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23 posts from October 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Get used to it

Part of the theory on how to defeat the Heat is to zone them, make them shoot jumpers and just make sure you outrebound the Heat.

Well, the Nets played zone. The Nets outrebounded Miami, particularly working the offensive boards, getting a 19-5 edge in that stat.

And yet the result was the same as Friday's against the Magic, a lead never smaller than 19 points in the fourth quarter.

Granted, it was just the Nets, but if it's height that people think will be the Heat's downfall, it's clearly not going to be something the team can't overcome.

For two games in a row, a quality big man put up impressive numbers in the first half, first Dwight Howard then Brook Lopez, then did little to nothing in the second half.

Probably the most encouraging part of Sunday afternoon's game was the play of Bosh, who had been struggling with his shooting in the first three. He was 8 of 10 for his 18 points, all of it looking smooth and under control.

Other interesting numbers from the game:

7: assists from both Wade and LeBron. They both should average about that number for the season.

12: points for Carlos Arroyo, along with four assists and five rebounds. No, he's not ideal, but you have to give him credit for learning how to play with that lineup. He's taking shots with confidence, and even hit a three-pointer Sunday.

4: Blocks for Joel Anthony. He now has six blocks on the season to just two shot attempts. If that ratio stays true for the season, it will probably be some sort of all-time record.

Bosh surprised

Three games in, and it's rather strange that the player getting the most attention from defenses, at least in terms of straight double-teams, is Chris Bosh.

You'll remember the Celtics' Rajon Rondo coming over and snatching the ball from him. The Sixers doubled off Arroyo to get to Bosh in the post, and the Magic did the same thing. It's caught him off guard, and it has slowed his progress more than any other scorer on the team because he simply wasn't expecting it (there is one simple way to keep him from getting doubled, and it has to do with a certain starting point guard, but I won't harp on that subject for once).

"The thing that's throwing me off the most is how they're doubling me in the post," Bosh said. "I really didn't expect that. I thought I was going to have free reign most of the time.''

The good thing about Chris is that he doesn't have the ego that many people associate with superstars, so he's not going to get frustrated with mild 13-and-11 nights as long as the team is winning and he's progressing. But people are going to start calling them The Big Two after a while, excluding Bosh, if he doesn't contribute more, and that might get annoying to him (Mike Lupica called him Ringo Starr today on Sports Reporters, which I'm assuming is an insult).

``I'm going to keep making the extra pass, keep being unselfish and just play defense right now until I find my way,'' Bosh said. ``As long as the other guy doesn't score, I'm not worried."

Just a hunch, but he might have a breakthrough game against either Joe Smith and the Nets (twice in four games) or Mike Beasley and the Timberwolves. Maybe even David West might be a good thing for Bosh because he's undersized. After that he sees Al Jefferson and Kevin Garnett again. I'm sure Bosh will want to get his stuff together soon, though, because the Raptors come to town in a couple of weeks.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Defensively speaking

Let's take a look at this Heat defense after three games, because it has been pretty impressive.

Three games in, having played two of the teams that were supposed to be better than them according the experts, and the Heat is allowing 40.3 percent shooting, 81.7 points per game, outrebounding teams, albeit barely, despite being undersized up front for the most part, and Miami has forced 55 turnovers (18.3 a game) and blocked 17 shots (5.7 a game).

Friday was clearly the most impressive defensive effort (although the first three quarters in Philly were pretty darn impressive). The Heat basically decided to let Dwight Howard go to work with no true double-teams, which meant 19 for him in the first half but only two Magic three-pointers in that half, which is a great trade-off.

And the second half was just ridiculous. The Magic scored 25 total points, got two field goals in the third quarter, tying a Heat opponent low, and shot 10 percent for that period. For the entire game, the Magic had just five assists. FIVE. That's three less than any Heat opponent ever.

Maybe it's this defense that will carry the Heat to 70-plus wins this year. It was, after all, the Bulls defense in the 90s that was so great and occasionally overlooked.

A couple offensive notes. It's pretty clear that while LeBron learns his surroundings, it's Dwyane that'll set the pace of the game for Miami. He's just so much more familiar with everything around him, so he can work at a fast pace without worrying about turnovers as much as LeBron, who has been better when he slows things down a bit.

Wade's running sky hook over Dwight Howard might have been the most impressive play of the game. Fitting, then, that Magic Johnson was in the building.

Through three games, the Heat's shooting better from three-point range (46.3) than from inside the arc (41.5) which speaks not only to the quality of shooters, but to the open shots that are being created. The lesson there is pass the ball, take the easiest shot, no matter how far from the basket. Eventually, the lane will open up.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Imperfect first win

That looked a lot more like what you should expect from Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James also had his moments against the Sixers. But probably most encouraging was the way the offense just looked more fluid. James Jones obviously went off, and that was a result of simple ball movement. But you could tell even earlier in the game, most notably on one play that resulted in a Carlos Arroyo baseline jumper, that the team was much more committed to ball movement and having proper spacing.

There were still some issues, of course, given that it was just Game 2.

LeBron looks like he's forcing it just a tad sometimes. His main issue seems to be he's taking that sliver of an opening and trying to create room for himself rather than wait for a more significant opening. And he might be looking for the spectacular a bit too often, hence that blatant travel on the fast break. But if Dwyane keeps playing the way he did Wednesday, it'll help LeBron be a lot more patient because he knows he won't have to do nearly as much as he has in the past, or even as much as he had to do against the Celtics.

Chris Bosh seems to be the last of the Big Three to still be playing passive. He's hesitating on open looks, stalling the offense at times by taking a bit too long to make a move in the post and overall just doesn't seem to be playing with the same passion that you got used to him playing with in Toronto. Bosh generally likes to think things through anyway, so he's probably being patient in terms of figuring out his place in the offense and picking his spots when to attack. But hopefully he finds his place soon, because there's a lot he has to offer, and there's no reason for him to be passive when he can easily get 20 points a night.

Like a good teammate, Wade said after the game that Arroyo needs to stay confident and take the jumpers that are available when the ball swings to him becase it's obvious teams are helping off him. The problem is, those shots are coming a couple feet outside of his comfort zone, and he's certainly not comfortable taking threes if they're there. That's why, as much as his teammates would love for him to succeed as a starter, it might make a lot more sense for either House to start or for Miami to go big and start James Jones alongside Wade and LeBron.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Still not seeing it

Still can't figure out why Spo continues to leave Carlos Arroyo out there with this group. Doug Collins is clearly instructing his team to help or flat-out double off Arroyo, and he's not making the Sixers pay (two points, one assist, two turnovers at halftime).

And yet, James Jones goes off for four three-pointers in the first half. If he starts, there's no way anyone can double off him. No, James Jones isn't a great defensive player, but it's not as if Arroyo is shutting down anyone. In this game, for example, Jones could guard Kapono, Wade can handle Holiday and LeBron guards Iguodala.

Just don't get the need for a "true" point guard who doesn't shoot threes and is the third best "point guard" on the floor.

At least he's rich

Dan Gilbert made a fool of himself after LeBron left, and he apparently he likes that look on himself. He said he doesn't regret his ridiculous attempt to trash LeBron and curse the Heat. Seriously, that whole rant sounded more like a drunk text than any legitimate comment from someone in his position.

Anyway, he told a Cleveland radio station he has no regrets...

"I don't regret it. I think that's the feeling that I had and most of Cleveland had. ...I can't back off on that," Gilber said on ESPN 850 WKNR in Cleveland on Wednesday morning. "What I can say is that we've tunneled and now are focused on the future. To dwell on something like that, you're just wasting energy."

And yet, he's still dwelling. He took some not-so-subtle shots at LeBron in a comment in the Cleveland Plain Dealer...

"The best position to take on all of this is to focus all of our time and energy on the present and future success of the Cleveland Cavaliers, which we are more excited about than we ever have been," Gilbert wrote in the email posted on the newspaper's website.

"The environment today is extremely positive and the team first atmosphere is as productive and more conducive to the culture that produces long-term winning than at any previous time during our five-plus years in Cleveland. This franchise has moved on."

Moved on? I'm not sure he's using that phrase correctly. Have you really moved on when you're basically saying the man who carried your franchise was selfish and your new "team first atmosphere" is going to work better for you. Yeah, good luck with that.


Minor details

Tuesday night's game was probably the most difficult regular season test the Heat might face all season, it doesn't mean the game can't inspire changes.

Now, it would probably be considered an overreaction to make any significant lineup changes after one game, especially when that game was against the Celtics, a team that offers mathcup problems because of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, and now Shaq.

But there were a few things that appeared evident during that game (and besides, the goal is to beat the Celtics down the road anyway, so why not adjust your lineup so you're best suited to beat them).

First, it doesn't appear that Carlos Arroyo is the best option for this lineup. If there's anything that is apparent after just one game it's that a traditional point guard doesn't necessarily fit in with this group. The "point guard" that plays alongside Dwyane and LeBron either has to be a great three-point shooter or an excellent defender. While Arroyo has his strong points, he isn't either of those things.

It might make more sense, with the current options, to play Eddie House more often, or even start him, because he complements Wade and LeBron better. Granted, that might cause defensive issues against some of the league's better point guards, but House is a solid system defender, and if the point guard is that much trouble, then LeBron or Wade might want to handle him anyway.

And that's where the next thought comes in. I've been a proponent of this since the Heat signed LeBron: Why not play LeBron and Wade together in the starting backcourt, with Jones starting at the small forward, and either Stackhouse or MIller taking over when they're ready.

The two of them will be doing all the ball handling anyway, and defensively each of them can handle defending a point guard. They probably don't want to deal with Chris Paul and Deron Williams and Derrick Rose, but if this team is going to be as great as it can be, shouldn't one or both of them simply commit to the challenge of defending point guards. It seems like LeBron can do it rather easily because of his size and quickness, and we've seen Dwyane do it plenty of times over the past seven seasons. So why not turn to that option? It would be a lot more difficult for other teams to defend a backcourt of Wade and LeBron than it would be for the Heat to match up with anyone else. It just seems like the best option, especially when you consider the Heat's options at point guard.

Now, the Heat will be able to get away with starting Arroyo all season long and still win better than 60 games. But if it wants to maximize potential -- especially if Miller comes back at full strength in January -- it just seems the best option.

As for the center spot, Spoelstra might want to turn to Ilgauskas a little earlier, especially in games against traditional centers. He just gives you a better offensive option, and he has the size to mix it up inside. Of course, Udonis and Bosh up front works well, but not against the bigger centers.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Funniest video yet...

Quite the game of one-upsmanship going on here. Bosh has officially trumped LeBron's commercial with this video on Funny or Die. It's even a little racy.
My favorite line: "Not in my hooouuse!"
I'm sure this will just be the first of many CB does. He's been doing this kind of thing for a while, and he's got a real talent for it.

Equal time

With LeBron's commercial getting so much attention, figured it's only fair to give Dwyane's ad equal play. He doesn't have an image to tidy up, so it's not as deep. But it's cool to look at.

Opening night questions

Chaotic shootaround at TD Garden this afternoon. Felt like an extension of last year's playoffs, only about three times more media attention.

A few tidbits from the session: For some reason there were rumors about Mario Chalmers being inactive for tonight's game. Not true. He won't be 100 percent, but he'll be ready to play.

Mike Miller was with the team, shooting around left-handed with his right hand in a thick cast. He didn't sound nearly as upset as his teammates said he was immediately after the injury. "It's a long season," he said. He won't be on the sideline, though, because he can't fit a jacket over that huge contraption on his hand. And you know the NBA rules, no jacket, no sideline. Kind of dumb that they can't make an exception for injuries like this, but it is what it is. I'm guessing if he tried hard enough he'd get a pass.

I know it's only Game 1 of the season, but it will be intriguing to see who the "crunch time five" is for the Heat against this Boston team.

If you assume the Heat goes with Bosh and Udonis up front, would one of them be dealing with Shaq, or will Shaq not be on the floor because of his foul shooting?

And potentially more important, is Edde House out there in the closing minutes for his shooting, with Dwyane and LeBron handling the ball? It makes sense, until you try to match up House defensively. Will he chase around Ray Allen? He can probably stay with him, but Ray might still just shoot over him. Or will he cover Rondo if he's out there, assuming all you have to do with Rondo is stay in between him and the basket? One thing you do know is that House knows Boston's offense quite well. Maybe that would help him.

If it's a close game, there might just be some offense-defense substitutions. And I wouldn't be totally surprised if Stackhouse gets thrown out there to guard a Pierce or Allen, though I doubt that would happen if Stack hasn't played a single minute in the first three quarters.

Just something to think about now that the games are for real -- finally.



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