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Game 53 Preview: Blazers at Heat

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Well, it's another look at ye olde Champions today.

A Look at the Heat

And "olde" is about as apt of a description of the Heat as any.  Most teams are stocked with guys thinking of Porsches, girls, and drinking the night away.  These guys are all about the pensions, Geritol, and dietary fiber.  They've had more injuries than a Cheaters marathon and more lineup changes than a baseball fantasy league on a Red Bull bender.

This partly explains why Miami is approaching the all-star break with a homely 25-26 record.  That's the good news for Portland.  The bad news is that they've won six of their last seven.  The worse news is that's mostly because Dwyane Wade has been on a tear, averaging over 30 points a game during that stretch (plus 8 assists and 5 boards).  He's shooting 58% in the streak and, as always, is averaging enough free throws to make you wonder whether this is the NBA or pop-a-shot at the local bar.  If somebody came up to us at the beginning of the game and said, "We're going to let Wade shoot 17 straight free throws before the game starts and you're going to begin that much in the hole but we promise we won't blow the whistle for him the whole rest of the game" we'd be wise to take that deal.

Besides Wade they have Shaq back, which never hurts.  This ain't your grandfather's Shaq though.  He's averaging 16 points and a little over 5 rebounds for the month and he hasn't played more than 28 minutes in any game since his return.  Besides him you know most of the cast and their roles.  Jason Kapono is a sweet shooter and often the third scorer on the team.  Udonis Haslem grabs rebounds.  Alonzo Mourning has been slowed the last month but will usually block some shots and always seems to find his game against the Blazers.  Gary Payton, Antoine Walker, Eddie Jones, Jason Williams (who's out with an abdominal strain, by the way)...it's a Who's Who of the NBA, circa 2001.

The Heat do not want to run much.  They want to slow you down into a grinding halfcourt game where their size and experience will make the difference.  They're a decent rebounding team, very good shot blockers, and despite some gaping holes in their individual defense manage to keep it together enough as a team to be adequate.  They beat us at our own place back in January 93-90 because Wade scored 33 and we were falling all over ourselves trying to stop him which allowed Kapono 19 more.  Zach was pretty uninvolved in that game but Lamarcus had one of his better efforts of the season.

What I'd Like To See:

  1.  Even with Shaq back, I have a strange feeling this game hinges on Lamarcus.  You can use him at the center, even against the Big Forearm.  You have to double The Mighty Bricklayer anyway so you might as well have a game plan to guard him front and back, which even Lamarcus can participate in.  Better yet...Lamarcus can get up and down the court six times before Mount Mouthy can make it even once.  After the Blazers rebound tell Big Smoothy (that's our guy, in case you're confused) to start running and go all Phoenix on them, at least at that one position.
  2.  Zach needs to regain his form from the Bobcats game.  Option one is to post with a foot already in the paint.  They'll come to double that but there are easy passes out of it and other people score.  Option two is the face-up jumper from 18-20 feet without having turned your back first.  That's going to bring their slow-motion big guys out of the paint and cure some of that blocked shot gap we face.  Option three is to drive off of that face-up position.  Their big guys probably won't be able to rotate quickly enough.  It'll be the death of us, though, to hold the ball and to go against their set, stationary defense.  That's a no-no with this team.
  3.  Wade will likely score 30+ again.  But if Brandon can score 25+ that's only an 8-10 point deficit, and we haven't even factored our leading scorer into the equation yet.  If Roy drops that many I don't see the rest of their team being able to outscore the rest of ours.
  4.  We probably won't win the rebound battle but we can't get blown out of the water there either.  Within 4 should be fine.
  5.  Other than Wade, who is lightning quick, their backcourt is a little sluggish, especially on defense.  Our guards should be driving and dishing all game long.  Constant energy, constant motion...those are the ways to foil the Heat.
It's weird because normally for a game against the champs you're really geared up.  To me playing San Antonio, Dallas, Phoenix, or Detroit all feel more "Big Time" than this game.  Heck, I'm more excited about the game against Orlando tomorrow night.  That doesn't mean we're going to win this one, just that this year's Heat don't strike the fear in you that they should.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)