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Saturday, April 24, 2010

SOS

This is why I said forget upsetting the basketball gods... we will have a hard time upsetting the Boston Celtics. We were 0-3 against them in the regular season, but could have easily have won the series 2-1 with a few extra clutch plays. The same can be said about this playoff series. Which is exactly why our coach should have been more worried about what he sees when he studies tape than some mythical gods that would frown upon playing the percentages.

Still, I gave this team a pretty good chance of taking this series, but knew Boston would have to cooperate. So far they haven't. I also predicted we would have to win two games in Boston to pull it off and that is exactly how many we will have to take.

The odds are incredibly stacked and I do not think it is a feat that has ever been accomplished at this level, but call me a gambler, because I can see a game 4 victory followed by a game 5 upset to make this thing interesting. Miami has to stretch this series out to feel good about themselves. In all likelihood this season is over, but Michael Beasley and Dorell Wright showed enough promise to believe the team can avoid the misery of a sweep. Miami can get back into the series, but it obviously has to start on Sunday before we can even start to dream about a road upset. One game at a time.

If JO fails to make an impact on Sunday and we get swept, he deserves to be jeered. If he matches his pedestrian season averages, we could be up 2-1. Nobody expected him to live up to his contract, but this is beyond ridiculous. He is easily the biggest playoff choker in Heat history, which says a lot.



Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wade County?

Boston is serving up memories of the 2006 NBA Finals. We will only win if Wade turns back the clock and takes over. Who here believes in miracles? Game 3, here we come. Season.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lucky Leprechauns 85 Miami 76

I am tired, I know I have to get some sleep, but instead I am re-watching the Celtics-Heat game 1 to give this blog the kind of playoff effort it deserves.

Tony Allen was a bull-dozer, recklessly running over Carlos Arroyo on his way to a transition slam dunk on one play and then bowling Udonis Haslem over on a sweet dish to Big Baby Davis who proceeded to get swatted at the rim by Joel Anthony. Their energy man off the bench should have been in early foul trouble...

Mario Chalmers was too aggressive trying to steal the ball from Tony Allen, which resulted in him getting beat off of the dribble more than once. Mario creates some turnovers, but after watching Ray Allen beat him off the dribble, drawing two fouls, I have accepted the reality that his quick hands are not enough. I can't help but miss Rafer Alston... I think he could have helped this team have better possessions on both ends of the court. Raise your hand if you think Orlando makes the NBA Finals last year with Mario at the point.

Kevin Garnett's long arms created many turnovers from Heat players who got themselves into tough situations... whether they were up in the air looking to pass, stuck on a corner or under the basket, Garnett was a disruptive force. I hope he is suspended for game 2, he really is a catalyst for their defense. Hypothetically, Rasheed Wallace should be able to step in and do a lot of the same things, but his own coach, Doc Rivers, only trusted him enough to play him 13 minutes today, so it could mean more minutes for Big Baby Davis... this should neutralize their advantage in the front court enough to increase our chances to steal one in Boston. I think I now know why Doc keeps Rasheed on the bench - he's the only Celtic that the refs can't stand. Only 9 non-Rasheed fouls were called on the Celtics all game long.

Wade was fantastic in pushing the Heat to a 59-45 lead with 7 1/2 to go in the 3rd quarter. You could feel self doubt creeping into the building, but give credit to that crowd and their team because they responded by turning up the volume and intensity. The energy was undeniable... a definite 6th man effect as the Celtics all of the sudden started playing like champions and closed the quarter down only two.

Dwyane was then held without a field goal in the following 16 minutes after he helped Miami build that 14 point lead. This time span saw Miami's fourteen point lead become an eight point deficit with just 3 minutes to go. When I complained about this to a fellow blogger, he assured me that he was being double and triple teamed and that he had no choice. However, in the last three minutes he was able to hoist up four shots, connecting on two of them.

The team clearly let their star player down, with only Quentin Richardson breaking double digits, scoring all of his 15 points in the first three quarters. However, Dwyane Wade needs to channel his inner Allen Iverson and take over the shooting responsibilities when the going gets tough and nobody's got it going. You cannot take 16 minutes to decide that you have to do something about it, after a 22 point swing already occurred.

Overall, I have to give the team an A for effort. All they could do was keep the game close and hope to steal it at the end. Tonight they could only muster 10 fourth quarter points and obviously that wasn't going to cut it. One can only hope that the proper adjustments can be made, because the team that carries the lead at the half and at the end of three should usually come out victorious.



Friday, April 16, 2010

Salary Cap Expected at $56 Million for 2010! What Now?

The league now projects the 2010-11 to be at $56.1 million, a full $3 million above my previous conservative projection. That $3 million will be a huge boost for the Heat, Knicks, Nets, Wizards, Bulls, Clippers and Timberwolves.

$16.8 D. Wade (his max contract starts at 30% of the cap)
$5.0 M. Beasley
$2.2 D. Cook
$1.9 J. Jones (assuming his release, deadline is June 30th)
$1.5 MIA First Round pick (estimate)
$0.8 M. Chalmers
$0.8 J. Anthony
---------------------------------------------
$28.0 for six roster spots
$0.5 empty slot cap hold
$0.5 " "
$0.5 " "
$0.5 " "
$0.5 " "
$0.5 " "
---------------------------------------------
$31.0 cap hold after the draft, releasing James Jones and re-signing Wade

Which leaves $25 million on the table. Every time a player is signed, you eliminate a $0.5 cap hold too, so that is a lot of money. Assuming they spend it on:

2 players = $26 million ... two players averaging $13M
3 players = $26.5 million ... three players averaging $8.8M
4 players = $27 million ... four players averaging $6.8M
5 players = $27.5 million ... five players averaging $5.5M (5 Mid-level exceptions!)
6 players = $28 million ... six players averaging $4.7M

Most likely, a couple of roster spots will be filled with minimum type salaries considering we have two second round draft picks, plus last year's two second round draft picks, plus the likes of Alade Aminu, Kenny Hasbrouck and Shavlick Randolph lined up in case we fail to attract veterans for the minimum before the season starts... I wouldn't be surprised to see some partially guaranteed contracts rounding out the roster as the roster reconstruction will probably not be over until next March after the trade deadline and the veterans have bought themselves out of unpleasant situations.

The first decision Riley will have to make is whether to cut James Jones or not. I'm not completely sold that he will be cut because 3 point shooting is very valuable in this league and there should be a market for him should we not require his services after all is said and done. He will cost an extra $3 million to keep, but would be a $5 million trade piece, which means we can acquire a contract of up to $6.25 million in return. Ultimately, I don't foresee a roster spot in his Miami future unless a big man like Yao Ming is acquired. Here is a look at the updated max contracts for likely Heat targets:

$19.6 J. Johnson (35% of the cap)
$17.3 A. Stoudemire (105% of last years salary)
$17.3 Y. Ming (105% of last years salary)
$16.8 D. Wade (30% of the cap)
$16.8 L. James (30% of the cap)
$16.8 C. Bosh (30% of the cap)
$16.8 C. Boozer (30% of the cap)
$14.0 R. Gay (25% of the cap) - restricted free agent


The future is looking really bright today. Let's beat the Celtics so LeBron can experience what playing against D-Wade in the playoffs is all about. The Heat may not have enough this year to knock off the Cavs, but it should be a nice preview of what is to come when Dwyane gets reinforcements... assuming LeBron wants to do his own thing. The Knicks, Nets and Bulls all have gained momentum today as well, but Miami is the biggest winner because their franchise player has been given $3 million more reasons to be optimistic about his team's rebuilding plan.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bringing down the Celtics

I will be the first to admit this is not my preferred matchup. I think you would have to be nuts to want the Celtics. Either that, or you have to be Dwyane Wade, who has no reason to fear anyone. The Heat supporting cast has reason to be optimistic too, because they all bring something to the table and have been gelling while the Celtics have not as evidenced by the way they followed a 23-5 start by finishing a very mediocre 27-27.

It is hard to believe that this Celtics team is going to demolish the Miami Heat as quite simply, this group has never demolished anyone.

In 2008, the #1 seed Boston Celtics came in with a big, bad 66-16 record only to require a game 7 to dispose of the 37-45 Atlanta Hawks (who were gelling thanks to the veteran experience of Mike Bibby - a mid-season addition) and the 45-37 Cleveland Cavaliers, who I contend were a weaker team than your Miami Heat, take a look back and judge for yourself:

Starters:
C - Ilgauskas
PF - B. Wallace
SF - L. James
SG - S. Pavlovic
PG - D. West
Bench:
Joe Smith
W. Szczerbiak
A. Varejao
Damon Jones

In game 7, LeBron went off for 45 points and could only get double digits from one teammate (Delonte West, who pitched in 15 in 45 minutes) as the Cavaliers fell just short of pulling the upset. Boston would go on to defeat the Pistons and Lakers 4-2 to finish their championship run.

Last year, the 62 win Celtics were playing without KG and required a game 7 to eliminate the 41 win Chicago Bulls, who were coming into the postseason on a high note after acquiring former University of Miami star forward John Salmons in a mid-season deal (side note: he could become that second All-Star caliber addition Pat Riley has been talking about adding this off-season). Boston then lost a 7 game series to the eventual Eastern Conference champion, Orlando Magic. In their 21 point game 7 loss Boston's bench was exposed, with a combined 12 points from Eddie House, Stephon Marbury, Brian Scalabrine, Tony Allen and Mikki Moore.

This year, Boston seems to be healthy and on paper they have a much improved bench with Rasheed Wallace, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, Michael Finley, Shelden Williams and Glen Davis (who was forced into the starting lineup in 2009 due to Garnett's injury) joining Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine. However, they won't make you forget the days of Sam Cassell (savvy veteran point guard), James Posey (3 point specialist and perimeter defensive stopper) and PJ Brown (Udonis with much more size). There is a lot of swagger, but don't expect Miami's reserves to be intimidated. Their top contributor, Rasheed Wallace, is providing 9 points and 4 rebounds on 41% shooting.

Boston may get a spark from their bench a few games, but their real advantage lies in the starting lineup where they boast 4 All-Stars and a physical center who rarely stands out as a weak link. Miami, on the other hand, only has one consistently good starter. This matchup should bring out the best from the other four guys (also known as the Titos) who will all be hungry to get the monkey off their back and re-establish their reputations. Michael Beasley is disgusted that his averages are just shy of 15 points and 7 rebounds, but truth be told, KG is averaging a Beasley/JO-like 14 and 7 in 30 minutes a game so I expect Miami's frontcourt to hold their own. Boston's lineup no longer boasts a single 20 point scorer, but I see that as one of their strengths as their lightning quick point guard, Rajon Rondo, has done a wonderful job of keeping all their weapons involved, as evidenced by his 9.8 assists per game. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen will get plenty of open looks from beyond the arc, they will have to hit those shots if they hope to win.

For Miami to win this series, they will need the bench to shine. Udonis Haslem is the captain of that unit and has really helped turn them around. We are now seeing great play (and confidence) from Dorell Wright, who will be counted to defend 3 positions and knock down the 3 ball, which he has done at a rate of 39% for the season. After those two, there is a considerable drop off as former starter Mario Chalmers has failed to take his game to the next level. The other member of the bench unit is Joel Anthony, who is an elite shotblocker who seems a lot more confident around the basket. The only other players who are likely to see action in important minutes are center Jamaal Magloire (a former All-Star built for the physicality of this series) and sharp shooter James Jones (41% from the arc for the year).

I expect Miami to steal a game at the TD Center, what I am more concerned with is their ability to 3-0 in the home games. If they do, they will win the series 4-2. If they cannot do that, they will be forced to win game 7 on the road. Miami is a much better team than they were last year at this time, but I only give them a 42% chance of winning this matchup, due to not having the home court advantage.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Pistons @ Heat preview


The video above is the preview from the Pistons website, but I don't believe Detroit is actually gonna try to win the game. The home victory against Atlanta was a nice gift for the faithful season ticket holders that have suffered through this disappointing season, but watch for Detroit to give more minutes to their youngsters and find a way to lose even if Miami does not bring their best effort. Their two game winning streak has ruined their standing as the third worst team in the league, they have to stop the bleeding and start losing. This is insanity for them, of course they are the team that found a way to blow the #2 pick in the 2003 draft. Here's a look at the worst teams in the league and their odds of winning the #1 pick:

25% New Jersey Nets (11-67)
19.9% Minnesota Timberwolves (15-63)
13.8% Washington Wizards (24-54)
13.7% Golden State Warriors (24-54)
8.8% Sacramento Kings (25-54)
6.3% Detroit Pistons (25-53)
4.3% Philadelphia (26-52)
2.8% Los Angeles Clippers (27-52)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Is Miami Better Than We Think?

I just found an article on NBA.com which addresses one of the things that has me feeling a lot better about Miami's chances and the work that Spoelstra has put in this season:

http://www.nba.com/2010/news/features/john_schuhmann/04/08/numbers.game/index.html

It shows that Miami is a top 5 defensive team along with Orlando, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Boston. The article shows statistics that prove that defensive oriented teams tend to do better than offensive oriented teams. While I agree that these numbers prove that Milwaukee, Charlotte and Miami are not flukes and will be ready to play D when it matters most, I was more pleased when I took a closer look at our unbalanced team (defined as a team that has a gap bigger than 10 spots between their offensive and defensive efficiency rankings).

Miami is tied for 3rd in the league in defensive efficiency, but is just 19th on the offensive side. The cool thing is that when you look at the best teams in the NBA, they have large numbers when you subtract their defensive efficiency rating from their offensive efficiency rating:

Orlando: 9.0
Cleveland: 8.1
LA Lakers: 5.3
Phoenix: 5.3
San Antonio: 5.2
Utah: 5.0
Boston: 4.7
Atlanta: 4.5
Denver: 4.4
Ok. City: 4.3
Portland: 4.3
Miami: 3.6
Dallas: 3.4

The middle of the pack does not:

Charlotte: 1.4
Milwaukee: 1.2
Houston: -0.9
Toronto: -1.7
Memphis: -2.3
Chicago: -2.4
New Orl.: -2.6

I believe Coach Spoelstra spent most of the season neglecting the offensive side of the ball because he was busy getting the guys to buy into winning with defense. Recently there have been signs of life on the offensive end, with the reinsertion of Carlos Arroyo into the lineup, increased opportunities for Quentin (he's shooting more 3's and posting up as well) and feeding the big man - Jermaine O'Neal. We are even seeing more offense from Haslem, Wright, Chalmers and Joel Anthony. This trend will have to continue for Miami to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

As far as doing the impossible, I am not holding my breath, but I think they have more in common with the 2005-06 NBA champs than we may realize. Let me break it down position by position, using rounded up per 36 season averages:

'06 Dwyane Wade
25 pts, 5 rebs, 6 asts, 2 stls

vs.

'10 Dwyane Wade
26 pts, 5 rebs, 7 asts, 2 stls

Even

'06 Shaquille O'Neal
24 pts, 11 rebs, 2 blks

vs.

'10 Jermaine O'Neal
17 pts, 9 rebs, 2 blks

Edge 2006

'06 Antoine Walker
16 pts, 7 rebs, 3 asts, 2 3pts

vs.

'10 Michael Beasley
18 pts, 8 rebs, 2 asts, 0 3pts

Even

'06 Alonzo Mourning
14 pts, 10 rebs, 5 blks

vs.

'10 Joel Anthony
6 pts, 7 rebs, 3 blks

Edge 2006

'06 Jason Williams
14 pts, 6 asts, 1 stl, 2 3pts

vs.

'10 Carlos Arroyo
10 pts, 5 asts, 1 stl, 0 3pts

Edge 2006

'06 Udonis Haslem
11 pts, 9 rebs, 1 stl

vs.

'10 Udonis Haslem
13 pts, 10 rebs, 1 stl

Edge 2010

'06 James Posey
9 pts, 6 rebs, 2 asts, 1 stl, 2 3pts

vs.

'10 Quentin Richardson & Dorell Wright combo
12 pts, 6 rebs, 2 asts, 1 stl, 2 3pts

Edge 2010

'06 Gary Payton
10 pts, 4 rebs, 4 asts, 1 stl, 1 3pt

vs.

'10 Mario Chalmers
10 pts, 3 rebs, 5 asts, 2 stls, 2 3pt

Even

'06 Jason Kapono
11 pts, 4 rebs, 2 asts, 1 3pt

vs.

'10 James Jones
10 pts, 3 rebs, 1 asts, 1 stl, 3 3pt

Even

Obviously, the 2005-06 was a better team. Their production from the Center position allowed them to play inside outside and created a lot of open 3 pointers for their shooters. This team does not create as many open looks from beyond the arc, but does not hesitate to shoot them when they are open. In 2006, Antoine Walker played the role of the maddeningly inconsistent forward chucker and this year Michael Beasley has played that role. Many Miami fans turned on Antoine in 2006, even booing him at times, but Pat Riley found a way to get great production out of him. If Spoelstra finds a way to get great production from Beasley, who has lost the faith of many Heat faithful, I wonder how far Wade can carry this group of guys.

Friday, April 2, 2010

No JO, no problem?

Tonight Miami squares off against the Indiana Pacers without the services of former Pacers franchise player Jermaine O'Neal, who is still experiencing swelling in his knee. A win would give Miami its first ever season series sweep over Indiana, after winning the first three match ups by an average of 24.7 points.

Joel Anthony will get the start and the team actually has a 9-3 record when he is filling in for an injured starter. Miami broke the 14 game losing streak at Indiana earlier this season and will need tonight's win to extend their current 6 game winning streak. Indiana will be trying to protect their 8 game home winning streak. They are playing their best basketball of the year right now too, having won 6 of their last 7 games overall.

Miami should win tonight's game easily if they can hold Indiana under 90 points - Miami has an impressive 24-2 record when it accomplishes that goal. Miami is 4-0 with the tonight's starting lineup. Rest up JO, we can let the little homies ride on the Indiana Pacers.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Erik Spoelstra named Eastern Conference Coach of the month

I'm glad Miami's coach got recognition after his team finished March 12-3. The team's performance in this month in the wake of falling under .500 and into the #9 spot in the East is nothing short of exceptional. The Miami Heat and coach Spoelstra will have their fair share of detractors, considering the up and down nature of this season, but this upswing is certainly award worthy.

A 4-0 record over their main rivals for playoff positions during this month showed that all of the talking about energy, grit, and defensive disposition has not fallen on deaf ears with his players. The guys stepped up and put Milwaukee, Charlotte, Toronto and Chicago back in their place. Miami now trails Milwaukee by just half a game and could overtake them for the fifth spot with a strong finish.

I am not yet ready to crown Spo as the next great young coach. It could be a kiss of death anyway as guys like Doc Rivers, Avery Johnson, and Byron Scott were fired not too long after winning the NBA Coach of the Year award early in their coaching careers. However, I am starting to believe he could be a good defensive coach like Cleveland's Mike Brown (last year's coach of the year). Miami currently boasts the NBA's 2nd best defense in terms of points average allowed (94.1), a half point behind Larry Brown's Charlotte Bobcats. You can bet leading the league in this category was one of the team's goals heading into the season.

Defense is still the way to win in this league as is evidenced by the fact that half the league gives up more than 100 points per game, and out of those 15 teams only Phoenix and Denver are playoff bound. Toronto is still fighting off Chicago, who along with Detroit stand as the only teams holding opponents under 100 points a game on the outside looking in for the league's 16 playoff spots.

In recent games we have seen better offense from our team, like Jermaine O'Neal and Quentin Richardson getting post-ups. All of these things that the bloggers and the players have been begging for are starting to happen on game days. My guess is that the coach knew all along what his players strengths and weaknesses were, but was turning a deaf ear on their pleas until they started to pay attention to his message. If all players not named Wade take the approach of earning their offensive opportunities, then this season could yet exceed expectations.

Congratulations Coach Spoelstra, I hope this is a sign of things to come.