haslem quarter. Delfino ended up being taken off the court on a stretcher and examined at a local hospital for neck and jaw injuries. Haslem was shaken by the incident and tried to check on Delfino's condition at halftime and after the game. The team expected Delfino to recover fine. He had use of all of his extremities. It was Haslem's 16th double-double of the season. It helped that he didn't have to contend with Andrew Bogut, who sat out with a back strain. Miami outrebounded Milwaukee 46-36.

NEXT UP: Toronto Raptors 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.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 103, Bulls 74

CHICAGO - The feeling was much different in the United Center's visitors locker room six weeks ago.Bulls-Heat-Main

Back then, the Heat was just coming off a 95-91 loss to the Bulls, a setback that extended Miami's losing streak to five consecutive games. It was the longest drought the Heat has had all season.

Emotions were raw. Feelings were hurt. Questions were asked. Doubt was dominant.

"It doesn't seem that long ago that I was walking down this hall and we had just dropped a game here and went to 24-27," coach Erik Spoelstra recalled Thursday night. "Some people had jumped off the bandwagon."

That was the lowest of the low for the Heat this season. Now, Miami is riding a bit higher. Much higher, actually, after Thursday's 103-74 destruction of the Bulls.

The Heat was so lethal early that all it needed was 19 minutes to build a 30-point lead, one it carried into the halftime break. This was never a contest after Miami's initial onslaught. The Heat (38-34) has won nine of its past 12 games and moved to 2-0 on a critical three-game road trip that ends Friday in Milwaukee.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Wade has struggled mightily in his previous homecomings. But he decided to take the pressure off himself early in this one. "You always want to play well in front of your hometown, family and friends," Wade said. "But tonight wasn't about that. I stopped thinking about that. This was about team." So Wade took on the role of facilitator and carved up the Bulls' defense with nine first-half assists to go with eight points. The Heat was so precise early that it only needed 12 points, 10 assists and 29 minutes from Wade, who barely broke a sweat this time.

TURNING POINT: There really was no turning point. It was more like a blitz. The Heat raced to a 31-19 Bulls-Heat-Second lead in the first quarter and pushed the lead to 30 midway through the second quarter. Miami's 63-33 halftime lead was the second-largest first-half edge in franchise history.

WINNING/LOSING EDGE: The Heat shot 60 percent in the first half. The Bulls couldn't even muster half of that percentage in shooting just 27.9 percent in the first half. Game over. Done.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson delivered the humorous lines as expected during TNT's special court-side announcement of Thursday's game. The line about Jermaine O'Neal finding the hot tub time machine was classic. So was Barkley's insistence upon keeping the mic in front of his own mouth when he did the first-half interview with Spoelstra. He didn't know to even slide the mic over to Spo when it was Spo's turn to speak. But I'm not sure how I feel about that line from Barkley in the second half, when he said the Bulls were struggling like black people in the 1960s. I know it was meant in fun. But some things you just can't compare. There's a reason most people no longer compare sporting battles to war or make references to someone having an unstoppable night as that person blowing up "like the World Trade Centers." Barkley is 99 percent entertaining on things he says. There is no TNT show without him. But there is the rare time when he might want to think about what he says before he blurts it out.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Jermaine O'Neal is pricing himself out of the Heat's potential pay range this Bulls-Heat-JO summer with these type of performances. On Thursday, he got 24 points in 24 minutes. He also had two blocks, three assists and four rebounds. O'Neal said this is the best he has felt since the middle of his tenure in Indiana, when he was a perennial All-Star. He's finishing the season much better than it started. It will be interesting to see if he can carry this momentum down the stretch and into the playoffs. O'Neal has made 20 of his last 30 shots and is the timely defensive anchor the Heat needs.

NEXT UP: Heat at Milwaukee Bucks, 8:30 p.m. Friday - Bradley 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.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Set For Chi-Town Showdown

CHICAGO - The sights and sounds from the Heat's practice in Chi-Town offered a number of interesting Wade-Face tidbits during Wednesday's workout in advance of Thursday's game against the Bulls.

-Several Heat players felt right at home during the two-hour session. And they probably should have. Miami practiced on the West Side at the spacious facility run by noted trainer Tim Grover, who has worked with Dwyane Wade, Jermaine O'Neal, Dorell Wright and Quentin Richardson among dozens of other NBA players during the NBA offseason. Just consider it the house Grover built on his hookup with Michael Jordan.

-Naturally, with Wade's high school coach (now a regional scout for the Heat) and several TV camera crews in attendance to interview Wade, the subject of potentially playing for his hometown Chicago Bulls came up. Wade, who has carefully and playfully handled questions about his pending free agency, was again prepared to offer very little. He did, however, suggest that Chicago probably shouldn't have cleared cap space especially for him. "I understand the business side of it, so I understand what they're doing," Wade said. "But it had nothing to do with me." Yeah. Right.

-After initially taking offense to Charles Barkley labeling him among the "Titos" who have failed to offer Beas All-Star Dunk enough support to Wade's Michael Jackson, forward Michael Beasley changed his tune Wednesday. He said Barkley should feel free to call him anything he wants. He simply doesn't care. "He can call me Tito. He can call me New Edition. Spongebob. He can call me whoever he wants. I'm going to go out there and play."

Beasley said the name-calling episode with Barkley was never anything personal. "I might have said (something) the wrong way. He took it the wrong way. It escalated and snowballed. But I honestly really don't care."

-There was a first for me in four years on the Heat beat. Until Wednesday, I had never seen assistant coach and Hall of Fame player Bob McAdoo lose a shooting contest after practice to any of the players that have flowed through the franchise. If it's one thing 'Doo can still do, it's shoot the ball. He insists he could still average double figures today, at age 58, "as long as I don't have to run back the other way and play defense," he's fond of saying. But Jermaine O'Neal somehow got 'Doo to reach into his pocket to hand over a few bucks after O'Neal beat him from the college three-point line."I tried to warn him," O'Neal joked afterward. "I would have shot like 80 percent from that college three-point line had I gone to college." Responded 'Doo: "Anybody gets lucky once. He lucked up on that last shot." 

-Had a chance to holler at Carlos Arroyo, who said he would not only like to resign with the Heat nextCarlos Arroyo   season, but that he'd also try to recruit free agent Raja Bell to play with Miami, too. Bell was released a few days ago by the Golden State Warriors. He has missed most of the season with a wrist injury. Bell played at FIU with Arroyo and still lives in Miami. "Our wives are best friends, too," Arroyo said. "I haven't talked to him since he was released, but I know he can help this team and be a good fit. Wouldn't it be something if we both were able to play here next year?"

(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, March 23, 2010

4 Takes From The Windy City

Take 1: Arroyo Speaks His Mind Carlos Playing2

It's not meant in any way as an insult. In fact, it's probably much closer to being a badge of honor. But the truth of the matter is this: The best point guard on the Heat's roster has been the one it signed off the street. Carlos Arroyo has proved time and time again that he's the best there is at the position for now, although he might not be the long-term solution at point guard.

Read more on the Herald's main sports site later about how Arroyo stood his ground by standing up to Dwyane Wade during a critical stretch in Monday's victory against the Nets. Arroyo then came right back and tossed that sick alley-oop to Wade to show that chemistry is building between them. Arroyo may be somewhat of a loner in the Heat's locker room, in part, because he Carlos-Wade-Bench doesn't necessarily gravitate to one clique or another. But he's certainly commanded the respect of his teammates because of his passion and swagger.

"I've been looking forward to this moment all year, and I'm just trying to take advantage of it," Arroyo said of his opportunity to guide the team into the playoffs as the starting point guard. "We all understand that winning is the bottom line around here. Nobody should take anything personal. This chemistry with me and Dwyane is only going to keep getting better as we play more with each other the rest of the way."

Take 2: Injury Update

The Heat had a voluntary workout in Chicago on Tuesday. But the biggest thing the team accomplished was getting plenty of treatment and rest for the growing number of banged-up players. The injury list was pretty extensive coming out of Monday's game.

Udonis Haslem, who missed Monday's game with a sprained right ankle, will be a game-time decision for Thursday's matchup against the Bulls. Haslem has played through all kinds of injuries that would have knocked most other players out of action, so you know this ankle deal has to be serious.

Wade, who sustained a bruised quad muscle against the Nets, also took extensive treatment. He sustained the injury in the third quarter, but came back to finish the game. Wade is expected to play against the Bulls, who indeed will be geared up to shut him down after the heated and physical finish in the victory against Chicago in Miami two weeks ago. Quentin Richardson and Jermaine O'Neal both had ankle injuries addressed Tuesday but are expected to play. The Heat will certainly need all of its key players available against the Bulls, who have won two in a row since getting Derrick Rose (wrist) and Joakim Noah (foot) back from injuries.

Take 3: Heat Contributes to Nets Misery

As if it wasn't bad enough that New Jersey extended its franchise-record losing streak to 14 games in Bagman Jersey Monday's loss to the Heat, the Nets took another public beating when CEO Brett Yormark foolishly got into a shouting match with a fan sitting courtside with a bag over his head.

Don't be surprised if Yormark made a martyr of the Bagman Fan. A handful of the dozen or so fans who show up for the next game will be wearing bags in protest. Considering the Nets could play most of their games in a high school gym these days because of embarrassing low turnouts, Yormark should be welcoming anyone who walks through the doors at the IZOD Center. And frankly, with the way that franchise has been going recently, it should be the front-office staff wearing the bags to hide from fans.

Take 4: Tito's Revolution

With TNT studio hosts Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith scheduled to take their show on the road and broadcast from the United Center for Thursday's Heat-Bulls game, this entire Tito episode should comeBarkley to a head. Barkley and Smith have gotten plenty jabs in on the Heat's supporting cast over the past two seasons, referring to Wade as "Michael Jackson playing with a bunch of Tito Jacksons."

Michael Beasley only gave the studio crew more fuel to add to the fire with a couple of sub-par performances after he called out Barkley for making the comments. Kenny Smith even went as far as to suggest Tito - and not Beasley - should be the one offended by the reference. Someone is going to have eat crow after Thursday's game. At the very least, there should be a Tito truce. 

(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, March 22, 2010

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 99, Nets 89

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Heat didn't bother with the suspense this time. Miami didn't leave muchNets-Heat-Main1   to chance in the second half on the way to holding off the Nets 99-89 Monday at the IZOD Center.

With the victory, the Heat (37-34) maintained its grip on the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. It also helped the Nets extend their franchise-record losing streak at home to 14 consecutive games.

Dwyane Wade and Jermaine O'Neal got the Heat going early, but things didn't really start to go Miami's way until the supporting cast of Michael Beasley, Dorell Wright and Carlos Arroyo pitched in with big-time plays in the second half.

The Heat trailed 53-52 at the half, but took control in the third quarter and maintained a double-digit lead midway through the fourth quarter to cruise to the victory.

Arroyo ran the team with confidence and even had enough swagger to shout down Wade on a play in the fourth. Beasley, who got chewed out by coach Erik Spoelstra for taking an ill-advised jumper, responded down the stretch by taking everything to the rim. Dorell Wright offered the energy to lift the Heat out of its lethargic start. It was a team win. Yes, it was bit harder than it should have been against the Nets.

But what else is new with this Heat team?

D. WADE'S DOINGS: The bad news: Wade banged up his right knee/lower thigh late in the third quarter and admitted after the game that he lost quite a bit of his lift by the time he returned to finish the game. The good news: The Heat has two days off before he'll be asked to display his heroics again when the Heat's three-game trip continues Thursday in Chicago. Wade was far from his defensive best at the start of Monday's game. In fact, Courtney Lee tortured him on several plays on the way to a 13-point outburst in the first. But that seemed to wake Wade up. He then proceeded to pick apart the Nets for 27 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. Wade simply embarrassed his defenders on several plays down the stretch. The one that sticks on the mind was that lethal move to the basket, when he dribbled behind his back, split two defenders and scored off the glass. Wade then shot a long look and smile over at the apparent Nets fan who wore that bag over his head in the courtside seats.

TURNING POINT: A lethargic first half left the Heat trailing 53-52. But Miami got going in the third quarter and outscored the Nets by 13 to carry a double-digit lead into the fourth. Arroyo found his jumper in the third to help Wade and O'Neal. The Heat also suffocated the Nets defensively.

WINNING/LOSING EDGE: It's rare when the Heat wins the transition battle against any team. But it outscored the Nets 15-5 in fastbreak points. The best play of the night came on Arroyo's lob pass to Wade on to complete an alley-oop in the third quarter.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: I know the Nets are bad. But the fans in the metro area should be ashamed Nets-Heat-Second2 of themselves for the embarrassing attendance. At tipoff Monday, there literally were as many arena workers, media members and team members as there were fans. As if that wasn't enough, the Nets were working with their third coach in as many games against the Heat this season. Lawrence Frank coached the first game against the Heat. Kiki Vandeweghe coached the second. And with Kiki out of town tending to a family issue Monday, the Nets went with assistant John Loyer against Miami. I know what you're thinking. John Who?

KEY CONTRIBUTION: O'Neal returned from a sprained left ankle to put up another solid performance. He finished with 25 points, but scored 14 in the first half to get the Heat going. His legs were back. Just consider the first-half flush he had against the entire Nets frontline. When Jermaine's dunking, the Heat is usually doing big things. He certainly has saved his best for the season's stretch run. Of course, he's also playing for that next contract. Still, O'Neal clearly has emerged ahead of Michael Beasley as the Heat's second option on offense. He's handled this type of role before. It might be best for Beasley as well.

NEXT UP: Heat at Chicago Bulls, Thursday 8 p.m. United 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.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 77, Bobcats 71

Finally, there was a breakthrough against the Bobcats.Bobcats Heat Main

And all the Heat had to do was step back and watch Charlotte launch its brick-fest. In a game that was more about which team would find a way to miss one fewer shot, the Heat survived for a 77-71 victory against the Bobcats on Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Remember that 39-point beating the Bobcats handed Miami back in January? The one that set all those franchise records for Charlotte? Well, the Heat avenged that drubbing by rewriting its own record books with Saturday's dominant defensive effort against the Bobcats.

The 71 points were the fewest Miami has allowed in the history of the series. Charlotte's 29.2 percent shooting was the lowest by a Heat opponent this season. The Bobcats 16 percent clip in the second half was a franchise-record low for a Heat opponent.

With the victory, the Heat (36-34) moved a half-game ahead of Charlotte (35-34) and into sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Miami lost the season series, 3-1, meaning it loses the tiebreaker. The win was also huge because it allowed the Heat to finish its six-game homestand at 4-2, with six of its next seven games on the road.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Wade was held to only 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting against the Bobcats. Still, the Heat managed to get the win. Miami had been 5-19 since 2005-06 when Wade finished a game with fewer than 16 points. But Wade didn't let his offensive doldrums or the five fouls dictate his night. He simply dominated on defense. He tied his career high with five blocks and limited Stephen Jackson to 4-of-21 shooting. Jackson had gotten the better in the matchup the previous games, but not Saturday. Wade also had nine assists and five rebounds.

TURNING POINT: The Bobcats went nearly 14 minutes without a field goal, a stretch that started after Boris Diaw's hook with 4:37 left in the third period and ended with Raymond Felton's floater with three minutes left in the game. The Heat only added a point to its lead during the drought, but the Bobcats had Bobcats Heat Second shot themselves out of answers at that point.

WINNING/LOSING EDGE: With Jermaine O'Neal sitting out with an ankle injury, the Heat was clearly the shorter, less-athletic team. But that didn't stop Miami from overcoming that apparent disadvantage by blocking a season-high 13 shots. Wade led the way with 5, but six different Heat players had at least one.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: That must have been some heart-to-heart session between Michael Beasley and Alonzo Mourning the other day. Mourning, who has mentored Beasley throughout the season, sat his pupil down late last week to demand that Beasley put the "power" back into his position at power forward. Beasley has floated around on the perimeter for far too long. Beasley has said that it wasn't his preference to primarily be in position to take jumpers. But Mourning lit a fire under Beasley, who was aggressive and attacking the paint most of the night Saturday. He did get his shot swatted a time or two, but he kept coming back. Beasley finished with 16 points and seven boards. He even got to the free-throw line a couple of times and converted all four of his attempts. "I was having fun," Beasley said. "To be completely honest, Alonzo Mourning kind of roughed me up a little bit. He told me I needed to play harder and to stop settling for jump shots. He didn't hurt me. He made his presence known."

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Quentin Richardson gave the Heat absolutely nothing in the second half Saturday.Bobcats Heat Q But he couldn't have given the Heat any more than he offered in the first. The inconsistent stretches continued for Richardson. But he provided a major boost for the Heat early. His six threes in the first half tied a franchise record. All 18 points he scored came from beyond the arc and in the first half, when the Heat carried a two-point lead into the break. Richardson was 6 of 18 from the field, 6 of 12 from deep. He had five rebounds, a steal and a block in 27 minutes.

NEXT UP: Heat at New Jersey Nets, 7:30 p.m. Monday - IZOD 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.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Postgame Breakdown: Magic 108, Heat 102 (OT)

Credit the Heat for fighting. But credit the Magic for finishing.Magic Heat Main

After four playoff-intense matchups between the teams this season, Miami and Orlando are even. After losing the first two meetings, the Magic rallied to take the last two games from the Heat, including Thursday's 108-102 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The Heat tied the game late in the fourth after trailing by as many as 12 points midway through the period. But Orlando (49-21) made every extra shot, grabbed every loose rebound and came away with just enough blocks to reject the Heat (35-34).

After winning the first three games of the homestand, Miami is now 3-2, with the six-game stretch ending Saturday against nemesis Charlotte, which is 3-0 against the Heat this season.

Dwyane Wade, Jermaine O'Neal and Mario Chalmers did enough to put Miami in position to win down the stretch. But a couple of missed shots and late-game turnovers proved to doom the Heat's chances. These teams could very well see one another again in the postseason.

If the standings hold to form, the second-place Magic would host the seventh-place Heat in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: If the Heat is facing the Magic, you may as well go ahead and book Wade for at least 30 points. He always gets his numbers against former coach Stan Van Gundy and Orlando. He doesn't always get the victories, however. Wade tossed in 36 points, grabbed 10 boards and dished out seven assists on the way to filling every statistical category on the stat sheet. Wade was 12 of 26 from the field, 3 of 7 on threes and 9 of 10 from the free-throw line. He had a shot to win it in regulation, but found himself dwarfed by Matt Barnes and Dwight Howard with three seconds left before he launched a fall-away, twisting, one-handed heave. It wasn't close. The Magic loaded up on Wade in overtime, and didn't allow him the clean looks Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis got in the extra period. Still, Wade tied Alonzo Mourning with his 442 double-figure scoring game with the Heat.

TURNING POINT: Vince Carter's three-point play in the overtime period essentially put the Magic in control. He scored on a floater over Dorell Wright, was fouled and converted the free throw to put the Magic ahead 104-100 with 2:13 left in the extra period. You could tell that took the wind out of the Heat.

WINNING/LOSING EDGE: The Magic outrebounded the Heat 33-24 in the second half and overtime, and held a 20-14 edge in second-chance scoring. In a game decided by slim margins, this was the one that  Magic Heat Beas stuck out most, especially coming down the stretch.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: For all of the Heat fans who scream for Michael Beasley to finish games, there was one voice heard above all others late in Thursday's loss. A fan sitting a few rows back from press row yelled, "Take Beasley out" after the second-year forward committed a turnover late in the game. He had at least two blunders down the stretch, including a play when he mishandled a pass from Wade in transition that would have led to a layup. Beasley remains very much a polarizing figure with this team. At times, he appeared completely lost while trying to guard Rashard Lewis. At other times, Beasley's confidence soared. He made a key floater in the lane that put the Heat ahead 95-93 with 27.3 seconds left in regulation. He also made two free throws to give the Heat a 100-99 lead with 3:09 left in overtime. But his turnover with 1:19 left and the Heat trailing 105-100 was critical in that spot. These are the type of growing pains he probably should have been learning through throughout the season. For those who criticize Spoelstra's handling of Beasley, well, he went with the second-year forward for the duration of overtime while veteran Udonis Haslem sat the entire extra period. Not saying it was the wrong decision. Just saying the debate likely rages on. I've maintained all season Miami needs to find a way to make these guys co-exist. That hasn't been the case.

KEY CONTRIBUTION:Dwight Howard has struggled so much against Jermaine O'Neal and the Heat thisMagic Heat JO season that he even anticipated another tough night Thursday. O'Neal did his job again and forced Howard into foul trouble. Dwight was limited to 10 points and 11 rebounds on 3 of 9 shooting in 31 minutes. O'Neal finished with 14 points, six rebounds and five blocks, with at least four rejections coming against Howard in a straight-up situation. O'Neal didn't get much going on offense either, but over the last three games, he has frustrated Samuel Dalembert, Tim Duncan and Howard. The Heat is 1-2 to show for it. But still, O'Neal is giving the Heat what it expected when it traded for him last February. He's finding his comfort zone and legs at just the right time of the season.

NEXT UP: Charlotte Bobcats at Heat, 7:30 p.m. Saturday - 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.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Postgame Breakdown: Spurs 88, Heat 76

Perhaps Manu Ginobili summed it up best after his San Antonio Spurs defeated the Heat 88-76 on Spurs Heat Main Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

"It was as good as it gets (defensively)," Ginobili said. "We played a very good defensive game."

That might classify as the understatement of the season for the Spurs. For the second time in as many meetings this season, the Spurs got stingy against the Heat and held Miami to the lowest output it has allowed any opponent.

After holding Miami to 78 points in a victory in San Antonio back in December, the Spurs shaved two off that point total and limited the Heat to only 76 on Tuesday. No wonder the Spurs have won five of their last six against the Heat and are 33-13 lifetime in the series.

San Antonio (40-25) is hitting its stride. The Heat simply hit a snag midway through its six-game homestand. Miami (35-33) saw its six-game home winning streak snapped after it fell behind by 26 points in the second quarter. Despite a furious rally in the fourth, Miami was too far behind to do any damage.

After three victories to open the homestand against the Clippers, Bulls and Sixers, the Heat faltered against the first playoff-caliber team it faced. It won't have long to recover. Orlando visits Thursday and Charlotte follows Saturday. That sets up a critical finish to the week that will certainly have playoff implications.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: A rough start set the tone for a tough night for Wade, who missed six of his first nine shots and finished 11 of 26 from the field for 28 points. But his five assists were offset by five turnovers. It was another night when Wade didn't get the calls early and allowed it to get into his head. Usually, he overcomes those issues. Not against a team as battle-tested and mentally tough as San Antonio. Wade tried to rally the Heat from that 26-point deficit. But after igniting a 21-2 run, Wade seemed to run out of ammo as the Heat ran out of steam.

TURNING POINT: The Spurs were simply ruthless in the first quarter. No mercy. They led 29-14 after the opening period and held the Heat to only 37 points in the first half. That's getting it done defensively.

WINNING/LOSING EDGE: San Antonio dictated with tempo and toughness early and then got going from three-point range late to hold off the Heat. The Spurs scored 20 of their first 29 from either in the lane or at Spurs Heat Second the free-throw line following aggressive drives. They then outshot the Heat 47 percent to 18 percent on threes.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: There were just too many O-fors, or close-to-O-fors for the Heat. In other words, no support from the supporting cast. Quentin Richardson, who had opened the month blazing from beyond the arc, was 0 for 3. Mario Chalmers, who had seemed to find his stroke recently, was 0 for 4. Michael Beasley was 3 for 10 in his first game back from a thigh bruise that still seems to bother him. And Dorell Wright, back from a two-game suspension for his DUI arrest last week, was 1 for 4. The Heat got too little from too many on the roster.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: Jermaine O'Neal did what he could to offset Tim Duncan, who was scoreless in theSpurs Heat JO first half. It wasn't one of O'Neal's better games. But he was one of the few players who did do his job well defensively. O'Neal had 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks. He limited Duncan to 12 points and 11 boards. Duncan missed 10 of his 15 shots. Udonis Haslem's 10 points and 12 boards were also a positive for the Heat. It was Haslem's team-leading 15th double-double of the season.

NEXT UP: Orlando Magic at Heat, 7 p.m. Thursday - 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.)



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