Preview and Chat: The Miami Heat

Darius Soriano —  January 17, 2013

Records: Lakers 17-21 (11th in the West), Heat 25-12 (1st in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 106.4 (6th in the NBA), Heat 108.9 (T 2nd in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.4 (17th in the NBA), Heat 101.6 (12th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, Dwight Howard
Heat: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh
Injuries: Lakers: Jordan Hill (out for the year), Steve Blake (out); Heat: none

The Lakers Coming in: First things first, Pau Gasol will make his return tonight after being reevaluated today. He will come off the bench as he eases his way back into game form, with the implication he’ll likely start on Sunday. This, of course, is fantastic news. Pau has not had his finest year to date, but his talent is very much needed on this team if  they’re to accomplish the larger goals they’ve set for themselves.

Continuing with the happy theme, the Lakers have won two games in a row and are finally starting to show some consistent defensive fortitude. The opponents haven’t been the best offensive teams, but the Lakers have still been making the extra efforts and started to clean up their communication in a way that translates to any opponent. This is a team wide effort, but it’d be silly to overlook the value gained from Kobe taking a more active approach on defense (by guarding opposing playmakers each night). It’d also be silly to ignore that Dwight Howard has looked much better upon his return from his shoulder issue, showing more spring in his step and a bounciness around the rim that really helps the interior defense.

When combined with Earl Clark playing well on D and Ron continuing to be disruptive on whoever he’s being asked to guard, the Lakers are making strides on that end. Being able to sustain this effort is key and we’ll see if they have it in them, but the last two games have been a good start.

The Heat Coming in: Tonight represents the final game of a 6 game roadie for the Heat, a trip that’s seen them go 2-3 so far. Their up and down play has been a bit concerning, with coach Erik Spoelstra and LeBron James commenting about the team’s effort after a bad loss to the Jazz.

However, talk that like is quickly forgotten after a game like last night’s demolition of the Warriors. The Heat cruised to a win — leading by 30 after 3 quarters — ramping up their defensive intensity, creating easy baskets in the open court, and picking apart a solid Dubs’ defense in the halfcourt with strong execution.

At this point, I’d go into a discussion of who is driving the Heat’s strong play this year but that’s not really necessary, is it? LeBron James is having another phenomenal year, Wade is playing well after a rough start to the season, and while Bosh has seen a dip in his numbers it can be attributed to playing less minutes moreso than any decline in his game. With the addition of Ray Allen and the continued growth of Mario Chalmers, the Heat remain one of the few true contenders for the title and the favorite to get through an improved Eastern Conference.

Heat Blogs: The Heat Index does a fantastic job of covering this team from every angle. Check them out.

Keys to game: Normally the fact that the Heat are playing on the second night of a back to back and are at the end of a long road trip would be a key variable to this game. However, with last night’s blowout of the Warriors and the fact that this is a marquee matchup, there shouldn’t be any issues with tired legs or a lack of focus. This game matters to both teams and will be played as such.

That brings us back to matchups and who/where the advantages exist.

Defensively, I’m interested to see who starts out guarding LeBron. This season James has moved his game to the foul line and down even more, creating post up chances that lead to quality shots for himself and his teammates. His superior size and strength make him a load to deal with down there and whoever guards him will need to battle him for position and try to contain him in single coverage in order to avoid the types of passing chances that open up from double teaming. LeBron eats those chances up and the Heat become much more dangerous when everyone is involved. This isn’t to say that LeBron won’t operate from the wing too, however. He’s still a major threat in the P&R and the Heat run a lot of sets with him holding the ball above the arc while surveying the floor as cutters and screens operate along the baseline.

My sense is that Earl Clark will get the first shot on LeBron (and allow Ron to guard Haslem), but I also think starting with Ron on LeBron, Clark on Bosh, and Dwight on Haslem allows the Lakers defenders to play closest to their comfort zones (especially Dwight). We’ll see when the game starts, but the latter would probably be my preference.

I’m also interested in seeing Kobe defend Wade. While there’s a great respect between the two players, I’d also venture to say there’s no love lost either. These two have been the premier shooting guards in the league for a decade and whenever they go head to head the physicality ramps up and the competitiveness is brought out of both of them. Furthermore, Kobe’s been a terror defensively for the past couple of games but has done most of his work as an on the ball worker against primary initiators. Over the past two seasons, Wade has evolved into more of an off the ball threat, cutting and curling off picks first and operating as a P&R ball handler and in isolation second. Kobe mustn’t get lost off the ball, watching LeBron or Bosh work in isoation as Wade will find openings in the defense behind him by cutting into space and finishing.

Of course, while Kobe and Clark and Ron are important, the most important Laker on defense is Dwight Howard. Especially against a Heat team that loves to pressure the paint and then kick out to open shooters when the defense collapses. If Dwight can roam around the rim and protect the basket against LeBron and Wade, the Lakers wings can stay home more and not allow shooters to get the types of open looks they thrive on. The wings will need to limit dribble penetration and now allow straight line drives to the rim, but if they’re able to shade their man and funnel them to Dwight, the Lakers’ D will be poised to perform well.

Offensively this game comes down to a few factors.

First, the Lakers must protect the ball against Miami’s ball pressure. LeBron and Wade love to attack passing lanes and turn lazy ball movement into the types of live ball turnovers that become highlight reel baskets. Nash must also be aware of defenses trying to blitz him when he comes off the P&R, trapping him and knocking him off balance to force turnovers. In recent games, teams have gotten more aggressive with Nash (especially as the game goes on) and in any P&R that involves LeBron hedging, the risk of a trap increases.

Second, the Lakers must make the extra pass and then look inside for quick duck ins to Dwight. Against the Bucks, the Lakers started the game making these types of entries to Dwight and he was able to convert at the rim easily, fueling his energy for the rest of the game. Following this strategy again tonight will go a long way to taking advantage of Dwight’s size and strength advantage inside. I’m not advocating force feeding Howard, but keeping an attentive eye on hims and being aware of when he opens up for an easy entry is important.

Third, the Lakers must hit the outside shots that are made available to them. Miami is middle of the pack in terms of 3 point field goal percentage allowed, and can be overly reliant on their athleticism to recover to shooters around the arc after digging down to the paint to help. With Howard working inside (and Gasol, hopefully doing so as well when he comes off the bench), the Heat will likely help down low and then try to get back out to the wing to contest shots. The Lakers will do well to make them pay for helping down low by hitting the outside shots made available to them. Jamison and Ron, especially, will need to have their best efforts from behind the arc tonight.

The Lakers are really trying to build momentum and a win against the Heat would be a huge step in that direction. The Heat, despite some issues on the road this year, are still the champs and knocking them off would not only provide a boost of confidence but would serve as reinforcement that the team’s recent approach has them moving in the right direction.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TNT. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM


Darius Soriano

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227 responses to Preview and Chat: The Miami Heat

  1. Lakers 20 TOs
    Heat 6
    Lakers 4 steals
    Heat 14

    Kobe and Nash 10 TOs no steals

    End of game Dwight bricks 2 and Nash his 1nd air ball of the night. Choke.

    The FO Shoukd ge held accountable for finding one NBA player to play defense as rhe PG is shameful.

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  2. Coaching had nothing to with that…sorry…you are not going to beat a championship team playing at the top of their game (can Lebron and Wade play any better than that??) with a few bad calls thrown in for good measure….against a bunch of really good players who have played together what 15 complete games now (for the whole group). there were some bone head plays on the offence, too much one on one ball, by MWP and Kobe…but other than that, you can’t really complain…This team has never played a team that worked so hard to deny the low post block. they now know what they will face against Miami. I really don’t think anyone will be able to deny the post like them but the clippers, and thunder may be able to run some version of it.

    Other thing…Nash is Nash. not his best game, but he has is also adjusting to having the ball in his hands WAY LESS, and posting up others way more often, Other thing is Miami did an unbelievable job shutting down the PNR (truly phenomenal(….So I think its less about age for him and more about him adjusting to a way different way to play (that frankly uses his assets way less) and trying to deal with probably the worst match up for him, where you have a team that is probably the best in the league at shutting down the PNR.

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  3. Wow, the officiating, the coaching, the offensive game plan all were terrible, yet the Lakers only lost by 9. It was a closer game than that. Although the Heat didn’t shoot as well as they usually do. That phantom foul on Gasol with Lebron going to the rim was totally ridiculous. Wow. Against the Heat, starting both Gasol and Howard would have worked. They just needed better spacing. On the post plays, ah… whats the point, that clown D’Antoni will never figure it out.

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  4. I read rudy gay is being shopped we need to trade pau for gay and get more athletic the West is too strong to the lakers to be so unathletic

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  5. Lebron has the ball…you let him go one on one

    That is enough to be fired right there

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  6. Miami showed that Championship Level D tonight. It’s easy for everyone to say ‘get the ball inside to the bigs’, but the Heat effectively took away that option by trapping the entry passer, fronting the post, rotating quickly and then fouling when necessary. Pretty difficult to get the bigs off when this occurs. Speed and Execution was more prevalent than Size tonight .. Lebron simply proved why he’s hands down the best player in the A. Nothing more needs to be said.

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  7. Kobe has the ball…instant double team by miami

    Is this rocket science

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  8. I have to agree with Tra 100%

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  9. Tra: Miami trapped off the PnR all night forced Nash to make a cross court pass to the corner (Ron) which is okay because LeBron or Wade are quick enough to get back and contest. Started in the 1st quarter and continued to end game. Lakers never did anything about it. Championship level adjustments could solve that.

    Kobe struggling all game. D’Anotni decides to run him off a screen for a 3. While Spoelstra is getting Wade baseline cuts and screens for mid range shots late in the game. LeBron taking bigs to the rack started in 1st continued all game.

    The more the game went on the farther away from the hoop Lakers shots were getting. Coincidence? No. Spoelstra coached circles around D’Antoni. Lakers were actually winning at half playing from inside and then Spoelstra did something D’Antoni didn’t do all game. Pick up the clipboard.

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  10. size doesn’t work anymore. The F.O should realize the league has changed since the last time lakers won championship. We need to make a trade for younger and faster players who can actually keep up with guys like Lebron and Durant.

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  11. the FO needs to Fire D’antoni and Mitch needs to realize that size is not as important In the NBA as speed and quickness are because the game has changed and trade for some athletes and shooters to surround D12 if he is gonna be your franchise player

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  12. We don’t have the athleticism to double Lebron. if we do, someone is open. The reason they can double team Kobe and Nash is that they are the fastest defensive team in the league by a mile, perhaps the clippers have a chance to be that, but they are not there yet and I don’t think OKC has that kind of athleticism in the back court (not combined though Westbrook surely has the potential to match lebron and wade). No one else in the league will be able to do that to the lakers longer term.

    To me, and I dom’t want to be this over confident guy, I think the lakers are now on the way to being the 4th best team in the league. if they keep playing like this they will eventually pass Denver, Memphis, the Spurs, Houston and any of the other eastern teams. Getting by OKC, the Clips and Miami well that is out of reach for now. Don’t know if they can ever get there, without some trades, but we need to see how things develop as the time when they need to be able to compete with those big 3 is still some time away.

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  13. If you don’t have any shooters to spread the floor with your 7fters, then they are easy to defend. Add to the fact that the two best 3pt shooters Kobe and Nash are old, Miami’s young legs sagged in and recovered back to their man preventing them from getting open shots.

    KOBE IS GASSED!!!!!!

    Nobody to step up offensively, so guess what Kobe is not going to play defense anymore.

    Nash and Howard look like they are not ready for prime time. Good players step up, they don’t step back.

    What happened to Jodie Meeks?

    Man, more people go in and out of the doghouse on this team than any team in Lakers history.

    Two steps forward three steps back…Lakers season.

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  14. “Lebron simply proved why he’s hands down the best player in the A. Nothing more needs to be said.” Uh, when he’s barreling through players and getting all the calls, it’s pretty easy to be a ‘great’ player. Overall, in terms of defense and passing, he may be great. But let’s see how well he plays if every time he breathes on someone he gets called for a foul. As bad as some calls are in baseball and football, it’s nothing compared to the NBA. The refs are too influenced by who the player is instead of just making the calls. Because Gasol is officially labeled a ‘soft’ player, even if he gets raked in the face or arms on a shot, no calls. In the 4th, when Kobe made the long 2, Wade him his arm on the follow through, but no call. When Lebron ‘blocked’ Earl Clark on that drive, he pushed him with one hand in the back, but no call. Thankfully it turned out well as Jamieson converted a 3 point play. The officiating in the NBA has always been a total joke, and this game is no exception. It’s not the only reason why the Lakers lost, but despite how badly Lakers played, they still could have won if not for the horrible officiating. The coaching played a role, but that’s not going to change. We’re stuck with D’Antoni.

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  15. Good post by Tra there. I do agree that more effort should have been made to get the ball out of James’ hands, but he is astride the league right now. It is what it is.

    Kobe forced a few shots in the the third, but as noted, he also missed a few that he normally hits.

    The next game is Sunday at 1 PM EST in Toronto. That is exactly the kind of game that will determine whether the Lakers sneak in or stay home. Toronto is not very good, obviously but they are young, they have some athletes, they have Kyle Lowry, and they will be fired up.

    And, unlike previous years, the Lakers NEED to win games like this.

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  16. Calls to fire D’Antoni are silly. The Lakers played well enough to win but lost. That happens when you play one of the best teams in the league. I’m not into moral victories at this point — the team needs wins too badly for that — but this team is trending up, even after this loss. A push to get to .500 or better by the ASG is the goal. From there, they need to make a run in the 2nd half. Efforts similar to tonight against most other opponents will lead to a slew of victories. That’s hard to take on a night like this, but pushing for a firing that’s not going to happen is equivalent to banging your head against a wall.

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  17. harveyM: Lakers can do something at the point of attack. They kept letting LeBron get a head start on screens on Pau and Clark. Nothing ever changed no different looks or anything. LeBron gets credit for his greatness, but he also took advantage of poor coaching.

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  18. As to the “size” thing: while it is true that the rules prohibiting hand checks and allowing zones do favor speed and wings/points to an extent, the NBA is still and will always be a “who has the best guy” league. The two best players in the NBA at the moment happen to be two hybrid 3s, James and Durant. So, people are saying centers and bigs are passe, etc. I also heard that in the 1980s, when Bird and Magic owned the league. I heard it again in the 90s, when Jordan owned the league. But of course after Jordan left, who won? Olaujuwon, Shaq, and Duncan.

    The Lakers’ lack of quickness is an issue, but that is more age and lack of athleticism/skill on the bench than it is some massive trend the Lakers missed out on. If Pau were 27, Howard were 100% and Beno Udrih were the Lakers’ backup 1 instead of Chris Duhon, we would hear a lot less about that issue.

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  19. I love you Darius but you are dead wrong D’antoni needs to be fired POINT BLANK I don’t care what you say ,anything can happen look at what happened to Mike Brown. This team had been trending downward since that sweep by the Mavericks and the onus is on the FO to get the right coach to lead this team and D’antoni is just not the guy not hiring phil was a big mistake and not being cognizant of where the league is headed as far as athleticism is unacceptable to people like me a laker fan since 1984 so i respectfully disagree with you and Stern nixing the paul trade really hurt us look what he has done for the clips

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  20. I disagree that size isn’t important. We’ll see when the playoffs roll around and the games become a slugfest. Defense and rebounding win championships. You need size for both defense AND rebounding. Pau didn’t play too badly. He was beaten by Lebron, but some of those calls were totally bogus.

    You also don’t win by trying to out do what your opponent does best. In football, to beat a team with a great offense, you keep the ball out of the offense by playing ball control offense yourself, not trying to outgun them. The same applies in the NBA. It’s more effective to disrupt what your opponent is doing as much as possible. As good as their offense is, it’s not why they won last year. The Heat are a GREAT defensive team but their half court game is their weakness. Although they are a good three point shooting team, and have several players who can create their own shots, they have a very poor post game. Although Lebron and Wade can play in the post, their only true post player is Bosh. They’re also not a great mid range shooting team either. They also don’t have size. The Celtics exploited this and pushed the Heat to 7 games last year. The old and slow Celtics.

    It seems the Lakers were completely unprepared for the Heat’s defense, and made no adjustments prior to the game. Didn’t they see how the Heat were able to dominate Jeremy Lin last year when they played the Knicks? Doesn’t D’Antoi watch game tape? They should have always brought the ball up as a team, found out a way to break the backcourt trap by passing the ball up, which would have given them multiple 4-3 opportunities on offense.

    In the 4th, they should have taken the ball out of Lebron’s hands. He was the de-facto point guard for the Heat in the 4th. Force someone else to beat you. Also, another reason is that because he gets ALL the calls(blocking even if he rams his shoulders into you while driving, phantom fouls like the call on Pau, every touch foul, etc.), the Lakers defenders, especially Pau, were tentative in attacking him when he drove. So he was able to score at will. The only chance they had was taking the ball out of his hands.

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  21. The fire Dantoni rhetoric will never go away…every loss will be his fault forever, no wonder the guy says he doesn’t take personal calls anymore..

    This had little to do with coaching. Dantoni was brought into maximize Nash, to bring some offensive dynamism to this lineup and to improve the ball movement. The need for Dantoni should actually be pretty clear after a game like tonight 1) this is a league that is moving away from bigs, toward speed and athleticism. and 2) while Gasol and DH are really great bigs, it is not clear that given 1) they will be able to just carry a team all the way anymore and they may not be skilled enough (DH) or young and strong enough (Pau) to do this on their own. And Kobe can’t do this on his own either.

    So the lakers only chance is to really mix it up. Run some post ups, try to use your size advantage when you can, and count on your offensive skill to bail you out and save team energy from time to time. You need a really flexible offensive mind to work that out and Dantoni is the very type of guy to do that, and one of the best offensive minds out there. This last week has shown the he has learned to be flexible enough in his thinking to try to make an offence that plays to the whole teams strengths, and that he has the skill to get a decent defensive efficiency out of a team as old and as athletically compromised as the lakers.

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  22. ” pushing for a firing that’s not going to happen is equivalent to banging your head against a wall.”

    I totally agree. D’Antoni isn’t going anywhere. We’re stuck with him, so hopefully the players learn on their own to manage themselves. At this point, he is who he is. It’ll be a lot for the players to try to with by overcoming his bad coaching, but he’s going nowhere.

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  23. what a nightmare this is, can we have a mulligan on the season?

    I hope FO doesn’t just sit on their hands and actually do something soon

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  24. The Lakers are beginning to show some heart, and a semblance of an identity. Plus, they are beginning to be entertaining to watch.

    Championship or even going far in the playoffs feels might unlikely, but what’s the point of crying over spilled milk? This season is about figuring out what they’ve got, and whether any re-factoring can squeeze one more deep run in the Kobe era.

    There, the toughest elements are that: 1) Howard doesn’t feel like a guy who will ever be a dominant leader, yet his ego won’t let him be a #2 either; 2) Nash is skilled and a great leader, but is definitely showing his age. His ability to probe and attack is nominally diminished at a point when the West is loaded with GREAT, quick point guards; and 3) D’Antoni does not feel like a guy that will ever adjust his schemes to his talent or the competition. He is like the fast ball hitter, who really doesn’t care who’s pitching. I’m overstating that a bit, but not by much.

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  25. Here’s the thing…Mike’s system hasn’t worked with any team but Phoenix, and with a pg that was at the apex of his career. At this point I’m sure that D’Antoni recognizes the difference between Nash then and Nash now. Over the all-star break, Mike has to devise a scheme that optimizes the 2013 Nash, the 2013 Howard, the 2013 Kobe, the 2013 Metta, the 2013 Pau, the 2013 Jamison and the 2013 Lakers bench. A coach that’s all about winning, does so by any means necessary. A coach with an inexperienced bench in games can use his timeouts for strategy and also for rest breaks for his players. Give a player a minute before the timeout to rest, the timeout and a minute or two after the timeout to get rejuvenated. The coach can also utilize the 2-3 zone on occasions to rest his players and also throw a wrinkle in the opposing team’s offensive rhythm. Just Win!

    Older, young and inexperienced or injured players have a tendency to be inconsistent, they play well 1-6 games. Unfortunately, the Lakers rely heavily upon a combination of all four categories of players. One game we get 14 points from Jamison or 20 from Metta, the next 12 points from Morris/Clark and the next game the Lakers get 16 from Pau or Howard. Then inexplicably they’ll all disappear at the same time and it generally occurs during high profiled games.

    This team’s basketball IQ is supposed to be above average, yet they are only making incremental improvements playing with each other.

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  26. i still believe in miracles. This team is going to defy every odd this very season. Believe.

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