Game 35 Preview: Heat vs. Blazers

A Look at the Heat

Miami comes into town owners of a five-game losing streak, courtesy of some of the better teams in the league (Chicago, New Jersey, Orlando, the Clippers, and the Suns).  They're 13-19 overall and in a state of shock.  They usually manage to beat up on the worst teams in the league, however, and that unfortunately includes us, so it won't be as easy of a ride as you might expect against a team with that record.

No Shaquille O'Neal means the Heat are giving Alonzo Mourning, Earl Barron, and Michael Doleac much bigger minutes than the Good Lord intended.  Obviously that's a major reason for their woes.  Adding injury to insult, Dwyane Wade has wrist problems and has not played for several games.  On top of that Antoine Walker and James Posey have been inactivated and sent home in order to work on their conditioning.  Thus the rampant crapulence.

Who do you have to watch out for on this depleted Heat squad?  Forward Jason Kapono has been scoring at quite a clip lately.  He's a gunner with legitimate range who has to be respected.  Veteran guards Gary Payton and Jason Williams are trying to pick up the slack and are getting old-school minutes again.  Young forward Dorell Wright has been an aggressive slasher and Udonis Haslem has been trying to keep them above water on the boards.  Any or all of them are capable of altering the Heat's fortunes if you don't respect them.  It wouldn't be surprising to see any or all of Payton, Williams, and Kapono go for 20.

It's hard to predict anything such an injured club will do, but one thing's for sure:  none of these veterans are going to lie down.  They'll see Portland as a chance to notch an easy, redeeming win, especially with the Blazers having played overtime last night.  We will have to fight and fight hard in order to win.

Things I'd like to see:

  1.  Those guards are extremely exploitable on defense.  Slash `em, run `em, make them work so hard that they don't have time to think about putting on an offensive display.  Our guards should NOT be standing still on either end of the court and should definitely run the ball up into the halfcourt sets instead of walking it.
  2.  Chances are they'll depend on Haslem to watch Zach, which puts a lot of defensive pressure on him, adding to the already high expectations for his rebounds.  I know Zach should do most of his scoring in the post, but maybe this one time it wouldn't be bad to see him draw Udonis outside a little bit, the better to let our other players feast on offensive rebounds.
  3.  Our centers should show more energy than their centers.  If Lamarcus Aldridge mans the middle he should use the same principle that the guards to:  run the opposition crazy.
  4.  This could really have been Travis Outlaw's night if he were healthy, but in his absence why can't it be Martell's, just in a different way.  The Heat are going to have their hands full trying to watch Zach, Roy, and Jack.  That will likely involved a fair amount of scrambling, which means Martell could make some hay.  If he scores 15 or so I don't think the Heat game plan can handle it and they'll burst at the seams.
  5.  The Heat are getting wasted in every category except blocked shots.  It's hard to find such across-the-board futility.  The main one to me is that they're allowing a huge shooting percentage and shooting a poor one.  That means you have your choice of how to beat them, but my preferred option tonight would be to get up as many shots as you can, figuring most will go in.
  6.  As always when you're playing a team that's going to have to scrap to win, it's important to take care of the ball.  They can't score much unless you really open the gates for them.  Don't do so.
If this does turn out to be a win, it will be interesting to see if the Blazers will ever bill it as "a win against the NBA Champions".  If that happens our response should be, "Pshaw.  Hardly."

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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