Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Postgame Breakdown: Heat 115, Raptors 95

The Heat responded to its worst loss of the season with its most dominant effort of the year. And the kid in Raptors Heat the Heat uniform won the Beasley-Bosh debate on this night.

Michael Beasley tied his career-high with 28 points and notched his fifth double-double of the season by adding 11 rebounds to lead the Heat to a much-needed, slump-busting, drought-emerging victory at home Tuesday over the lifeless Toronto Raptors.

"We've got to play with passion," Beasley said. "I was just telling myself that I have to be aggressive. And with that, I've got to be efficient. I decided to step up."

With the 115-95 victory, the Heat (12-11) ended a four-game home losing streak at AmericanAirlines Arena and also avoided falling below .500 for the first time this season. Tuesday's win came after the Heat suffered a 28-point loss at home to Memphis, which followed a blowout loss at home Sunday against Dallas.

But the Raptors proved to be the perfect sparring partner for the Heat. Toronto ranks at the bottom of the league in defense, and it didn't offer much of it as the Heat tied its season high for points in a game. This was therapeutic for the Heat. A night like this was needed. An effort like this was necessary.

D. WADE'S DOINGS: Wade was much more interested in action than talk the past few days. He got a great look from the bench of a great bounce-back performance from his supporting cast. Wade was able to watch the fourth quarter while resting on the bench during the blowout victory over the Raptors. He didn't need to do much on a night when the rest of the rotation offered so much. Beasley led the way in scoring, Dorell Wright provided energy off the bench, Arroyo was a steady, calming influence on offense and Jermaine O'Neal was disruptive during a key stretch in the lane. All the Heat needed on this night was 19 points and seven assists in just more than 29 minutes from Wade.

TURNING POINT: The Heat blew this one open with a 23-11 spurt in the third quarter to open a 17-point Raptors Heat Bosh lead. The lead stretched to 21 points early in the fourth. Bosh was bottled up late, and there was no relief for the Raptors. The decisive spurt came by way of balance, defense, transition offense and sharing the wealth. Mario Chalmers, Wade, Carlos Arroyo, Joel Anthony, Dorell Wright and Jermaine O'Neal all scored during the key run in the third quarter. It was an example of all-out team ball that hasn't been on display often enough for this team.

WINNING EDGE: The Heat had 17 assists in the first half and finished with 27 for the game. The ball movement was the best part of the Heat's performance, even when every player on the court was looking to get the ball to Beasley so he could get his first career 30-point game. Beasley missed a jumper with two minutes left and couldn't get a shot off on the following possession. He could have gone for one more basket in the final seconds, but opted to hold the ball at midcourt to run out the clock. Either way, he tied a decent bow to the end of this one.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: It was the third different starting lineup in as many games for the Heat. Whereas the previous two lineup adjustments were a product of Quentin Richardson's hamstring injury and Jermaine O'Neal's absence, Tuesday's change-up was the result of Erik Spoelstra seeking a shakeup of sorts to send a message to Mario Chalmers about professionalism. Carlos Arroyo started in place of Chalmers, whose play has been sporadic, really sporadic, this season. While at least a temporary change was probably due, it still came as somewhat of a surprise - even with Spoelstra hinting that there could be movement in the lineup after the 28-point loss to Memphis. After Tuesday's game, Spoelstra said Chalmers was benched because he was late to Tuesday's morning shootaround. Mario, who handed out Christmas gifts to 100 local kids before the game, had started every game since he was taken in the second round of the 2008 draft. Tuesday's move to the bench ended his streak of consecutive starts at 111, including the playoffs. Having said that, it's hard to argue that Chalmers has truly earned his keep with the Heat. One of the reasons the Heat didn't bring in point guard help early in the summer was because Pat Riley said he didn't want to start anyone ahead of Chalmers. Perhaps this shakeup was a needed wake-up call for Rio, who had a team-high eight assists to go with 12 points from Arroyo at the point.

KEY CONTRIBUTION: After having his streak of double-figure scoring games snapped at 11 with a six-Raptors Heat Beaspoint performance in Sunday's embarrassing loss to Memphis, Michael Beasley bounced back and nearly produced a double-double in the first half alone (18 points, 8 rebounds) Tuesday against the Raptors. It was only a few weeks ago when Wade said it would only be a matter of time before Beasley would "be a 20-10 guy on a bad night" in terms of his production. The impressive thing about his play Tuesday was that Beas got the job done on both ends. He was aggressive on defense. And when Beasley is scoring, offense seems to come easy for the Heat. When Miami scores at least 100 points, you can bank on Beasley providing at 25 percent of the scoring. Tuesday was no different. The key now is carrying that level of performance and execution from one game to the next, to the next. 

NEXT UP: Magic at Heat, 8 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.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Carlos, Comebacks & SuperCoolBeas

Clearing out the mind and notebook as the flight to Wednesday’s Heat-Thunder preseason game reaches cruising altitude. Consider it the misdirection exhibition tour.


After the game in Tulsa against Oklahoma City, the Heat heads to Kansas City to play New Orleans. Go figure. Still trying to figure out how last preseason offered a trip to Paris and London and this year counters with Tulsa and Kansas City. Again, go figure.


THE ARROYO-AL TREATMENT: There was a slice of it after Tuesday’s practice, when new Heat Carlos Arroyo guard Carlos Arroyo had what amounted to his own personal media day The Puerto Rico native and former FIU standout signed with the Heat on Monday.


TV, radio and newspaper reporters from Spanish media outlets engulfed Arroyo after Tuesday’s practice. Considering the market, there was a genuine excitement and interest. Arroyo is believed to be the first native Spanish-speaking player in Heat history. And who said his signing with the Heat wouldn’t have an impact on and off the court?


“It’s been great,” Arroyo said of the reaction. “It’s an honor to be here and to be home.”


BEASLEY’S WIN-WIN-WIN SITUATION: Count forward Michael Beasley among Heat players Beasley Interview who believe Arroyo is just the sort of addition second-year starting point guard Mario Chalmers needed. With a savvy, proven veteran to contend with in practice every day, Chalmers gets a taste of what Beasley goes through with Udonis Haslem.


“Some of the guys who have been in here – not to downgrade guys, but – (Chalmers) has been a landslide better than them,” Beasley said of a group that has consisted of Chris Quinn, Marcus Banks, Shaun Livingston, Luther Head and current camp hopeful John Lucas. “Carlos can do it all. (Chalmers) not only has somebody to go head to head against, but somebody to look up to and to learn from.”


WADE AND SEE: Dwyane Wade acknowledged Tuesday that his current rib strain is near the same spot as the injury he sustained during the 2004-05 season that lingered into the playoffs. But Wade said this recent ailment pales in comparison to the anguish he felt four years ago.


“If it was that bad, I wouldn’t even be out here,” Wade said after practice. “I wouldn’t even be trying to play.” Wade worked out extensively the past two days, with a focus on conditioning. He essentially wore a “yellow jersey” in scrimmage sessions, meaning he was completely off limits for contact. Wade said he would consider wearing protective padding around his rib cage if he plays this week. From the sounds of Tuesday’s practice, Wade, at best, might appear in one game and skip the other.


SPARRING SESSION: Jermaine O’Neal said he expects to play the back-to-back set against the Thunder and Hornets after he missed the previous two games with a bruised foot. O'NEAL_JERMAINE


There is absolutely nothing he could face in those games more demanding and brutal than the low-post sparring sessions he’s had after practice against assistant coach Keith Askins. Make that Askins and two huge, thick “bash pads” Askins basically used as weapons to pound on O’Neal as he practiced low-post scoring moves. O’Neal managed to hold his own at times, but Askins did little to hurt his reputation as “Kick Ass-kins.”


“It’s a different kind of conditioning in here,” O’Neal said. “I look forward to getting back on the court and getting my timing and everything back.”


FUNNY EXCHANGE: Beasley, if nothing else, is still providing the comic relief. Before Sunday’s game against San Antonio, Beasley and Yakhouba Diawara had a hilarious exchange. Beasley picked on Diawara because of his deep French accent. Diawara, a Pepperdine grad, shot back: “I’m an educated man. Put Pepperdine against wherever you went, college dropout. Did you even stay long enough to major?”


Beasley, who spent one season at Kansas State before leaving to become the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft, didn’t hesitate. “Yeah, I had a major. My major was Bucketology. You don’t know about that. I mastered in getting buckets.”


(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, May 25, 2009

Getting To The Point

Covering the Eastern Conference finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic, and it suddenly hit me. And then it hit me again. And again.

What does the Cavs-Magic series have to do with the Heat? Plenty. Rafer

Especially when you get to the point. Point guard, that is. The veteran variety.

It could be argued that one of the Heat's biggest weaknesses this season was the absence of a proven, veteran, play-making point guard it could bring off the bench or use to challenge rookie Mario Chalmers.

Well, these conference finals, particularly in the East, are essentially a Point-Guards-R-Us outlet center.

And it makes you wonder. Why does every other team in the league seem to have a spare Flip Murray on the roster, yet the Heat goes two seasons without one? Shaun Livingston didn't have the legs. Marcus Banks lacked the skills. And Penny Hardaway - dare we say - didn't have anything left other than pleasant memories of when he used to be somebody in this league.

This Magic-Cavs series is stocked with serviceable, stop-gap type veteran parts at the point that Miami either tried to get and couldn't, parted with too soon or probably should have pursued harder when it had the chance.

Orlando has three of them: Rafer Alston, Anthony Johnson and Tyronn Lue.

Cleveland has one: Mo Williams, who understandably went for the money grab in Milwaukee and turned down Miami as a free agent. He was then dealt to Cleveland.

Anthony carter Denver has one: Anthony Carter.

Even the Lakers can haunt the Heat here: The final piece of the Shaq trade was the pick the Lakers ultimately used to draft Jordan Farmar.

And what do Farmar, Carter, Williams (Heat get a pass here), Alston, Johnson and Lue all have in common? Each would just be the type of backup the Heat so desperately needed this season. Many - if not all of them - would have started for Miami. These cats aren't saviors by any stretch. But they can be short-term, serviceable solutions that Dwyane Wade can trust and respect in the backcourt.

They can also groom Chalmers.

I know. I know. The last time the Heat went for its own Flip, it ended up getting Smush-ed. And burned.

But that was two seasons ago. The scorn should have worn off by now. Smush

It's well past time to address this need. It won't cost much. It won't break the salary cap. It won't send Miami too deep into the luxury tax. It might have, however, sent the Heat a round deeper in the playoffs. So it's worth the investment, isn't it?

After all, the Heat never did have an answer off the bench against the Hawks for Murray, who played a key role in flipping the Heat out of the postseason.

Pat Riley, one of the NBA's ultimate deal-makers, was able to get a second-round draft pick out of the Magic two years ago for releasing Stan Van Gundy from his coaching-turned-consulting contract with the Heat.

In hindsight, Riley probably should have held out for the option to take one of the Magic's 26 veteran backup point guards instead. Filling this void would be one small but significant step toward roster improvement for the 2009-10 season.

Get my point?

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Hate Shaq Tour? (UPDATED)

ORLANDO -- Former Heat center Shaquille O'Neal is in the midst of a three-game swing against his former teams (Lakers, Magic, Heat) and has named the stretch the "Hate Shaq Tour." That leads to two big questions.

In his first game in Miami since being traded to the Suns, will Shaq get more boos or cheers Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena?  Are you upset that he's playing so well now, when 12-14 months ago he seemed like a shell of his former self? Now that you've had more than a year to reflect, would you like to see the Heat retire Shaq's jersey?

O'Neal was in a pretty good mood following Tuesday's shootaround in Orlando. I'll have a story tomorrow but here are some tidbits.

*When he was asked whether the Suns or Heat got the better end of the trade, considering Miami dealt both players it got from Phoenix (Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks), O'Neal just laughed.

*On playing in Miami for the first time since the trade: "All the guys on that team, I have a great relationship with, so there's nothing there. Nothing to be said. Everything that was handled there was handled because of business, that's just the way we look at it. Me and D-Wade had a great time All-Star weekend. I talk to Udonis all the time. It's just going to be a game."

*When he was asked about his pass between Dwight Howard's legs during the All-Star game, O'Neal called it "just basic basketball, you guys have seen me a lot of times, basic move."

*His thoughts on the Heat acquiring Jermaine O'Neal: "I think it was a good move for him."

*His thoughts on Wade: He's a special player, a fabulous player. He deserves to be up in the MVP runnings this year. I wish him well in that."

*He still has his Star Island mansion. O'Neal is continuing to try and sell it and said he will keep it on the market, "until  I get the price I want." (O'Neal had said in late November that he was about a month from a buyer closing on the property. The deal ended up falling through.)


*Suns forward Grant Hill's take on Shaq's recent witty barbs about opponents: "Last year he didn't say those things. He wasn't healthy. Now he's healthy...He's even more of a personality, more creative. Last year he wasn't playing on the level he's accustomed to. Now that he's right, he's crazier. He's more creative with his quotes and things he says in the media, the things he does in the lockerroom. "

*Hill's take on why Shaq is having a revival: "It's the dry heat (he joked.) I think the difference this year from Day 1 compared to last year when he came is he's healthy."

*Hill on whether Shaq is exceeding expectations this season: "Oh yeah. Going into the season if could just defend, rebound and take up space that would be great. What he's doing now is icing on the cake. Actually, it took us a while to adjust to."

*Suns interim coach Alvin Gentry's take on Shaq's resurgence: That's a good question. That one hasn't been asked yet (he joked). With him, he didn't go through training camp with us, we got him at the trading deadline. It takes a little while to adjust to players. He's just in great shape. When he's in great shape, he's still a great athlete and he's still a really big guy. It's tough to defend him."

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Fact of the Matter Is ...

- Pat Riley is receiving calls regarding Shawn Marion's availability in trades.

- Riley is likely even making a phone call or six to check interest.

- It's all part of doing business in the NBA.

- It's also what Riley is supposed to do, considering his history at building and rebuilding teams around minor and major trades.

-Shawn Marion has had a difficult go of it in Miami's offense.

-Miami's offense doesn't really cater to Marion's game, because, unlike in Phoenix, where Marion was a finisher at the rim, a guy named Dwyane Wade takes care of the finishing in these parts.

-Marion is sensitive. Super sensitive.

-And the combination of circumstances (Marion's expiring contract, Heat needs elsewhere on the roster, the relentless rumor mill, Riley's never-really-satisfied approach to running a team, Marion's sensitivity) makes this a turbulent time across the board.

-The Heat is still ahead of schedule, regardless, in this rebuilding stage.

-As Michael Beasley develops - and defends - it reduces to the all-out need for Marion.

-Holding onto Marion for the rest of the season wouldn't be all that bad for the Heat, especially come playoff time.

-Parting with Marion at the trade deadline in any sort of lateral move that doesn't bring a starting big man and relieves the Heat's roster of either Marcus Banks or Mark Blount wouldn't be worthwhile.

-Hanging onto Marion for the rest of the season and having him walk away in the summer wouldn't necessarily cripple the Heat.

-And Marion's departure alone in free agency won't necessarily make the Heat a major player in the 2009 class to be headlined by Carlos Boozer (a sign-and-trade or subsequent roster move would be needed because, while dumping Marion's salary would take the Heat significantly under luxury tax, it won't leave them far enough under the salary cap).

-Sometimes, it's better to leave good enough (as in playoff progress) alone.

-Something eventually has to give, because Marion's pride and sensitivity, agent Dan Fegan's reputation as being hard to bargain with and Riley's itchy trade finger might not be able to co-exist much longer.

-It's going to be an eventful few weeks, to say the least, leading to the Feb. 19 trade deadline.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lakers 108, Heat 105 (Beyond the Box Score)

LOS ANGELES - Credit the Heat for at least one thing. Those guys don't know the meaning of quit.

Twice, I had a huge chunk of my game story written Sunday night. And twice, the Heat fought back from nowhere to get back into the game. So twice, I had to rework parts of the story. Let's just pit it this way, the Lakers are probably glad they don't have to see Miami for the rest of the season after their 108-105 win at Staples Center.

The Heat fell to 1-2 on its season-long, seven-game road trip. But they'll have a great chance to finish the trip with a winning record if they play as well and as hard as they did Sunday night. Yes, the Heat had its chances, and even led at halftime. So they could have won.

But yes, there also is something to be said about moral victories. The Heat held serve with the best team in the NBA, and had a shot or two to beat them at the end to post a season sweep. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum made sure it wouldn't happen.

Player of the Game: Michael Beasley - OK. This kid is legit. Two weeks ago, Beasley appeared to be headed straight into funksville. His playing time dwindled and so did his confidence, although he'll never admit the latter. But Sunday marked his third 20-point effort in the past four games. Beasley is back to being offensively beastly. When Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade were locked into their mixed martial arts disguised as one-on-one defense, Beasley kept the Heat's offense going. He had 23 points, including 12 straight at one point down the stretch. He also had five rebounds and two steals.

Surprise, Surprise: Chris Quinn - He hung his head low in the post-game locker room after missing a clutch shot that could have either tied the game or put the Heat ahead in the final seconds. But his overall game was encouraging. The backup point guard had 12 points, seven assists and three rebounds in 31 minutes. If the backup job wasn't completely his before Sunday night, it is now. Then again, we're still trying to find out how he lost that job to Marcus Banks a few weeks ago in the first place.

Tough Night: Mario Chalmers/Dwyane Wade - They split the distinction. Chalmers had his worst game in quite a while. This was another of those nights when he played like a rookie. Because he is a rookie, you can't blame him for a hiccup every now and then. He quickly got into foul trouble against veteran Derrick Fisher and went scoreless with two assists in nine minutes. Wade added a few more knots, bumps and bruises to what's quickly becoming an amazing collection of them. He was hounded throughout the second half by Bryant and had the aches to prove it.

Lit 'em Up: Andrew Bynum/Pau Gasol - The twin 7-footers were shut down on their Dec. 19 visit to Miami. But they came back with a vengeance Sunday, combining for 38 points and 24 rebounds. Bynum scored the decisive basket on a putback with 18 seconds left and Gasol grabbed 18 boards.

Stat of the Night: 53-38 - The Lakers pounded the Heat on the boards. That edge included a 17-9 advantage on the offensive glass.

That Says it All: "Bryant was amazing. We have not seen denials like that all year long. I think his conditioning level is remarkable." - Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on Bryant's full-court defensive effort against Dwyane Wade.

Next Up: Tuesday - Heat at Minnesota Timberwolves, 8 p.m. Target Center

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Entering 2009: Where Things Stand Now

The Heat's last game of 2008 was far more impressive than its first.

Remember that 103-98 loss at home to Milwaukee on Jan. 2, 2008? Neither do I. And I was there, I think. But that setback dropped the Heat to 8-24 en route to a 15-67 finish in 2007-08.

Tuesday's 104-95 home victory against the title contending Cavaliers brought the Heat's record this season to a respectable 17-13 through its first 30 games of 2008-09.

As the Heat heads into what appears to be a promising New Year, we update where things stand with each player on the roster at the close of 2008.

Joel Anthony - The second-year, shot-blocking center still struggles to catch the ball. But as long as the Heat stays above .500 and defensively consistent, he'll hold onto a starting job.

Marcus Banks - Another year Banks finds himself without a steady role despite a starter's salary. He recently pulled ahead as the No. 2 point guard, a move even coach Erik Spoelstra has trouble explaining. Maybe this was truly about defense. Or maybe Banks is being showcased for potential trades.

Michael Beasley - Fun-loving kid who is still searching for his way, despite his offensive production. Of the top five players chosen in last June's draft, Beasley is one of only two who isn't a starter.

Mark Blount - Every team has a highly overpaid, under-producing player stuck on the bench. Blount is the Heat's representative. A heck of a nice guy, who, at this pace, will earn about $230K per game played.

Mario Chalmers - Cool. Calm. Confident. Is playing like he was the Heat's No. 2 overall pick. Has become the second-most important player on the Heat's roster behind employee No. 3.

Daequan Cook - What a difference a year makes. Because, a year ago, you had to wonder if the Heat simply missed on this kid. Now, he anchors the Heat's bench and is Wade's No. 1 bailout option.

Yakhouba Diawara - Has only showed flashes of the defensive stopper the Heat thought it landed in free agency. Frenchie, as Diawara is called by teammates, has had a hard time finding playing time.

Udonis Haslem - Beat him up in the paint. Bloody him. Still, Haslem continues to bounce back for more. Looks like this will finally be the season he averages that elusive points-rebounds, double-double.

James Jones - Any day now, he'll pop up on the active roster after a methodical recovery from wrist surgery. But it will be interesting to see where he fits in, considering Cook's surprising emergence.

Shaun Livingston - The promise is still there (we think), even though the playing time is not. Livingston remains a long-term project as he works back from 2007 knee surgery. Sitting has to be killing him.

Jamaal Magloire - His legs and explosion might be shot, but he's still big enough to bang, board and bring that intimidating presence in the paint the Heat desperately needs ... until Zo makes up his mind.

Shawn Marion - By now it's obvious that Marion is more counterpart than catalyst. But that's fine, as long as he continues to rebound, defend and provide energy. His $17.8 million expiring salary will keep him in play for potential deals until the Feb. 19 trading deadline.

Chris Quinn - Remember that line from the Ice Cube movie, Friday? When Cube's character, Craig, got fired on his day off? Somehow, that's happened with Quinn, who was demoted to third-string point guard when he was shooting a team-best 44 percent from 3-point range.

Dwyane Wade - Putting up MVP numbers in every category now, including team victories. Wade is having the best all-around season of his six-year career. Thirty games into the season, the issue is no longer whether D.Wade is back. It's how far can he go?

Dorell Wright - Speaking of characters from funny movies. Remember Can't-Get-Right, the character from Eddie Murphy's movie, Life? Well, that's Wright. Despite two procedures on his troublesome left knee, including March 2008 surgery, Dorell just can't get right. And it's a shame.

Alonzo Mourning - The mystery man. He's not on the roster, and is officially a free agent. But Zo continues to work toward a return from last December's devastating knee surgery. The Heat would have to make a roster move to make room for Zo. But at this stage, would a reunion be more about gratitude or need? And would a three-month swan song be worth parting with the potential of a Livingston or Diawara? Or even pausing the progress of Anthony? Or would the simple answer be to release Magloire before contracts are guaranteed on Jan. 10, with the hope that Zo would be ready to step in soon after?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cavaliers 93, Heat 86 (Beyond the Box Score)

CLEVELAND - For the Heat, this one hurt.

Literally. Not only did Miami squander a nine-point fourth-quarter lead in Sunday's 93-86 loss to the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena, it also got beat up along the way.

Players and coaches from both sides were already talking about this matchup being similar to a mini-playoff series, with the teams set to meet again Tuesday in Miami. But then came the physical play, free-throw disparity and all of the other things that accompany postseason play.

Udonis Haslem was elbowed in the eye by LeBron James during a loose-ball scramble in the fourth. The blow sent blood streaming down Haslem's right eye and required six stitches and glue to close. Heat guard Mario Chalmers also limped out of Cleveland with a strained right hamstring.

And I lost track of the number of cuts and scrapes on Shawn Marion's arm after a night of trying to slow LeBron James, who finished with probably the hardest 33 points he's scored this season. The Heat simply faded down the stretch and didn't have enough here. It will try to regroup at home.

Player of the Game: Dwyane Wade - Overcame a rough first-half to finish with a team-high 29 points to meet his season average in a matchup between the top two scorers in the league. Wade was 3 of 11 from the field in the first half. Wade was 9 of 14 from the field in the second half. He simply ran into the stingiest defense in the league. Wade did most of his damage from a distance. He only had two turnovers, but the one in the fourth quarter proved too costly during a Cavs' 12-0 run.

Surprise, Surprise: Udonis Haslem - After struggling with his offense in recent games, Haslem emerged from his semi-slump to finish with 15 points on 7 of 11 shooting from the field. He also had nine rebounds and a blocked shot. He certainly would have had a double-double had he not missed those minutes late in the fourth after he was pounded in the eye by James.

Tough Night: Mario Chalmers - Had a tough night guarding Mo Williams, who, if you recall, was the object of the Heat's point guard affection the summer before last during free agency. The Heat couldn't corner him then and couldn't contain him Sunday. Chalmers was 1 of 7 from the field, with five fouls, five assists, four steals and two turnovers. He limped out of the arena with a strained hamstring.

Lit 'em Up: LeBron James - No surprise here. James had 20 of his game-high 33 points in the first half. He was forced into some tough shots by Shawn Marion. But at the end of the day, James did what James does. He was 12 of 19 from the field and also had nine assists and six rebounds. "If he gets that many shots, he's going to make some of them," was what Marion said afterward. James hit plenty of jumpshots, but had very few highlights at the rim.

Stat of the Night: 20-5 - That's the difference in free-throw attempts between the Cavs and Heat in the decisive fourth quarter. Cleveland made 14 of 20. Miami made 4 of 5. That's the ballgame.

That says it all: "For 44 minutes, it was hard-fought. We just need to find a way to get some resolve. Whatever we want say, we were still up nine (points) and it was our game to close." - Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on Miami blowing a 9-point fourth quarter lead.

Next Up: Tuesday - Cavs at Heat, AmericanAirlines Arena, 7:30

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Beasley's playing time and the Quinn/Banks situation

Rookie forward Michael Beasley's playing time has dwindled in the past three games--18, 15 and 13 minutes--coinciding with the Heat's winning streak. But I wouldn't read too much into it. Coach Erik Spoelstra insisted after Wednesday's practice that Beasley is improving and said it's particularly evident in practices.

Mike24_heat_dep_hmg_5 He said Beasley's role is likely to grow and that the Heat needs him to impact games. He remains the team's second-leading scorer behind Dwyane Wade. Spoelstra's assessment is that Beasley, 19, is ahead of schedule, particularly if you look at young power forwards that have broken into the league in recent years.

It seems that there is some disappointment with Beasley so far, at least based on reading the comments section in this blog. Yes, he's the future of the franchise and the No. 2 pick so expectations are high, but remember he is 27 games into his rookie season and he's 19. His defense needs improvement but the Heat seem pleased with the progress he's been making. The kid is a natural scorer and remember this is the first time in his life that he's being asked to play defense and being held accountable. Good for the Heat staff, making him earn his playing time. As long as the Heat is winning, perhaps there is something to be said for bringing him along and taking the long view. All indications point to Beasley being a willing learner and hard worker--all good signs.

Now onto the position battle that seems back on between backup point guards Chris Quinn and Marcus Banks. Quinn did not play against New Jersey, while Banks did. Tuesday Banks entered in the first half and then Quinn in the second half. For a stretch this season Banks was not playing at all, while Quinn did see action. Now it's unclear where each stands.

"Right now it's not totally black and white," Spoelstra said, in response to a question about how he determines whether Quinn and/or Banks plays. "It's a situational deal. It depends on who we're playing and what the need is. Marcus gives a defensive disposition, aggressive on the ball, Chris gets us into offense very efficiently, and when he's making shots the offense can be even more explosive."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Portland Trail Blazers 106, Miami Heat 68 (Beyond the Box Score)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- So much for a happy ending to first-year Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's homecoming. He went to Trail Blazers game as a child, as his father was a team executive, and Spoelstra played point guard at the University of Portland. The Trail Blazers dominated from start to finish. The Heat sorely missed forward Shawn Marion, who was attending a family funeral, but is scheduled to rejoin the team in Phoenix for practice Thursday.

Player of the Game: It's hard to pick one in the Heat's worst game of the season but based purely on stats forward Michael Beasley had the best offensive night with a team-high 14 points.

Surprise, Surprise: There were several. Center Mark Blount played for the first time since Nov. 19 and finished with 7 points, two rebounds and a blocked shot in 23 minutes. With Udonis Haslem starting at center and Joel Anthony moving into the backup role lately Blount has been the odd man out. Honorable mentions go to guard Marcus Banks, who played for the first time since Nov. 14 and in his fifth game this season. Banks shot 5 of 6 for 11 points and Shaun Livingston played his first game since the Heat's home opener Oct. 31. Livingston played 7 minutes and was 1 of 2 from the field with two points.

Tough Night: Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade both had rough nights. Wade had a season-low 12 points on 5 of 14 shooting and Haslem was 2 of 9 and had 6 points. For Haslem it continued his recent shooting struggles as he is 11 of 35 in his past four games.

Light em' Up: Portland forwards LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 points on 7 of 10 shooting and rookie Nicolas Batum had a career-high 15 points on 6 of 9 shooting.

Next up: Heat at Phoenix Suns, 8 p.m. (ESPN).



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