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14 posts from February 2011

Monday, February 28, 2011

What's the problem?

The last three losses to the Celtics, Bulls and Knicks have featured the same pattern:

Big first quarter, flattening out the rest of the game and then a poor finish in a tight game.

So, what's the problem? Because in the middle of all that, there have been different reasons within each game that have caused issues (Chris Bosh's poor shooting against the Bulls, the turnovers against the Celtics, letting Chauncey Billups go off in the fourth against the Knicks).

It's starting to get frustrating trying to figure out the problems -- especially when it seemed a few weeks ago they were solved. I know a lot of people are going to point to the coach, but it's hard to point out any situation that has been his fault, in particular.

Anybody able to figure this one out?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ummm.... Hmmm

Really? 1 for 18? Really?!?

There aren't many games where a single player can take the blame for a loss, but this might just be one of them. No, the Heat wasn't perfect. Far from it. The littany of mistakes, which we'll get into momentarily, though, were only made more magnified because Chris Bosh was as off as any player of his magnitude has been in decades. Decades.

If you've ever been in that spot, it's such a head game. You're a shooter, so you normally want to be open. But when you've missed that many open ones, you almost are dreading catching the ball and finding yourself open. Because you know the right thing to do is to shoot it, because you have to assume you're good enough to make the next one. But you've already thought about it more than you normally do, and at that point you've ruined it for yourself. You're almost praying a defender closes hard so you have an excuse to do something other than shoot it.

Bosh yell You could see after about 1 of 10 that Bosh was in his own head. To his defense -- very brief and weak defense as it may be -- he did get clonked in the nose early on, and he didn't exactly get many designed opportunities near the rim, which probably would've helped after about, oh, I don't know, 1 of 12, maybe?

So, there it is. A performance that might never be repeated in the NBA for the next 20 years cost the Heat a win, and yet it was still a tie game in the final minute.

Not to overstate this loss, but it only strengthened a perception across the country that Derrick Rose is becoming the runaway MVP. But, again, if Bosh makes two jumpers and the Heat wins, you're looking at Rose's line (26 points on 24 shots, five rebounds, six assists, four turnovers, zero steals and a plus-minus of minus-2 in 37 minutes) and thinking, "Eh."

Then you'd see LeBron James' line, on the road no less, (12 of 21 for 29 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two turnovers, two steals and one block and a plus-3) and you'd think, "Well, maybe he is still MVP." Or you'd even think Dwyane Wade (34 points, eight rebounds) might be ahead of Rose. But because the result allowed Rose to look like the hero with a late jumper and a dish to Luol Deng, and now there might be no way for James to recover.

Now to the list of errors down the stretch. At least the highlighted ones...

-Might as well just start with the pass Eddie House threw to Wade's back on what could've been a fast break opportunity. The turnover resulted a Deng three-point play that put the Heat down seven. That play was indicative of the Heat's play off the bench. Two points. Two.

For all the talk about the Celtics being "hurt" in that game against the Heat because they were missing a bench player, basically, the Heat didn't and won't get much slack for being without Mike Miller. Other than possibly hitting an open shot, Miller definitely would've helped the Heat on the board. The Bulls clobbered Miami in that area, 53-39.

-After falling behind 85-84, the Heat's next two shots were a James three-pointer from the corner, which wasn't even an open shot, and a Bosh 18 footer, which was open, but come on. That's possibly the spot you want him to at least try to drive and draw a foul.

-With the game tied at 89-89, Wade made a huge mistake by helping off Deng to try to get to Rose. Two reasons that was just a bad play. First, James was in front of Rose still, and Erick Dampier was also coming from underneath the basket to make the shot tougher. All Wade did by helping was give Rose a bail-out option. Second, the LAST thing you want to do in a tie game in the final seconds is give up a three-pointer. Even if Rose makes that shot, all you need is a deuce to tie it back up. Now that you've given up a three, you're almost forced to attempt a three on the next possession. Or at least extremely tempted to put up a three.

-Which brings us to the final poor decision of the night (just a reminder: none of these final plays matter if Bosh's historically awful 1for 18 night is just a terrible 4 for 18 night). James' rushed three-pointer, off the dribble, with a defender in his face is exactly the opposite of what this team has been preaching all season. Trust, for one. And smart choices, as well. Sure, no one other than Mario Chalmers was helping Wade and James, but at least run a play to let something open up. That was the definition of hero basketball, and it ended appropriately.

Just one loss. And if this was a playoff game, the Heat would almost be able to say to themselves "that'll never happen again in this series." But it's an agonizing loss given the stats and the now 0-5 record against your direct competition atop the Eastern Conference.

Happy Crazy Trade Day

Wow.

Two possible reasons for such a wild and crazy trade deadline week: First, a handful of teams are preparing to rebuild while anticipating new CBA rules that will make the draft a lot more important and will make the salary cap a lot more restrictive. Second, the Western Conference looked wide open both at the top, because the Lakers are not unbeatable and the Spurs haven't proven to be playoff unbeatable with this particular group, and at the bottom because the Jazz and Nuggets just lost superstars.

Maybe it's just a huge coincidence and a lot of teams just got trade happy. Either way, it was interesting to see some of the moves that were made.

The most intriguing?

Well, that has to be the moves the Celtics made. They got rid of Kendrink Perkins, who, even on one Kendrick leg is probably the best center on that roster. Sure, Shaquille O'Neal looked like he fit in quite well when he was playing regularly, but he's not the defensive presence that Perk is, and that's all the C's really need from their center. They lost backup point guard Nate Robinson in the deal, too, which doesn't leave them with much of anything behind Rajon Rondo, unless they're predicting that Delonte West can come back and be that point guard type.

The issue here is that neither Nenad Krstic is a viable center in the Eastern Conference, nor is a gimpy Shaq or Jermaine O'Neal going to be the answer, it wouldn't appear. Now, the Celtics are probably going to be on the lookout for waived players, but there won't appear to be any true centers of quality in that mix, unless they thing Troy Murphy can play there (he'll probably be bought out by the Warriors). And if that's the case, they'll have to pry him away from the Heat first.

There were a few other interesting moves.

The Blazers picking up Gerald Wallace is one of them. With LaMarcus Aldridge playing like the best power forward in basketball of late, and the return of a limited Brandon Roy, the Blazers are thinking Gerald-wallace one quality addition might put them over the top to have them competing with the Lakers, Spurs and Thunder. Is Wallace the guy? Maybe, but the team is still in need of help up front now that they moved Joel Przybilla. That's because Marcus Camby is not exactly the healthiest of players.

The Thunder are considering themselves real contenders now that they have Perkins in the middle. It's hard to argue with them, as long as Perkins is healthy enough to provide that defensive presence inside. With him and Serge "monkey in the mouth" Ibaka, it'll be hard to score on that team if those guys blend well.

Of the pre-deadline day deals that didn't involve a superstar, it looked like Kirk Hinrich going to the Hawks was the best move. Hinrich can defend the best guards in the league, and he particularly annoys Dwyane Wade. Joe Johnson is also strong enough to bother either Wade or LeBron James, so look out for the Hawks in the playoffs.

And finally, at a time when the sports world was complaining about the players having too much power and not showing enough loyalty in the NBA, the league smacked right back and reminded us that teams can still be coldblooded.

Marquis Daniels, who's recovering from a spinal injury and might be out the entire season and is currently in rehab in Sacramento, was traded to the Kings for cash. Cash.

Baron Davis, who was mocked by the Clippers owner and was finally playing with vigor and making a home out of his hometown Clippers, was moved to the worst team in the league, the Cavaliers. Perkins, who just rehabbed a nasty knee injury all offseason for another shot to win the championship after he felt like he was the missing piece for the Celtics in last year's Game 7 against the Lakers, gets moved while his other knee is acting up.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Trade discussions

Let's get this out of the way. Mike Miller won't be traded unless it's part of a deal for some superstar.

At least that's what Pat Riley essentially told him. Miller said he spoke to the Heat prez about the rumors that he'd be traded, but came out confident he'll be around.

Miller shooting "Coach Riley assured me," Miller said. "We'll see what happens. I expect to be here. Unless they can get Dwight Howard or somebody like that."

Basically, there is no one really out there (at least you'd think, because Deron Williams was a big surprise) that would be a huge get for the Heat that's worth trading Miller.

It's also pretty bad mojo to trade a guy who took a LOT less money to be a part of this team. Same thing with Udonis Haslem, who turned down big money to go to Denver. So it's just bad form to try to trade him to Denver now for a guy like Nene. I know karma doesn't really come into play in trade discussions, but let's just say it's highly doubtful those guys will be moved.

As for the New York and New Jersey huge moves, it doesn't really do much for this Heat season other than make a couple of matchups a lot more intriguing, and difficult.

The Knicks and Nets are set to make some big moves to build a high-quality team over the next couple of seasons, but the additions of Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams don't come close to making those teams competitors this year.

The Heat should really stress the moves because, frankly, Miami will be able to tinker around its three superstars the next couple years, too.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Injuries and minutes talk

Sometimes it's hard to understand what sports fans can get upset about.

Just because Dwyane Wade injured his ankle, and probably the fact the East couldn't complete the comeback in the All-Star Game, all of a sudden there are conspiracy theories about Doc Rivers playing Heat players too many minutes and saving his Celtics' legs by not playing them as much.

Bron all-star For starters, LeBron James played 32 minutes. Not 40. Not 35. Just 32. And he's 26 years old. Not a big deal, at all.

Second, James was voted in as a starter, and none of the Celtics players were, so clearly he was going by what the fans wanted to see. And third, LeBron is the premier star in the NBA right now. If he doesn't play 30 minutes, fans are going to feel cheated. And finally, it's what LeBron wanted, and he said so Monday, and it's what he told Rivers.

I'm pretty sure LeBron is happy to have nearly brought his team back, as well as getting that triple-double.

Getting past the All-Star talk, the Heat practiced Monday evening, and it looks like Mike Miller won't play against the Kings. He has a cold and an ear infection, which is what's keeping him out, not the knocks to the head he took. He had concussion-like symptoms, but Miller said the dizziness went away a few days ago, and it isn't a concern anymore. He'll likely be back for the big Bulls game Thursday in Chicago. Wade practiced and will play against the Kings.

Udonis Haslem was on the practice court wearing sneakers, but it'll be at least another week before he starts running. He says late March remains the target. That probably has to be the target, because if he comes back any later than that, it might be too late to fit him into the rotation comfortably before the playoffs.

 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

All-Star start

Couple of notes from Friday's player availability...

--Kevin Durant said he doesn't consider himself in the running for MVP this season.

Durant "I don't think I have a chance. My year to try to win it was last year," he said.

Last week, I thought LeBron James was at the top of the MVP race, with Dwight Howard following him and Derrick Rose right there as well. Now, I think Rose has once again elevated himself to the top because his performance against the Spurs is sticking in the minds of people. But I still believe, as long as LBJ outperforms Rose in the couple games the Heat and Bulls have left, he'll come out on top.

--Good to see Dorell Wright in the All-Star setting, especially because it's in his hometown of Los Angeles. It's not quite the All-Star Game, but the fact he has shot three-pointers well enough to get in the three-point contest says a lot about the work he has put in over the first six years of his career.

Dwyane Wade is particularly proud of his good friend.

"I’m happy for D-Wright being able to go to Golden State and showcase his talent," Wade said. "I couldn’t be prouder for him. Everything happens for a reason. I look forward to him going out here and representing his family and himself well."

--Joe Johnson said that if Carmelo Anthony "New York is going to be a monster. I think everybody knows that."

Well, not necessarily. If the Knicks give up Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Raymond Felton for Carmelo and Chauncey Billups, that team still won't crack the top five in the East. And in the long run, the Knicks would be better off with Felton. Here's the only reason I think the Knicks are going to push to make this trade rather than wait for free agency to sign him.

If Carmelo ends up not signing the extension and then losing as much as $20 million because of the new collective bargaining agreement, 'Melo might just be upset at the Knicks for not getting it done at the deadline and costing him money. Then he might look at a team like the Clippers and go there, essentially to stick it to the Knicks.

--And for those who were wondering if it was Jason Jackson who Ray Allen was talking to in that exchange during the interviews, no it wasn't. I'm pretty sure Jax wouldn't let that go.

(This exchange:

    Ray Allen, arguably the nicest, most thoughtful player in the NBA, was in the middle of answering questions when a perfectly reasonable Heat-related question was asked by a Heat employee wearing a Heat polo and carrying microphone with the Heat logo on it.

“I don’t understand your question,” Allen said. “You have a Heat shirt on.”

He might have smiled as he said it, but he didn’t answer the question. Think he would’ve had the same response if it someone wearing a Hawks or a Knicks jersey? Doubtful.)

 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

All--Star break assessment

The Heat beats the Pacers and Raptors on back-to-back nights, neither win overly impressive, save for one quarter against the Pacers. The problems that the team has now are problems it has had all season, frankly, so it's not as if anyone should be surprised.

At this point, the point guard issues don't look like they'll get resolved. For some reason, Mario Chalmers looked decent coming off the bench, but the second he becomes a starter he looks like the 14-year-old playing in an adult league. He can't shoot, all of a sudden, which makes those other mistakes he constantly makes even more noticeable. His teammates are letting him hear it, but it doesn't seem to be sinking in. And at this point, especially after you got a taste of it Wednesday night, you're longing for Carlos Arroyo again.  Mario

Frankly, it seems like a no-win situation for Erik Spoelstra and for his team. He's probably not going to make a change back to Arroyo or to a big starting lineup. At least not until it's actually costing the team games. Come the postseason, assuming this continues at the PG spot, look for Chalmers to get token minutes as the starter but Spoelstra going with a non-traditional PG most of the game.

It's obvious Dwyane Wade and LeBron James play quite well together. Wade looks to be more of a scorer, while LeBron still plays his all-around game and occasionally scores in bunches. There are still moments, like in the Boston games, when Wade isn't quite as comfortable playing off the ball and waiting for his turn. It's why he hasn't been able to explode against the Celtics the way he did in last year's playoffs. But considering how well those two have communicated this season, you can expect Wade to vocalize that before the C's roll around again, and definitely if the teams meet in the playoffs.

As for the final portion of the season, it's going to fly by because there are so many interesting games on the schedule.

For starters, the second game after the break has the Heat back in Chicago, which beat Miami in the first meeting (w/out LeBron) and still wants to prove it's at least the second best team in the East.

There's a rematch against the Knicks, another game against Orlando (which could get ugly if Dwight Howard gets physical), two games against the Spurs, a home game with the Lakers, a potential Chris Bosh-Kevin Durant throwdown, another visit to Cleveland and, of course, the April 10 home game against Boston, which hopefully will mean a lot and give both teams a taste of the playoffs.

Good time for the A-S break, but the best part of the season is still to come.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Talkin' passes

After watching that pass from Dwyane Wade to LeBron James so many times, it's tough not to want to compare it to some of the best passes in NBA history, as LeBron already called it the best.

Here's a few of the best from NBA Action... I'm partial to the Penny Hardaway no-look and the Charles Barkley behind-the-back pass, which has to be the longest successful behind-the-back in league history.

 

 

This pass from Jason Williams might have been the best ever if it a) came in a real game and not the rookie game, and b) was actually finished by Raef LaFrentz. Instead, he got fouled and sent to the line.

 

 

Then, of course, there's the Wade-to-LeBron 90-foot alley-oop. BTW, it seems like Chris Bosh can never win on this team. His coast-to-coast move with the behind-the-back dribble and the and-one finish was one of the best plays of the year. And he's not even on the Sportscenter highlights that I saw. Poor guy.

 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Celtics discussion points

--Dwyane Wade clearly hasn't been himself against the Celtics this season. In the first two games, he was 6 of 28 from the field, and Sunday he seemed to get frustrated quickly, and he did what he doesn't normally do, which is respond with some physical play.

Now, the shoulder to Kevin Garnett probably shouldn't have been a flagrant foul. It was either a regular foul or possibly a technical foul. And the fact that he appeared to do it in response to a hard screen Garnett set on Mike Miller, only strengthens the bond as teammates. But still, Wade usually takes out his anger in the scoring column. Against Boston, he's a tad lost.

Granted, Wade had the ball every possession against the C's in the playoffs, and Sunday he found himself standing in the corner more often than he wanted in a tight game. But he has to find a way to make Boston feel all three of the Big Three and not just one or two at a time. If there's any team that Miami needs to have all three going against, it's this one.

--It's funny how, even when you get a handful of favorable calls, it's the critical non-calls that stand out. Well, the Heat got a couple of calls in its favor in the fourth quarter. But the most crucial one went the opposite way. With the Heat down two, LeBron James drove to the goal and was fouled by Kevin Garnett on the shoulder and arm. Not a difficult call to make. Only, it would've been Garnett's sixth, so it's likely the refs were hesitant to blow the whistle.

Bosh-kg Making matters more painful for Miami, it was Garnett who hit the next basket that extended the Celtics lead to four points with 1:50 left in the game. The Celtics didn't hit another field goal after that.

--Rajon Rondo did make life difficult for LeBron, at least for a little while. He made LeBron back the ball in over halfcourt, a la Magic Johnson and, less famously, Damon Jones. And he also bothered LeBron some after the ball crossed halfcourt. But that didn't last especially long. Erik Spoelstra says it probably affected Miami for three possessions. In a one-possession game, that's enough to make a difference, but to credit Rondo as the game changer in this one is overlooking his four missed free throws and his missed jumpers and layup down the stretch that could've made the Celtics win a lot easier. Frankly, Von Wafer's 10 points in 14 minutes were almost more devastating because it came from an unexpected source. Rondo, even with the triple-double, was actually held to his season average in points and below his season average in assists and shooting percentage. And Kendrick Perkins was particularly devastating, not just with his 15 points but also with his deflections of Heat passes.

--You can't ask for a better shot than Miller's open three at the top of the key to tie the game. Miller had been out of the game for all but 16 seconds in the fourth quarter, and he did take a shot from Garnett earlier in the half. But I'm sure he'll tell you he wants that same shot every time in a close game.

For that matter, the Heat's shooters (Miller, James Jones and Eddie House) were a combined 1 of 10 from distance, with pretty much all but one House chuck being excellent shots. If the Heat hits two more of those, this game could've been quite different. Of course, the same could be said of the combined 2 of 11 that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined to shoot from distance.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pre-Boston notes

Just a couple of thoughts while the Heat-Celtics rematch is on the horizon.

--A couple names I left off my column about LeBron James being the MVP frontrunner. Kobe Bryant should always be mentioned in that conversation, even if it would take a ridiculous post-All-Star run from him and his team to jump out in front of the race. Second is Dwyane Wade. Frankly, he's right there with everyone that's right behind LeBron in terms of having a case. It just so happens LeBron is having a tad better year. Lebron ft

--LeBron's comments to a Pistons fan who was taunting him by speaking of his mother were, I would say, reasonable. He could have said much worse than "I don't care what you say to me. I don't give a [expletive] what you say. But don't be disrespectful." And as much as you want to ignore fans, LeBron's kids were sitting, apparently, within earshot of the fan, so he probably couldn't help but say something.

--The Celtics were held to 33 points in the second half against the Lakers on Thursday, with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo combining to shoot 15 of 42 from the field. While it does show that they can be defended, it makes you wonder how badly their going to want to have a recovery game against the Heat on Sunday. But with the way the Heat offense is playing these days, Miami can now move the ball and get open shots on the perimeter for shooters in rhythm. It's a part of the offense that was extremely spotty the first two times these teams played, and given how well the Celtics protect the paint, the Heat's going to get those shots if the ball moves.

--That dismantling of the Pistons was encouraging for a couple reasons. Mostly because the team seemed to respond to Erik Spoelstra's message of taking advantage of the moment. The Heat won that game with its energy in the opening minutes. It was fun to watch.

Second, it was just another sign of LeBron's comfort level, when he can calmly affect the game with 10 assists, eight rebounds and four steals on a night when his shot wasn't going and he needed 17 shots to score 16 points.


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