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10 posts from March 2012

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

LeBron, Heat hurting

So, with 18 games left before the playoffs, here's what we have:

--LeBron James is falling apart.

--Dwyane Wade is unhappy with the offense.

--The offense has regressed to a series of isolation plays and three-point shots.

--Chris Bosh has forgotten how to rebound.

--Mario Chalmers has forgotten how to shoot.

--Mike Miller is perpetually injured.

--Norris Cole has hit the rookie wall.

--Eddy Curry and Dexter Pittman never panned out.

--A 6-9ish center is still starting.

--Pat Riley is a terrible singer.

Does that pretty much cover it?

OK, let's not completely overreact. After all, the Heat is 35-13, which is good for second place in the Eastern Conference. Still, you can't deny several things have been off with the team since the All-Star break. The Heat is 8-6 since then and enters Thursday's game against the Mavericks the loser of two straight blowouts.

Let's start with LeBron James. He was shooting the best percentage of his career this season until he banged his elbow and his head against the Suns. Since then, James is shooting around 40 percent. And now a report by ESPN's Chris Broussard tells us that James dislocated his left ringer finger against the Pacers. Believe what you want about James' finger, but know that whenever Broussard breaks any news about James it's because James' people are indirectly trying to make excuses for James' inconsistent game.

I have no doubt that James hurt his finger against the Pacers, but--hello!--it's only a finger. Maybe James needs a few days off to recuperate and rest up for playoffs.

Next, we have Dwyane Wade and his apparent agitation with the Heat's offense. Wade didn't attempt a shot in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma City (silent protest, as Mike Wallace points out, or something else?) and then wouldn't talk about it after the game. There's no denying the fact that the Heat's offense has taken a step back since the All-Star break. The Heat's scoring averages are down and James and Wade, once focused on slashing to the paint, are relying more and more on long jump shots.

Which brings us to the biggest potential issue: Is the Heat burned out? The physical toll of the shortened season has affected every team but the Heat's high-energy styles of offense and defense seem more vulnerable to the fatigue factor. Maybe the Heat is just conserving its energy until the playoffs.

Friday, March 23, 2012

LeBron James, Heat show support in wake of Martin death

DETROIT -- The death of Trayvon Martin of Sanford has grabbed the emotions of LeBron James and his teammates. On Friday, James posted this touching picture on his Twitter account, capturing the collective sorrow of so many.


In addition to the photo, James wrote a series of Twitter hashtags to express his feelings: #WeAreTrayvonMartin #Hoodies #Stereotyped #WeWantJustice


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Heat hoping Turiaf can provide some muscle

The Heat added Ronny Turiaf to the roster on Wednesday and he was set to practice with the team on Thursday morning before the Heat flew to Detroit.

First things first, how do you feel about the addition of Turiaf? The 6-10 center has only played in four games this season due to a broken hand. For the season, Turiaf has six points and 12 rebounds.

So, what will Turiaf's role be on the team? Don't expect him to take Joel Anthony's place in the starting lineup, but Turiaf could slide ahead of Dexter Pittman in the Heat's rotation as he becomes familar with the Heat's defensive system. Turiaf, 29, is a seven-year pro with playoff experience and the Heat is hoping he can provide about 10 minutes a game.

The addition of Turiaf gives the Heat four centers. In other words, adding Turiaf will likely push Eddy Curry further down the bench.

When will Turiaf really be needed? The playoffs, of course. If the Heat matches up with the Magic in the second round, Turiaf will be needed against Dwight Howard. The Heat's lack of size has been magnified since the All-Star break with losses to the Jazz, Lakers, Magic and Bulls. Each team dominated the Heat on the boards.


Friday, March 16, 2012

EMAILS I GET: Heat needs to upgrade at center

From time to time here at Heat Check, the editorial board votes to publish the emails that fill our inboxes. This latest email comes to us from Rafael in Brazil and reflects the opinion of several emails the Heat Check blog has received since the Heat's loss to Chicago. Thanks for the email, Rafael, and keep them coming.

Hi Joe,

I´m brazilian Heat fan, and wacth every Heat game on NBA TV Broadband. After this one and half season, same problem remain in Heat system: Center!

Why we are insisting in Joel Anthony after all this time. Just only 3.2 points and 4.2 rebounds a game. I don´t know what happened with Jamaal Magloire last year, and what happend with Eddy Curry this. But man, I can´t believe that Eddy can be worst than this Joel numbers. Coach don´t give more oportunity to him.

Our last 2 games, another time, show us that we need more than 3 players to win a title.


Chapecó, SC, Brazil


Excellent email. There was plenty of speculation on Thursday that the Heat was going to make a trade for a center but, in the end, the team didn't have the assests to complete a deal. The focus for the Heat's front office will now shift to next Thursday's buyout deadline, which could provide a few options to add depth at the center position.

Hornets center Chris Kaman, whose contract was acquired in the trade for Chris Paul trade, is hoping for a buyout, which would allow him to become a free agent and possibly join the Heat. I don't think it's going to happen. Remember, the Hornets are still owned by the NBA. That means owners around the NBA could veto a buyout of Kaman in order to keep him off of the Heat's roster.

Another possible option could be Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal. O'Neal, like Kaman, is in the final year of his contract, meaning Boston could buy him out and release him on Thursday. Again, I don't think that's going to happen. Why would Boston release O'Neal only to have him turn around and sign with the Heat? If the playoffs ended today, the Heat would play the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.

An argument could be made that the best option for the Heat at the center position remains Eddy Curry. The big man has worked all season to meet the Heat's difficult standards for physical fitness and I wouldn't be surprised if he finally gets his chance over the next two weeks.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Heat roster set (for now) as trade deadline passes

PHILADELPHIA -- The Heat's front office remained idle through the trade deadline on Thursday.

The Heat was not an active participant in trade discussions and now begins the final third of the regular season with its roster set. With only 14 players, there is a still a chance the Heat could add a player after next Thursday's buyout deadline. The Heat added Mike Bibby to the roster last season.

The Heat would like to add a center, but options will be limited.


Second loss of road trip a significant blow for Heat

CHICAGO -- It's one thing that the Bulls defeated the Heat on Wednesday without Derrick Rose, the reigning MVP. It's quite another that they did it on off nights for both Loul Deng and Carlos Boozer.

Deng and Boozer combined to go 5 of 18 from the field but the Bulls made up for it by outscoring the Heat 56-15 off on the bench. If those numbers don't give you pause, then these certainly will. The Heat lost on a night when Dwyane Wade and LeBron James each scored at least 35 points.

How did this happen? The Bulls manhandled the Heat inside, out-rebounding Miami 50-34. It's the second game of the current road trip that the Heat has lost the battle of boards.

So, what does this all mean for the Heat? Well, for starters it means the Heat now trails the Bulls by 3 1/2 games in the Eastern Conference standings. That's a significant margin with only 24 games left of the regular season. The Bulls have only lost nine games this season but Miami and Chicago do play two more games before the playoffs.

 Wednesday's loss for the Heat also served as a major confidence booster for the Bulls, which had lost five in a row to the Heat dating back to the Eastern Conference finals. Let's face it, the Eastern Conference is a two-team battle this season. The fight is just getting started.


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Heat 89, Hawks 86: Heat sweeps home back-to-back

OK, who else thought Zaza tried to bite off LeBron's ear during that scrum?

Seriously, is there a bigger goon in the NBA than Zaza Pachulia? I think he wins the MGP Award for most goonish player in the NBA, gotta love him.

Luckily, LeBron made it out of Wednesday's game with his ears still attached to his head. I mean, just imagine if Pachulia played for the New Orleans Saints. In all seriousness, LeBron did describe Zaza's game as "football" like after the Heat defeated the Hawks 89-86.

A few things to take away from the Heat's 30th victory of the season:

--LeBron, who finished with 31 points, has scored at least 30 points in 17 games this season. He also had 10 rebounds, which now gives him 17 double-doubles. For comparison's sake, Chris Bosh is in second place on the team with nine.

--Dexter Pittman, throw it down, big man! Pittman came threw with a clutch dunk in the fourth quarter. He's been improving steadily over the last two weeks. (Check my story in today's paper.)

--Udonis Haslem had four key points in the final minute of the game, including that incredible dunk on an alley-oop from Dwyane Wade. Good to see Haslem bounce back after the loss to Utah.

--The Heat has won 11 in a row at home and are 17-2 at home overall. The record for consecutive wins at home is 18 games.

--Out of the 15 home back-to-backs in franchise history, the Heat has only swept four.

--The Hawks didn't attempt a free throw in the first half. That's only happened one other time in Heat history. The Heat committed just two fouls in the first half, also a record.

--Nine rebounds for Wade was a season high.


Saturday, March 03, 2012

LeBron James passes up final shot after another brilliant game

[email protected]

SALT LAKE CITY — When LeBron James hit one of the most ridiculously difficult shots anyone in EnergySolutions Arena had ever seen, he spent nearly the entire ensuing timeout jutting his jaw, glaring and generally flexing his brilliance for all to see.

The shot came with 26.1 seconds left and gave the Heat a three-point lead after trailing by as many as 18 points in the third quarter. In other words, James had reason to stomp and celebrate around the court even before the game was over. For that moment, he was confidence and genius and ability personified.

Of course, that shot and that moment are not what the basketball world will be talking about on Saturday and Sunday before the Heat plays the Lakers at Staples Center. The other shot (or lack thereof) will overshadow everything James did on Friday night in Salt Lake City.

The Heat lost to the Jazz 99-98, snapping its nine-game winning streak, after Udonis Haslem’s 18-foot jumper caromed off rim with the 0.9 seconds left in the game. Haslem was wide open thanks to an incredibly creative no-look bounce pass from James. Few will remember it that way, though. The focus will be James’ decision to pass up a chance to win the game.

Less than a week after James deferred in a similar situation and under similar circumstances at the end of the All-Star Game, he did it again against the Jazz. James made 11 of his final 12 shots of the game on Friday, including 8 of 9 in the fourth quarter, to fuel the comeback.

“Man I have a sick feeling in my stomach,” James tweeted less than two hours after the game. “Really wanted tonight’s game. I just had to make one more dang play out there.”

From a simply academic, X’s-and-O’s standpoint, James made the correct play at the end. Paul Millsap shifted over to double-team James after an inbounds pass from Shane Battier and James found the open man, Haslem, who was in one of his favorite spots on the floor, just beyond the free-throw line.

“Josh Howard stayed on my right hand and forced me down and Millsap was at the elbow,” James said. “Knowing the percentages of what [Haslem] shoots from the free-throw line, he got a look at it.

“With him not getting as many looks, that might have played into the fact that he might not have felt comfortable taking it. We got a good look, it just didn’t go.”

So, that was James’ thinking in passing up the potential game-winning shot. Howard, the Jazz’s starting small forward, offered a different perspective after the game.

“I guess he felt there was too much pressure on him,” Howard said.

It will be debated ad nauseum.

Jazz guard Devin Harris set the stage for the dramatic finish when he gave Utah a one-point lead with 4.5 seconds left. He tied the game with a 12-floater while being fouled by Dwyane Wade. Harris swished the and-one free throw to give the Jazz the lead.

The Heat (28-8) called a timeout and drew up a final play for James. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did his part after the game to mute the criticism.

“We don’t want it to become a storyline and we won’t let it,” Spoelstra said. “There will be opinions out there. None of those opinions will matter in our locker room. I’m sure there will be a lot of speculation.”

Dejected, Haslem sat at his locker room for some time after the game.

“Yeah, I was open,” Haslem said. “I had a good look. For whatever reason, I didn’t knock it down.

“I’ve had my opportunities where I’ve made them. Tonight I just didn’t make it.” 

Haslem said James made the right play in the final seconds of the game.

“We play as a team; we trust each other,” Haslem said. “We talk about trust. He trusted me tonight to make the shot, and I just didn’t make it.”

For nearly three full quarters, the Heat had absolutely nothing. Its point guards had perhaps their worst games of the season. Teammates argued during the game. Simply put, the Heat struggled without Chris Bosh, who missed his second straight game due to the death of his grandmother.

But then James found his shot and could hardly miss.

He finished with 35 points, including 17 in an awe-inspiring fourth quarter, to go along with 10 rebounds, six assists and three blocks. Before the game, James was named the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Month for February. He also won the award in January.

On Thursday, James had 38 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals in a win against the Trail Blazers and Friday was the first time in James’ career that he went without a turnover in two straight games.

James led the comeback in the fourth quarter with one display of brilliance after another. It climaxed with a hopelessly off-balance 21-footer that somehow found the bottom of the net with 26.1 seconds left. Even James was shocked that the attempt went down and an entire arena stood in bewildered amazement at the shot.

But the Jazz wasn’t done. Al Jefferson tipped in a miss by C.J. Miles to cut the Heat’s lead to 97-96 and Wade left the door open when he missed the back end of a one-and-one with 14 seconds to play.

The Jazz out-rebounded the Heat 50-32, including 23-8 on the offensive glass, and outscored the Heat 29-17 on second-chance points. Utah took a 71-54 lead with 6:09 to play in the third quarter when Gordon Hayward converted a three-point play. Hayward had eight straight points during the stretch and finished with 12 points.

Jefferson led the Jazz with 20 points and Miles had 14 points off the bench. The Jazz built a 17-point lead in the first half, out-rebounding the Heat 29-13. Utah had more offensive rebounds (15) than the Heat had total boards.

Heat guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole combined to score five points on 2 of 14 shooting from the field. Chalmers didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter. Instead, James played point guard and ran the offense. James was visibly frustrated with Chalmers in the first half and also scolded Dexter Pittman for a silly foul.

The Jazz outscored the Heat 52-38 in points in the paint, including 36-14 in the first half. The only thing that kept the Heat in the game early was the three-point shooting of Shane Battier. He made his first six three-pointers, including five in the first half. Battier finished with 18 points, the most he’s scored with the Heat.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Dwyane Wade's no-look alley-oop to LeBron James

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said on Thursday night that the chemistry between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade is such that mere eye contact is enough now for them to understand each other. But what about when Wade's not looking...?

Franchise record can fall against Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY -- It seems that neither the All-Star break nor the lack of Chris Bosh can slow down the Heat, which tore through the Trail Blazers on Thursday and take on the Jazz tonight in Salt Lake City.

The Heat can set a franchise record for dominance at EnergySolutions Arena if it defeats Utah by double digits. Miami's nine consecutive victories by at least 10 points has tied the franchise record.

Bosh, whose grandmother passed away this week, missed Thursday's game and will not be with the team on Friday. In his absence on Thursday, the Heat adapted by starting a small lineup. Shane Battier started at small forward and LeBron James switched to power forward. Defensively, James started at the five against Marcus Camby.

James exploded for 38 points and 11 rebounds but coach Erik Spoelstra could switch up his strategy tonight against the Jazz, which features a much larger frontcourt and a bigs who can score.

I'm predicting another big game for James and Dwyane Wade. James has averaged 30.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists against the Jazz in 16 games while Wade has averaged 29.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 6.0 assists against the Jazz in 14 career games.

NOTES: For the Jazz, Paul Millsap (severe left heel bruise) is a game-time decision  as is Jamaal Tinsley (flu). Raja Bell (strained left adductor) is out for Utah. Heat forward Chris Bosh (bereavement) is currently away from the team.

In related news, "Smoke Monster" is my new nickname for the Heat. And now a video of the original Smoke Monster.




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