Tag Archives: Chris Bosh

History in a Bottle

In which Jared and I try to comprehend Game 6. 

Jordan: Jared. Help me put into words what I saw Tuesday night. I’ve seen some pretty good games over the years. I was at the Chesapeake Arena when Kevin Durant and Kevin Love dueled into double overtime, each one answering the other’s three-pointer as if they were the easiest shots in the world.

As the lone Kansan at the University of Connecticut in 2008, I cried out in agony and later victory after KU improbably came back and won the National Championship (the same game, by the way, that injected now-Heat point guard Mario Chalmers with his inextinguishable confidence). I’ve watched Boston ride Ubuntu back from 24 points down, and I’ve seen the Mavericks ride Dirk Nowitzki’s flowing, golden luscious locks and his one-footed turnaround to a championship.
But Tuesday night…it almost defies explanation, or reason. You may think this to simply be me at my hyperbolic best, but I assure you, I am still mesmerized by game 6. So please. Tell me. What did I see?

Jared: WAIT. Were you AT all of those games? If you were, that’s pretty unbelievable. If you weren’t, well you just misled me you sunuvabitch.

Anyway, I honestly don’t know what we saw on Tuesday. It was mesmerizing. It was beautiful. It was just basketball, man. I can’t even pick out a “best” thing about the game. There’s just too much. Duncan’s first half. LeBron’s fourth quarter. Ray’s three. Parker’s three. The whole headband thing. Bosh’s block(s). For fuck’s sake I almost forgot about Kawhi’s dunk on Mike Miller in all the ridiculousness of the second half, and that literally made me jump off my seat when it happened.

It’s weird to know you’re watching history as it happens. Once the Heat started coming back and eventually tied the game and took the lead, the feeling that rushed over me was surreal. I knew I was watching the end of one of, if not the best game of my lifetime. I’m still not sure how to reconcile it. It seems to reactive to give it the top spot the day after, but I don’t know how else to convey the sheer awesomeness of what we watched. I actually don’t even know if watched is the best word for it; we – all of us watching – experienced it, together.

I said last night on Twitter I want to figure out a way to bottle the game up and distill it so I can get drunk off it the rest of my life, and I don’t at all feel like that’s a crazy thing to say. I want to bring a recording of that game with me wherever I go, so I can flick on the last 15 minutes at any point I want. Of all the games I’ve watched, this is one of the very few my favorite team hasn’t been a part of that gave me a feeling like that.

I guess that’s all a long-winded way of saying what you saw was a brilliant game of basketball between two ultra-talented teams that no one who watched it – whether in the arena or in the comfort of their home – will ever forget. Honestly, that’s part of why I wanted to do this. I want to get thoughts down on paper so when I go senile in 50-60 years, I have recorded proof that I definitely watched Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals.

Jordan: It’s not a crazy thing to say at all. But it’s not just the game that I want to bottle. As you said, this was something we experienced, not just watched. Try as we might, we can’t recreate that experience, which is just about the only bittersweet aspect of the entire game.

Tuesday’s game, to me, was a microcosm of the entire series. All along, these teams seemed to be so evenly matched. Even the blowouts never really felt like blowouts. Or, rather, they did, but it wasn’t one good team dominating another. Think about the major themes of this series so far, and how present they were in Game 6
Adjustments
It’s been a bonafide chess match (hi there, sports cliché!) between Erik Spoelstra and Gregg Popovich, two of the best tacticians in the game. Last night, in the first half, Duncan was terrorizing Miami’s defense, particularly Chris Bosh. Spoelstra adjusted, and Duncan’s brilliance faded. Likewise, the Heat tried some new misdirection plays, and the Spurs switched defensive tactics accordingly.
By that same token, however, we also saw adjustments that went wrong, the most glaring of which has to be Spoelstra re-inserting Wade when Miami’s offense was humming like a fine-tuned tank without him (I’m sure you have a few things to say on the subject). Then, there was Gregg Popovich maybe outthinking himself by taking out Duncan for the possession that led to Ray Allen’s game-tying three pointer.
Stars
Tim Duncan’s first half was a moment of brilliance. Methodical, calculated, dull brilliance. Duncan’s never been a flashy player, which I surmise may play a part in his longevity, but the lack of flash doesn’t make it any less of basketball artistry.
LeBron James’ fourth quarter was thrilling, captivating, and maybe even a little terrifying. He wasn’t cold and distant like game six against Boston last year. There was fire, no there was a fucking inferno roaring within James.
Manu and Wade have had one good game apiece in this series, and last night’s game showed us those good performances were the outliers.
NARRATIVES (proven, disproven and created)
Narrative: LeBron can’t do this on his own, he needs to give the ball to Wade.
Narrative: LeBron is a choker (this, for some reason, still persists)
Narrative: The Spurs are boring
Narrative: The Spurs don’t get enough attention or praise
Narrative: If Miami loses, this “experiment” was a failure
Narrative: This could be one of the best series of all time
I’m sure I’m missing quite a few themes, but these were the ones that stuck out the most. Maybe that’s why it’s still so hard to process this game. It was so packed from all angles – tactics, narratives, history and so forth – that we’re not even done fully experiencing it.

Jared:  I want to start with the Duncan/Bosh match-up, because the 180 from first half to second half was really amazing. Duncan played one of the great halves in basketball history in the first half of Game 6. It was truly spectacular – a throwback treat that, like most of the rest of the game, I will never forget. Duncan had largely had his way with Bosh in the post for most of the series (I’m pretty sure ESPN Stats & Information tweeted out at halftime that Duncan was shooting 62% against Bosh to that point in the series), but the first half was the first time he just eviscerated the guy. Bosh looked utterly helpless.

And then the second half started and somehow everything flipped. Bosh was everywhere. He was fronting the post with such tenacity, rotating like a mad man, blocking shots, snagging boards, playing passing lanes, darting out at pick and rolls, just doing it all. It was a marvel. One of the most dramatic half-to-half shifts in performance I’ve ever seen.

Speaking of dramatic shifts… let’s take a look at some numbers I tweeted last night courtesy of NBA.com/stats

1. LeBron was 5-17 [in Game 6] with Wade on the floor. 6-9 with Wade off the floor. -19 in 33 mins with Wade. +18 in 16 mins w/o Wade.

2. 7 restricted area shots in 16 w/o Wade minutes for LeBron. 3 in 33 minutes with Wade.

3. Heat O-Rtg [in Game 6] with LeBron + Wade on court: 92.0. Heat O-Rtg with LeBron + no Wade: 143.3

4. Oh and Heat D-Rtg [in Game 6] with LeBron + Wade on court: 112.2. Heat D-Rtg with LeBron + no Wade: 72.7

5. Let’s go for the full series now. O-Rtg/D-Rtg with LBJ/Wade: 100.8/112.7 … O-Rtg/D-Rtg with LBJ/NO Wade: 131.7/89.5

6. Full series LeBron with Wade: 35-90 (38.9%), 17-32 in RA. Without Wade: 20-37 (54.1%), 13-14 in RA. 194 min w/ Wade, -56. 62 min w/o, +48.

Yeah… D-Wade, not so much with the helping the team while sharing the court with LeBron. Look, obviously Spo is not just going to bench Wade for the entire game, nor should he. But the dude needs his minutes cut dramatically. The Spurs are ignoring him on the perimeter like he’s Tony Allen or Chris Duhon, for crying out loud. And the whole thing where the Heat run out of timeout plays for him has got to stop. No. Just no. I mean, I want the Spurs to win because Pat Riley is the antichrist, but for the sake of basketball, Spo needs to chill with that shit.

The LeBron-Miller-Allen trio with take your pick of Cole/Chalmers and Bosh/Birdman lineups need to get on the floor more. The spacing is worlds better, and in small samples, the defense is too. It’s just time. It’s not an indictment of Wade’s career that he isn’t the Wade he used to be. He’s clearly hurt. The Spurs clearly don’t respect his outside shot. His defense is hit-or-miss at best. It’s time for a change in tactics.

The tiny adjustments made by both coaches throughout the series have been fascinating. Miami abandoning traditional lineups to go small-ball full time resulted in the Spurs mostly doing the same, depending on how you categorize Boris Diaw. After a conference finals that included big-all-the-time teams in Memphis and Indiana, it’s interesting that the Finals have shifted back to wide open small ball. I love it. The “death of the center” stuff is overblown – they really just have different responsibilities now than they used to, both as a function of rule changes and style of play, but seeing both teams play perimeter oriented attacks for the back half of this series has been pretty awesome.

Speaking of, man did the Heat shut down San Antonio’s three point game last night, huh? Chris Bosh wasn’t lying when he said Danny Green wouldn’t be open. Green’s 1-7 performance and general disappearing act for much of the game may have permanently knocked him out of Finals MVP contention if the Spurs eventually win, which is crazy after the shooting display he put on in Games 1 thru 5.

As to your NARRATIVE NARRATIVE NARRTIVE BLAH BLAH BLAH point: I’m so happy that the game was so amazing that it knocked all the narrative bullshit on its ass. No one’s talking about who was clutch, who choked, any of that garbage. All everyone cares about was how freaking good the game was. I actually stopped taking notes at midway through the fourth quarter because I didn’t want to miss anything. Good lord it was fun.

 

Jordan: My point wasn’t that the narratives weren’t discussed, more that they were present. Narrative is good, it’s important. It creates intrigue and drama, taking the game above just a pure X’s and O’s analysis. Of course, not all narratives are created equal, nor do each of them hold equal weight. We saw as much last night.

The more concrete angles, such as this possibly being one of the best series of all time, were mostly proven right, while the other, tired and outright wrong ones, such as LeBron’s penchant to choke, were swiftly, as you so eloquently put it, knocked on their asses. What was so great about last night, and you touched on it, was that the story didn’t dominate the action. The game itself was theater enough, and all of those aforementioned sub-plots played out as the game wore on without us needing to continuously bring them up. So captivating was the game that the discussion rarely deviated from the action at hand.
Oh, and it wasn’t just San Antonio’s three point game Miami shut down last night. Tony Parker, in both the 4th quarter and overtime, was 2-of-8. Granted, those two makes were the two most important ones, but Parker was downright EXHAUSTED heading into the extra frame, (he missed all four of his attempts), and there’s little doubt that’s due to James’ physical play.
Another performance unfortunately overshadowed by both the loss and a missed free-throw: Kawhi Leonard. He has been phenomenal in the playoffs, on both ends of the floor. He struggled last night against James on defense, especially when the Heat went with their shooting line up, because he didn’t have any help when LeBron went down low. But he was the second best player on the Spurs last night, and maybe the third, at worst fourth, best player overall. He is the embodiment of the Spurs system and process, and yet another microcosm of a larger theme of this series.
One other thing I can’t believe we haven’t mentioned: Doris Burke has mastered the Pop interview.
Jared: So many people were talking about how LeBron would get tired guarding Parker that they overlooked how exhausting it is to be guarded by LeBron. TP looked like he was about to keel over by the end of the game. Being hounded into a 6-for-23 by the best player on the planet will do that to you.

And Kawhi, man. I don’t think enough can be said about how good that dude is. He’s just a Spur. That’s the best way to put it.
Re: Doris, she’s the best, isn’t she? She knows how to ask questions, which is more than you can say for a lot of the people “asking” “questions” in the post game pressers. And Pop always seems to actually give her answers, which is nice of him. How does she get so lucky?
Jordan: It’s because she knows the game, and I think Pop has a certain, yet still grudging, respect for those who know the game.

But back to basketball. Game 7 now looms large on the horizon. Will it live up to the drama of Game 6, or will it be more like Miami’s Game 5 victory in the finals last year, where the came was over after the first half. In a series that has given us everything from blow outs to nail biters, it’s impossible to know what to expect, much less what will happen. All we know is that, by the end of the night, we’ll have a new NBA champion crowned.
Regardless of what happens, we should consider ourselves lucky. Perfect moments, and in this case, perfect games, are rare in life. We got one on Tuesday night.
Photo by tom.keil via Flickr

LION FACE/LEMON FACE 6/7/13: THIS SERIES, YOU GUYS

When the Spurs made their last appearance in the NBA Finals against LeBron James in 2007, it drew the lowest TV ratings in Finals history. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if we continue to get games like we saw last night consistently throughout this series, the executives at ABC won’t be upset with the numbers that come in from the folks at Nielsen. What. A. Game. Usually it isn’t difficult to identify an equal amount of Lion Faces and Lemon Faces over the course of the night, but last night’s contest was so well played that the Lemon Faces were more challenging than usual. Let’s hit the highlights.

Lion Face: Tony Parker

To quote John Starks, “Did this dude just did this?”

The Heat played excellent defense for approximately 23.9999 seconds on the most critical possession of the game, but Tony Parker somehow, some way found the smallest crack of daylight possible in order to make Game 1 a two possession game in the waning moments. Parker finished the game with 21 points and 6 assists, but it’s that shot that will be remembered for years to come.

Lemon Face: The Heat’s 4th Quarter

Although they entered the final period with a three point lead, the Heat went away from everything that allowed them to build that lead in the fourth quarter. Both teams did an excellent job taking care of the ball throughout the game as they combined for 12 turnovers total, but four of Miami’s eight turnovers in the game occurred in the fourth which ultimately proved to be costly. Miami also missed 13 of the 18 shots that they took in the quarter including all five three-point attempts. The Big Three contributed heavily to that as James, Wade, and Bosh combined to go 3-11 from the floor over the course of those 12 minutes. After holding the lead for the majority of a game, Miami finally surrendered the lead at the 7:00 mark of the fourth, and San Antonio never relinquished it from there.

Lion Face: LeBron James

Was that the quietest triple double we’ve seen this season? Last night from far from a game where LeBron simply imposes his will on everybody else on the floor, yet his stat line of 18 points, 18 rebounds, and 10 assists still jumps off the page at you. LeBron may not be 50 times better than he was when he faced San Antonio in 2007, as he claims, but he is certainly improved on the last Game 1 he turned in against the Spurs where he went for a 14-7-4 on 25% shooting (4-16).

Lemon Face: Chris Bosh

When Chris Bosh is hitting his threes, the Miami Heat are as unguardable as any team in the NBA. When he goes 0-4 from long range like he did last night, they are very beatable. Bosh took a contested 3 with a man in his face and 7 seconds left on the shot clock early in the first quarter, missed a wide open triple a few minutes later, missed another wide open 3 halfway through the fourth which would have given Miami the lead, and then missed yet another long range shot that would have cut the Spurs lead to one with 1:00 remaining in the game. Tack on another disappointing rebounding effort from Bosh, and it’s clear that he earned the Lemon Face. At least he scored in double digits for the first time in six games!

Lion Face: This Manu pass

GIF via @SBNationGIF

I watched this GIF over and over again, and I still for the life of me cannot comprehend the physics of this pass. I’m still not fully convinced that ABC didn’t hire a special effects crew to doctor that footage on televisions across the world. You shouldn’t be able to throw a screwball with a basketball. You just shouldn’t.

Limon Face: NBA Fans

Good news everyone! After one game, it appears that we are about to be treated to an absolutely thrilling series which is all we can ask for when it comes to The Finals. Bad news everyone! We’re only getting somewhere between three and six more games this NBA season. Enjoy it while it lasts because as a great philosopher once said, “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

When it falls down, who you gonna call now?

lucidtech | Flickr

Noam and Amin try to break down what’s going on with Miami, where Indiana’s future is taking them, and how teams can be successful over the long haul.

Noam: This Heat-Pacers series has been something of a basketball treat. All games have been competitive, excepting those in which Udonis Haslem goes 8 of 9 from the field (which, incredibly, amounts to more than one game). Paul George and Roy Hibbert have made themselves household names. Chris Andersen LITCHERALLY hasn’t missed a shot. And that LeBron guy is pretty good. Having seen these two squads matched up two years in a row, I would gladly sign up for another four or five.

You posit an interesting question on Twitter, though: could the Pacers possibly be considered as favorites in any future permutations of this series? Of Miami’s core, only LeBron, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole are on the right side of 30. More importantly, Dwyane Wade, supposedly among the younger-oldies at 31, has seen fluctuations between his prime self and a sadder, broken down version happen frequently and violently. On the other side, Indiana’s starting wings are 22 and 23, with latter doubling as a third-team All-NBA premier wing defender. Roy Hibbert is 26, George Hill is 27.

But Indiana, for all its up-and-coming appeal, does have a major age concern. That would be David West, 33 by the time 2013-14 will tip off. He had ACL surgery two years ago, and while he seems to have recovered admirably, he plays a very physical game. Indiana’s strength is in their five man unit, but if one declines sharply, are we sure that balance isn’t irrevocably disrupted? Could growth on the wings, as well as the incremental improvements Hill and Hibbert project to make as they hit their prime, be enough to offset West’s age?

Amin: First of all, I don’t want your Chris Traeger reference to go unacknowledged. Well done, sir.

Second of all, yes my question is interesting. That’s sort of what I was alluding to. Indiana’s core–aside from West–is on the upswing. I could see West decline (as you said, he’s 33, he had ACL surgery, and he plays a tough, low-post game), but he looks like he’s declining gradually. I think that’s kind of the most ideal situation for any player in any sport, but especially for a guy who plays how he does. West will be slightly less effective next year, but he won’t have a stark drop off. Hibbert should improve, right? Will he make up for any potential deficiencies in West? Will Indiana let Hansbrough walk and pick up a backup PF who has a little more offense up his sleeve? Maybe Indiana can pounce on Thomas Robinson’s availability and play him heavy minutes behind West? Wowee.

Then, you’ve got the potential re-addition of Granger. Assuming Granger can play at even 75% of his former self… that’s pretty good. Granger is an effective scorer and a great defender. He gave LeBron fits during their intra-division CLE-IND series a few years ago. Granger also doesn’t seem like the type of player who would be difficult to fit back into a Pacers-style offense or defense. And based on the Pacers’ slower offense and their need for a wing upgrade over Gerald Green, slotting Paul George at the 2 (with Lance Stephenson behind) and Granger at the 3 seems like it would make the Pacers really good without causing extra stress/undue injury to Granger and his recover. And when I say “good” I mean “really really good.”Back to Miami real quick: Even with a very effective post game, LeBron + a bunch of other guys is probably not a championship team, right? That’s what existed in Cleveland, and it was proven time and again that LeBron needed a bit more reliability from the rest of the roster. That reliability came in Miami in the form of 1 guy who can get to the free throw line at will to close any gap (Wade) and another guy who is essentially guaranteed to make any shot if he’s wide open (Bosh). Those two players were not available in Cleveland. I am saying this as an unabashed Cleveland homer and someone who is rooting for a team with TYLER HANSBROUGH to beat the Heat.

Sorry about the Cleveland-aside. FOCUS. Ahem, OK. So, what I’ve noticed during this series is that the Pacers have been VERY good at preventing LeBron and Wade from living at the free throw line. As Derek alluded to in his piece, they’ve also effectively neutralized Chris Bosh’s impact by drawing him away from the basket on nearly every possession and contesting every shot he puts up. Miami has been relying on LeBron (as it should) and a 20-point performance by random role player X on any given night. Last night, it was Udonis Haslem. Haslem played really well, and the Heat needed every bucket he made–if not for their points then for their momentum.

When you look at the Heat’s roster, LeBron and Bosh are still in their primes, Cole and Chalmers are still young, and pretty much everyone else is a dinosaur in NBA years. Also, Chris Bosh is still possibly a dinosaur, but for other reasons (JOKES!). Going into next season–and more important the next postseason–if you have this same roster, you have LeBron still in his prime, a Bosh that people can figure out, an OK Chalmers/Cole backcourt (OK in Miami, average or less elsewhere), a Wade whose bad nights are starting to outnumber is good nights, a Ray Allen/Shane Battier combo that not doing its only required task of making open 3s, a revolving door of bigs, and Udonis Haslem. That’s… not gonna cut it.

Sorry, guess that wasn’t quick. But as it stands now, Indiana’s got options and are generally moving uphill. The Heat are still going to be good, but with their cap situation, they’re really only going to be able to make changes around the edges… and right now, their potential long term problems are with their core.

What do you think the next step for both teams will be to make sure we’ve got a rematch of them in the ECF next year?

Noam: It’s hard to throw out a foolproof ECF plan just because so many things can go wrong – injuries, luxury tax, injuries, random bounces, injuries, Nate Robinson catching fire, injuries. My gut says Miami is pretty much fine staying the course, as Erik Spoelstra would say, using the mini-MLE to get another 3-and-D guy (but maybe a less decrepit one this time, eh?) and gambling on a few minimum deal bigs. Indiana might be more interesting – I think convincing cases can be made for both keeping and trading Danny Granger, West is a free agent and could potentially come out of this summer either overpaid or in another jersey, the Pacer bench is epically horrendous. Also, after they refused to give up the 23rd pick in the draft for J.J. Redick, I demand that they either sign J.J. Redick or find a way to draft an immediate contributor with that pick. DEMAND IT, I SAY. HEAR ME, DONNIE?! However, I will immediately turn on my designation of Indiana being more interesting than Miami and ask you this question: is Miami’s run for a repeat title a historic abberation? This whole Wade business creates a unique vibe around the Heat – the way they came together and the mere existence of a 28 year old LeBron James makes them seem dynastic, and yet, as covered earlier, they might just be headed for a decline. We’ve seen teams win the title in a manner that seemingly dooms the following decade (Jordan Bulls, Duncan Spurs, any Laker title team ever), and we’ve seen teams win titles while giving the impression that they’re about to fall off from that level (the 2011 Mavs are a prime example of that), but do you remember any other team ever looking like it may just be both?

Amin: There are three important variables in this evaluation: 1) The CBA and salary cap, 2) Are any of the things that LeBron/Wade/Bosh do things that other players can do? and 3) What is Miami’s draft outlook looking like?

If you want this 3-man core to be dynastic, then the ret of the roster needs to be filled out in the same way as San Antonio’s. You gotta draft, develop, and trade your way into good parts that fulfill some of the tasks (or cover the deficiencies of) your core guys. And you gotta have the money to do it. If you do, you start to play your core guys fewer minutes as they get older, but the system is locked down. Alternatively, you can do what Dallas does and break the bank, stack, and reload the roster later around 1 or 2 pieces.

Right now, the Heat have a lot of good players, one great player, and two guys in between that are injured so are playing as good-level. Now, San Antonio has definitely recovered from a situation like that, but they’ve also consistently had draft picks and a well-managed cap. There’s a good chance Miami can pick up the same great play next year–like 99% certainty if Wade is healthy–but the nature of the Heat’s management of those 3 Spursian variables points to them not being able to turn this team into a 3+ championship dynasty like they hubristically promised.

In today’s CBA, is 3 rings the best anyone can do? Will the Spurs be terrible after their core retires/leaves? Can any team maintain contender or semi-contender status for 10+ years anymore? 5+ years, even?

Noam: The Thunder will be the ultimate test case for that, won’t they? They’ve hit all the theoretical checkpoints by drafting a transcendent star in Durant, finding another all-star to flank him in Russ, and being good enough early enough so his prime isn’t wasted. It’s what the Cavs couldn’t do with LeBron – they got to the Finals in his fourth year, one year ahead of the pace Durant set for OKC, but they did it with a supporting cast that was mostly veterans and role players. As LeBron continued to grow, they wilted instead. I think that’s the point that makes San Antonio so unique – David Robinson sitting out in 96-97 gave them their two cornerstones as a starting point, and they capitalized even further on that by inexplicably picking up two more in Tony and Manu. Without discrediting their developmental system, there are only so many such players percolating through depth charts, and grabbing several of them closely enough to have them all hit their primes together (or, in two different batches) requires immense amounts of luck.

Could it happen again? Sure, in theory. It’s hard to say if there are any other candidates for such a run, though. The Pacers are trying, but Paul George isn’t LeBron or Durant, and Hibbert is more Ibaka than Westbrook. Since this has somehow become a heavily anti-Cleveland exchange, we should point out that Kyrie might be that kind of transformative talent, and is being smartly surrounded by players his age, though none of the Waiters/Thompson/Zeller(/Nerlens Noel?) seems to be of the Westbrook caliber. There are some other tandems that one might throw out there – Chris Paul/Blake, Rose/Noah, Rubio/Love, Harden/Morey Acquisition X, Andrew Wiggins/Whoever Is On The Roster That Drafts Andrew Wiggins – but all are stretches, whether because they are dependent on unknown qualities, or because the known qualities have so far been lacking.

Is that CBA-designed or just plain happenstance? I would call it the latter, but it’ll be hard to tell without the benefit of hindsight. After all, this Spurs stretch is an outlier not just for the 2010s, but throughout NBA history. Outside of Red Auerbach being decades ahead of the curve, the Lakers continuously getting hall of fame centers, and the greatest player of all time existing, these things tend not to happen more often than they do. Again, the viability of the model could hinge on where OKC lands, with the Harden trade as the potential turning point. It’s an interesting wrench in that it simultaneously rid them of a third all-star, but brought in some assets that, if maximized, could theoretically bring in some of those young assets to develop in the Spursian manner you mentioned. If their run is cut shorter than we envisioned when this team came together, the Harden trade could become the turning point in NBA dynasty building.

Which brings us back to the Heat. They seem to be staring down some financial issues of their own – they’re scheduled to be repeater tax payers the moment such designations become available. If Wade’s knees don’t ruin everything, could his contract? Could Bosh’s? Are they due for a Harden trade of their own? Or, conversely, LeBron walking next summer before his supporting cast is torn apart? God, these would be great questions to discuss retroactively during all the free time we’ll have in the 2017 lockout.

Amin: Game 6 seemed to exacerbate all the same questions we had after Game 5. It’s going to be tough to figure out what Miami needs to do, but they need to do something. Be it a Harden-type trade, a use of the amnesty provision, any other type of trade that creates some complementarity and reliability… something. I don’t think they anticipated their core becoming unstable like this so quickly. And I don’t think any of us did either.

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: The Heat-Bucks 2012-2013 Playoff Preview

From October through April, thirty teams scratched and clawed their way for this opportunity. Who will make it out? Who will be disappointed? Who will shock and surprise? Who will hit an insane buzzer beater that will make us all collectively gasp so loudly that we will be able hear each other from six counties away? WHO? TELL ME, WHO?

Welcome to the Hardwood Paroxysm 2012-2013 Playoff Previews.

Virtual Systems Analysis

by Derek James

The NBA playoffs are a stage and a showcase for players at all stages of their career, and this series is no different. Last season we saw it with LeBron James, and he will look to further enhance his storied season this spring. Then there is Milwaukee’s backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, both of  whom will look to use this series to earn a raise this summer. Jennings, 23, will be looking for his first big NBA contract, and Ellis, 27, will be looking for his next big contract. It’s simple: if they perform at a high level in the playoffs against the reigning champions and they could cause a team with cap room to throw them more money, despite each player’s flaws.

This combination is risky because when you put the combined Usage Rates of Ellis’ 26.3% and Jennings’ 23.6% you see that they use just under half of the team’s possessions when they’re on the court together, 49.9%. This wouldn’t be so potentially worrisome for Bucks fans if Ellis and Jennings didn’t shoot just above or below 40% on the regular season and if the two didn’t take 33 shots per game on average. There is a real possibility for a boom-or-bust series for these two when you factor in the playoffs, each player in a contract year, and each player’s respective playing styles. In fact, you could argue that whether or not this series is competitive is determined by the play of the Jennings and Ellis. And if each player decides that this is their time to shine and force it too much, this could be a very quick series for the Heat.

However, there is one small beacon of hope for the Bucks to remain competitive in this scenario, and that is on the glass. We know the Heat don’t rebound well — 26th in Offensive Rebounding Percentage and 28th in Defensive Rebounding Percentage — but that hasn’t mattered since they don’t leave that many rebounds to begin with, being the NBA’s best shooting team. In the meanwhile, the Bucks have established themselves as the 11th best team at snagging up offensive rebounds.Being able to do this will not only enable the Bucks to get second chance points, but also control the tempo of the game; Milwaukee was played at the third fastest pace this season while Miami finished twenty places lower, at 23. Now, just because the Heat haven’t played at as high of a pace as last season doesn’t mean they can’t, so it could very well backfire (Miami is second best in the league this season in transition on offense and third in transition defense while the Bucks are fifteenth and fourteenth, per Synergy), but if Milwaukee can push the tempo they would not be allowing the league’s fifth to have a chance to get set as quickly.

Still, risking a track meet with the Heat is likely very dangerous, but there is likely a better strategy.

Unfortunately, that strategy is likely contingent on Ellis and Jennings — the Bucks’ two most ball dominant players — not going into I’m-Trying-to-Get-Paid-This-Summer mode. What I mean by that is each player will have to regularly make the correct decision between setting up teammates, which their season assist numbers indicate they can, and calling their own number on offense. The other part involves grabbing as many offensive rebounds as possible to keep the ball out of Miami’s hands and working to get the best shot again. Finally, in the same way that trying to get out in transition could give the Bucks opportunities for good looks before the defense can get set, doing so with good ball movement in the halfcourt may be the wiser approach given how good Miami is defensively in transition. That said, this doesn’t end in victory for the Bucks, anyway; it’s just a less painful death.

Considering how well both teams have been this season limiting turnovers and forcing turnovers, rebounding could make the biggest difference between winning one game or getting swept out of the first round.

If Ellis and Jennings each want to prove their worth and value to NBA teams without their next teams being immediately ridiculed for their next offense, showing that they can play intelligently against arguably the best team in the league is a great way to do it. Playing within a team concept and not for personal motivations will also maximize the abilities of their teammates, and keep them from becoming a one-dimensional team. As for LeBron James and the Heat, they will be looking at this as the first step on their road to a hopeful repeat.

The Fly In The Ointment

by Jordan White

Brandon Jennings or MontaEllisHaveItAll may explode for forty points, but rarely do those explosions come whilst getting others involved.  On a team where people actually pass him the ball and get him open looks, J.J. Redick may be a potent threat against the Heat. Unfortunately, Redick plays for the Bucks. Ersan Ilyasova is the type of stretch-4 that killed James’ Cavaliers in the playoffs, but Chris Bosh is an ideal match-up for the Heat against the sweet-shooting big man. In previous years, we’d talk about the potential for Miami to become complacent. That’s a laughable sentiment this year. Truly, there is no x-factor, not one that could make a difference in this series.

Through the Looking Glass

by Andrew Lynch

Currently, there’s only one person on this list of players who scored 30 points, dished eight dimes and grabbed eight boards per game over the course of at least eight playoff games.

After the four games of this series, LeBron James will be well on his way to making it two.

Statistical Anomaly: Heat @ Wizards

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Statistical Anomaly is a series where we explore all the mathematical nuances you may not have noticed watching the game the first time. Today, Kyle waxes Euclidian on the end of the Wizards home win streak at the hands of the starless Miami Heat.

Shane Battier nailed five three pointers and didn’t even bother attempting a two point field goal against the Wizards, continuing to fill his specific role even with Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwayne Wade in street clothes. He has made a two pointer in only one of his last ten games (21 made baskets, 19 of which have been three pointers). He’s always been a player who has relied on the three point shot, but never at the rate of this season. Here’s a look at the percentage of Battier’s buckets that have come behind the three point line by season for his 12 year career.

Battier

 He’s not the best player on the Heat, but he could be the most irreplaceable. Miami’s stars can cover for each other if one goes down with an injury, but the combination of defense and long range shooting from Battier is rare. Battier was a big reason why the Heat won a title last year and they will be counting on his nightly contribution (pigeonholed as it may be) in a big way.

Speaking of role players, Chris Anderson is another player who is in the perfect situation. Despite increased minutes, The Birdman failed to record a bucket in Washington. The Heat have lost only three games with Anderson in the lineup, and he has averaged 122% more baskets per 48 minutes in those games than in the 35 games Miami has won with him protecting the paint. Anderson enters every game with minimal pressure on the offensive end, allowing him to impact the game in other ways. Miami’s role players may not get the attention of their trio of Hall Of Famers, but without the strong play off of the pine, the stars would be putting up better numbers for a worse team.

Recall that last season John Wall produced one of the all time worst 3P% for a starter (7.1%). The Wizards point guard has showed more discipline, at times, this season, allowing him gain explore his potential. In April, Wall is averaging an outstanding 32.3 points in games in which he doesn’t attempt a triple (winning two of three). Unfortunately for Wizards fans, Wall wandered outside of the three point line against Miami, lowering his probable output. He is averaging 17.7 in such April games, with the Wizards yet to emerge victorious. He will not turn 23 years old until September, making his ceiling limitless if he can figure out the three point shot.

AJ Price played more than 28 minutes, nearly assuring the Wizards of a loss. Since Valentine ’s Day of 2011, AJ Price’s team has lost 16 of 17 games in which he attempts at least 10 shots, and given his career average of 0.3571 shots per minute, 28 minutes is the cut off. He isn’t a very efficient scorer (37.7% career FG%), so it follows that the more shots he takes, the less likely his team is to succeed.  Price is a nice insurance policy for Wall, but he seems to be destined for a career reserve role, as the 26 year old has been unable to prove himself as a reliable PG option. Maybe a position change would help, but with Wall and now Bradley Beal occupying both backcourt slots in Washington for the foreseeable future, it would have to happen for another team.

2013 All-Star Profiles: Chris Bosh

Photo from fisherbray via Flickr

Photo from fisherbray via Flickr

A couple of weeks ago, Chris Bosh quietly boasted of his Hall of Fame credentials. No one really balked at him, because no one was really listening. And Chris Bosh is, at least statistically, probably a Hall of Famer anyway. Moving on.

Chris Bosh is naturally understated. When he signed with Miami in 2010, he chopped off his dreads for more militarized features. He contractually obligated himself to less shots and less touches and more off-ball screens. He embraced an apathy towards star power. Or, he didn’t. He left Toronto because no one pays attention to Toronto. He gravitated towards stars and money and a big city. So, no one really knows Chris Bosh.

Sure, he’s a photobomber and prone to fits of emotional pageantry, but the texture of his personality remains mostly hidden. Careful media tip-toeing is often mistaken for an absence of spark, but the blips of psyche we’ve seen in his most emotionally vulnerable states – the post-dunk yelling, say – hint at a different truth. Chris Bosh is in there somewhere.

But even if we can’t pierce Bosh’s body armor, we can still label his worth as “All-Star” or depreciate his basketball value or commend its hidden virtue. In that Chris Bosh gives us nothing, he gives us everything. There is nothing particularly extraordinary about his words or actions, and so he’s a blank canvas. On the one hand, his perceptual elasticity permits the quickest of image rehabilitation – he fluctuates from unsung third wheel hero to Big Two and a half punching bag with regularity. But it goes both ways, and so just as from goat to hero, hero to goat.

Still, Chris Bosh is a deserving NBA All-Star. This was a given before the season, and as long as he didn’t goof too badly, fans would discharge their voting duties as per usual. Because removing all else, the big city and high expectations and diminished statistics, Chris Bosh is an All-Star-caliber basketball player. Whether or not he fulfills that box score destiny is of little importance; the nostalgia of Chris Bosh, the player he’s proven to be and now only shows flashes of due to circumstance, that’s the player we’re voting in and will continue to vote in. And maybe the NBA is better for it – the All-Star Game isn’t merit-based anyway (look no further than Kevin Garnett, starter) so what’s the harm in throwing a guy bone?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv7IZP7u9FE&w=640&h=480]

Miami Heat: Winning Like A Bosh Without Bosh

Via Flickr - Nina Amaho

You have a transcendent MVP and a former Finals MVP, the most feared pair of wings in the NBA. Do you really require Chris Bosh to beat the Indiana Pacers? Shouldn’t that caliber of talent be able to carry a team to the NBA Finals on their broad shoulders without a handful of rebounds and mid-range jumpers? Evidently not, judging by the popular opinion.

Today’s conventional wisdom seems to insist you have to have a bona fide Big 3 to compete in the playoffs, even in round two in the East let alone any final round series. This is flawed, a cop out, excuses. Who is Indiana’s third wheel then? If you can’t beat the Pacers with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade you honestly don’t deserve to sniff the conference finals let alone the promised land.

Not that Chris Bosh wasn’t a valuable piece and a tremendous loss to the cause, but seriously, he was that critical to success? Your entire Finals run, hyped with proud public promises, hinged on Chris Bosh? Chris freaking Bosh?!

Under normal circumstances Bosh’s replacement, Udonis Haslem, would more than cover up the loss of the Boshosaurus, but this season has been anything but usual, and that goes as much for Haslem as anyone. His string of buckets late in a Game 4 win may have seemed out of the norm, but really he was simply due for a progression to the mean after the horrendous season he’s had. Really, he’s been quite a capable mid-range shooter throughout his career until this oddball one, every bit as comparable as Bosh there.

Courtesy HoopData:

Anomalies abound from 3-23 feet between these two players in the last two seasons, but on average it shakes out pretty close. From 3-9 feet for their careers  Bosh is a mere 1.8% better from the floor than Haslem, and it lessens as the floor stretches out in the mid-range, 1.5% difference from 10-15 feet, and only 0.2% apart from 16-23 feet. The effects felt from the loss of Bosh in the mid-range game should be minimal, especially if Haslem does what he’s shown he’s quite capable of from there as he did the other night.

Defensively, of the ten most used lineups on the floor this season, according to BasketballValue,  Haslem appears in four of the best five. To Bosh’s credit, he appears in three of those top five as well, and Joel Anthony, who will primarily cover for those minutes at center that Bosh had been, two. So defensively, the loss of Bosh should be negligible as well, at least on paper. Erik Spoelstra’s squads are well known to be stingy on defense, and Bosh’s name rarely comes up in those conversations. Defensive adjustments shouldn’t be a huge factor.

Has Bosh’s value really evolved so much that he went from dinosaur status to missing link status?

For his career, normalized per-36 minutes, Haslem is an 11.4 points/9.5 rebounds guy, clearly not enough to put a couple of future Hall of Famers over the top, as these former championship third wheels show us at BasketballReference.

Oh wait…

What’s It Going To Take?

I don’t want to beat the “What Should I Do?” rhetorical question to death here. It’s been done, and overdone, and redone, and remocked and overmocked and the whole works. I loved the commercial (almost entirely for the “So… this went well.” joke. I never get tired of that gag. Why? Because it’s A. what you want him to say and B. what you think you would say. As I said on Twitter, I like the Nike LeBron so much more than the actual LeBron. I need a Nike me.), but we’re past it. But still, when I was trying to bring some sort of cohesive concept brought together about the Heat, it took a question to get me started. The opening point. The root.

“What’s it going to take?”

What’s it going to take, LeBron?

For you to get to that place, again? I’m not talking somewhere you’ve never been. I’m not like all the idiots out there talking about your playoff legacy as if Game 5 was the sum and total eclipse of it. It wasn’t. It was a bad game, brought on by something which was clearly not an organic output of your game. I don’t care what it was. It’s over. And in the great history of this game, every single player has a dark moment like that. They say you quit, fine. I’ve seen enough of you during this brilliant career of yours to know that simply doesn’t fit the mold. I’ve seen you bring playoff teams back from the brink, take over games like no one else and hit shots you have no business in hitting. So I’m not asking what it’s going to take for you to get to where you need to be, I’m asking what it’s going to take to get you back there. You said it was teammates. You’ve got ‘em. Kind of. You’ve at least got one, the true running mate, and Haslem wants it at least as badly as Varejao did.

You get to the lane, and you jump pass. You get to the rim, and you lean away. Is it the charge? Did the Drunken Seal spook you that badly? Again, don’t listen to the idiots saying you’re soft. Even if your mental constitution is lacking or damaged or whatever, you’re still simply physically superior to every player on the court. So I don’t buy it. So what is it? Why are you letting layup bounce off the rim instead of finishing with certainty? What’s it going to take to get your focus where it needs to be? What’s it going to take to get your anger riled? You’re not an angry person. Everything we know about you suggests this. I don’t mind it. Hell, I envy it. Not being bothered by what people say about you is a sign of courage, or at least inadvertent courage through obliviousness. But Jesus, man. The Celtics have twice spanked you. And I’m not just saying that because they beat you, and kept it comfortable for most of the game. I’m saying that because they treated you like a child who misbehaved, and sent you to your room.

To your credit? You got to the rim. While Celtics fans are complaining about your foul count, they’re also ignoring how consistent you were with attacking instead of settling for that pull-up jumper we’ve blasted you for. You worked to get to that rim, even if you deferred or shrank at the moment closest to completion. And you drew fouls. All over the place. Lots and lots and lots of jumpers. But you miss your free throws. Eight of twelve? Not going to get it done. Hit those four and it’s a one point game. Asking you to be flawless is too much? Too bad. That’s the table and you’re going to have to eat at it.

So what’s it going to take? What’s it going to take for you to get where you were, where you need to be, to finally give a damn about this team and the way it not only overcomes you, but does so like you don’t even matter? What’s it going to take?

What’s it going to take, Spoelstra?

It takes a special set of circumstances to give a coach an easier job than Phil Jackson has had. And yet you have both been blessed with such circumstances and failed in nine games to capitalize on it. This isn’t about Rome not being built in a day. This is about the Roman architects looking at stone and saying “Let’s make a boat!” Those turnovers in the first game? Forgivable. Completely. Teaching guys new places to be, new rotations, it takes time. But whatever this concept is that you’re trying to execute? It’s not working. Four of those five wins don’t matter, not to anyone that’s actually evaluating you, and the fifth is overshadowed by the New Orleans and Utah losses. So then you have a wash, and it comes down to Boston. Losing to Boston? Nothing wrong with that. But it’s the fact that you managed to construct a 5-point blowout and did so because continually your team is incapable of getting its star player a shot… despite having three of them! You cannot possibly think that jump-pass to James Jones after jump-pass to Eddie House after jump-pass to James Jones is what this offense should be about, do you?

41 of your 74 field goals were jumpers. 41 of 74. You have all these weapons, all these options, and you’re creating 41 of 72 jump shots inside the arc with another 20 three–pointers. That doesn’t really much left over for the kinds of shot you want to be getting, which are at rim. You ran 7 pick and rolls with James as the ball handler. You posted him 3 times. With Paul Pierce guarding him. What’s it going to take for you not to settle, Spo?

What’s it going to take, Riley?

What’s it going to take to realize that for all the classy veteran fun Carlos Arroyo brings you that you need a point guard? And we’re not talking Chris Paul here. You just need someone who isn’t going to get destroyed. Someone who can compete. D-League guys are bad, but they’ll at least bust through a screen if you tell them to. What’s it going to take to realize that all the ancient guys you brought on may not be viable options? What’s it going to take to realize that either someone says something to Chris Bosh, or he’s of little to no value to you?

What’s it going to take, world?

What’s it going to take to get past it? “The Decision was obnoxious. That’s certainly true. Coming up from the ground at the arena? Sure it looks bad. That wasn’t televised to a world audience. It was for the fans in Miami, and while the whole of them seem to suck so far, I’m sure there are actual Heat fans in that city who were pretty excited to have this happen to their team. Other than that? What? What did they do? Cleveland’s got every right to be livid with him and that team till the day they die. Fine. Can’t blame them. But since when did it become fashionable to make not just sports villains out of these guys but hold them up as if they are despicable human beings who deserve every ounce of scorn we can muster for them because they dared to get together to play basketball? What prompted this assertion that they are some terrible collection of human beings? They’re athletes. That’s it. Dwyane Wade does as much for charity as any player in the NBA and has always conducted himself with respect and dignity. Want to see him be a winner? Check 2006. You’ve got every right to cheer for your team, the good guys, and boo the bad guys. But the, honestly, frightening lack of respect for common humanity being lobbed at these guys is enough to make someone nauseous. They’re not sinners to us, that’s up to whatever things are out there in the ether. They’re just professional athletes who carry with them ego. You don’t think Baron Davis thinks he’s one of the best players in the league? Or Paul Pierce? Or Mo Williams? Or any other members of the highest professional basketball league in the world? Of course these guys have egos. Millions of people cheer for them on a daily basis. They’re not connected to reality. Very few athletes are.

But what gives us the right to criticize them beyond “Man, they sucked last night?” Because that’s not what’s going on. It’s “Those guys suck because they are classless pieces of trash who have no respect for themselves or the game.” Which is absurd. They’re just people. People who aren’t playing basketball very well together right now and had they played well last night and ended up six points better, you would simply be saying how “It doesn’t matter because they didn’t do it in the playoffs” or you’d be dead quiet. You want to talk about how Carlos Arroyo can’t play point guard? I’d love to hear your thoughts. You want to talk about how James and Wade need to stop taking drifting angles on drives? Let’s chat. But if you want to talk about how these guys don’t deserve our respect and we should lay down all their failures and roll around in them like Demi Moore in “Indecent Proposal?” What’s it going to take for us to move past this objectification of these people as some sort of symbol for what’s wrong with the world? They’re athletes. They play basketball, they go home.

Your vitriol is unsatisfying, it is disgusting, and it is unwarranted. What’s it going to take for you to grow up? Be fans. Don’t fit the narrative. And that goes double for writers.

You’re better than that.

What’s it going to take, rim?

What’s it going to take for you to not hate Dwyane Wade against the Celtics? I watched those shots. They weren’t bad shots. They were the same shots he always hits. But you had it rattle in and out of you fourteen times before rejecting it. Is it personal? You should get over it.

What’s it going to take, Boston?

What’s it going to take to beat you? What’s it going to take, because at this point, I don’t know that there’s a solution. Your rotations are perfect, your ball movement, sublime, and when it isn’t? You get the offensive rebound and you reset the offense and then, sure enough, because the defense was busy preparing for the break, Ray’s slipped to the corner and there he is, wide open. I don’t have any idea of when you’ll get old, when you’ll get tired, when you’ll get beatable. Because right now, as it has been since last mid-April, you look like the only thing that can take you down is the Lakers.

And I won’t even bother asking them.

SUCK IT WE WANT PAGE VIEWS: Miami Heat Trounce Orlando Magic

Well.

That went well.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts, meat and potatoes, Riggs and Murtaugh of this game, we need to look at something really weird from this contest. In looking at the box score from HoopData (which gives you a nice breakdown of shot locations if you didn’t already know even though we’ve been pumping this site for a year now), you’ll notice something really strange.

Knowing that Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis were guarding Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and knowing that Joel Anthony was guarding Dwight Howard, how many shots at the rim would you expect for this game? For a little perspective, the Heat averaged 22.5 attempts at the rim in their first two games and the Orlando Magic attempted 21 shots at the rim in their blowout win over Washington on Thursday night. So knowing all of that, how many total attempts at the rim would you guess?

That’s right. The two teams combined for just 17 shots at the rim in this game. Miami had just 10 attempts at the rim. Orlando had seven. Seven!!! I was dumbfounded to find that in the box score this morning. I knew there were a lot of long jumpers taken in this game. Tom Haberstroh breaks it down wonderfully at the Heat Index. It’s astounding to me that these two teams who have a reputation for attacking the rim so ferociously already would settle for lower percentage shots all game long (cue LeBron critics shouting about his shot selection).

But that’s not really the whole story of this game. The Miami Heat is a second half team. Even though they played well in the first half offensively, they have now shown in three straight games that they come out of halftime with a defensive intensity that not many teams will be able to match. The Boston Celtics had enough of a cushion to withstand it in the first game. The Philadelphia 76ers were simply overmatched in the second game. And the Orlando Magic wilted in this third game.

The first half was disjointed but pretty good. Dwight Howard showed off a weird array of jumpers and running hooks that he efficiently showed in the preseason. LeBron James was settling for long 2-point shots instead of ferociously trying to tear the rim down whenever he could (which is a trend when he plays against Dwight). Either team will settle for that happening all game long because that’s what you want them to take. But for the most part both teams exchanged blows in the first 24 minutes of this game.

Then the second half happened and the Miami Heat clamped down on the Magic. Their perimeter defense is scary good. Think about the fact they’ve only been playing together for three games and it looks this good in the key stretches of games. What’s it going to look like in February? May? June? I know their interior is perceived as weak but it’s not really about having a Dwight Howard or Andrew Bogut in the middle for them. They don’t need it because the rest of the defense appears to be so good. Granted, they lucked out on a lot of missed 3s by the Magic (4/24). It doesn’t change the fact that the Magic scored just 25 points in the second half while shooting 19% from the field and 12.5% from 3-point range.

The perimeter defense just swarms the entire time and they end up running the shot clock down for the other team because of it. They did this in the second half against Orlando. The double teams were fast and aggressive. The rotations were even faster and helped them recover incredibly fast. The defense won’t be like this every night. Sometimes it will be worse. But sometimes it might also be better when they get more continuity with each other. This was an impressive win (maybe not a statement making win) any way you look at it.

Let’s Talk About Role Players

Zyndrunas Ilgauskas was fantastic in this game. He didn’t dominate Dwight Howard or hit a bunch of key jumpers. He just did his job of being big and getting in the way of the things going on inside. 8 points on 10 shots looks bad and frankly, it is. But he had five offensive rebounds in the game and neutralized Orlando inside when he was on the court.

In three games so far this year, Eddie House and James Jones have combined to hit 16 of their 30 3-point attempts. Imagine this constant outside attack when Mike Miller comes back to the team and gets into a rhythm. What do you do? How do you guard them? Does it really matter they don’t have an All-Star caliber center?

Udonis Haslem has 22 rebounds against the Celtics and Magic this season. Granted, one of those games ended up being a loss but he’s going to be as important as any role player on this team. He’s always been willing to sacrifice his personal adulation for hard work and everything that will benefit the team. We need to get him onto a serious 6th Man of the Year award watch.

Oh, Before I Forget … This Happened

Why LeBron James is going all Kristen Stewart on us, I don’t really know. I’m not quite sure if this is a tribute to True Blood, Twilight, or if he just wants to turn the term “fangbanger” into one of his signature dunks. Regardless, this just seems dangerous and irresponsible. You’re just asking to impale your own lip or get caught in Dwyane Wade’s cheek when you do one of those super cool flying hip checks to celebrate a big shot.

SUCK IT WE WANT PAGE VIEWS: Miami Heat Take Liberty From 76ers

The Heat are a .500 team! The Heat are a .500 team!

This is incredible.

The Miami Heat were done as of about 2 quarters into this game. They were struggling against the lowly but athletically stupendous Philadelphia 76ers. Keep in mind they were up eight points at halftime.

The problem with this Heat team is they’re still getting used to each other. Yes, that’s an easy excuse to make but it doesn’t make it wrong. You can tell in the way they’re running the offense. Defensively, I don’t believe it to be an excuse because that’s just a matter of awareness and effort. But offensively, there is a certain timing and understanding amongst all the players (outside of Haslem, Wade and Arroyo who play well off of knowing each other’s games) that is lacking.

Does that mean when they get this timing and understanding down they’ll run through the entire league and manage to win three championships in two seasons, cure cancer, defeat the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and put out a folk album that makes The Beatles’ White Album look like a Ricky Martin interpretive dance cover band’s mixtape?

No, not necessarily.

It just means we won’t see them be so careless with the ball and have LeBron James turning the ball over enough times to make Darren Collison blush. Or maybe they will still turn the ball over from trying to do too much. Look at the Celtics. They have great chemistry together and still turn the ball over an obscene amount of times.

The things I noticed about this Heat team is when the defense is clicking, they’re pretty special to watch. In the second half of the loss to the Celtics, they locked down defensively and made enough runs to make this game extremely interesting. In the third quarter of the win against the 76ers, the clamps were applied and the Sixers had nothing they could do about it. Some of that had to do with a young point guard like Jrue Holiday still feeling his away around a good perimeter defensive unit.

In the ultimately decisive third quarter, Philly had more turnovers (six) than made baskets (four). Elton Brand scored three of those buckets and two of them were inside. The rest of the Sixers offense got chased all around the perimeter and forced into poor decisions.

Hey, let’s talk about the role players for a minute.

James Jones can fill in for Mike Miller. Maybe you don’t want him to do that when it’s playoff time and you need a better playmaker in case the defense chases him off that 3-point shot. But as of right now, James Jones can get hot and will always have open spaces to shoot. He knocked down six 3-pointers in this game and was sort of ridiculously hot all game. When the Sixers made a couple of runs, he answered with 3s, especially in the second quarter.

Carlos Arroyo isn’t really that good but he had a nice steady hand in this game. He’s going to get abused by the Rondos of the world but so do most point guards. Put him against a young guy like Holiday and the talent discrepancy is diminished because of a little veteran savvy.

Udonis Haslem should not guard athletic 3s posing as terrifyingly athletic 4s. Thaddeus Young abused Haslem every time he had to guard him. Young was simply too quick for Udonis and blew by him whenever he wanted. In the later rounds of the playoffs, you’ll see more and more matchups with Haslem guarding more traditional 4s but if you can stretch out the offense a bit (I’m looking at you, Orlando) then you might be able to expose that part of Halsem’s game.

Key Stat of the Game

Dwyane Wade had 12 shot attempts at the rim. 12 is not an absurd number by any means but it was a lot better than what we saw against the Celtics when he had seven attempts and the majority of them were not all that aggressive and composed. It’s probably easier when you don’t have the Celtics help line to contend with and Wade took full advantage of Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand being the stopgaps.