Heat 104, Blazers 85
I'm really tired with miles to go before I sleep, so I'm going to write a more generalized review for the team part.
This game wasn't as bad as it looked, folks. If a near-20-point loss can be in any way considered good, this was a good one. We played them very tough through most of three quarters. And the most impressive thing about that was it looked like we actually had a game plan and followed it. Of course none of us saw the Washington game, but that's the same thing the participants said about that one, so it would make two games in a row. For most of the game we were actually playing basketball out there. It wasn't perfect...in fact at times it was messed up. But it was basketball instead of some of this barely-rec-league junk we see sometimes.
The offensive game plan was great. First we tried to go to Zach, who posted deep or faced up, exactly as he should. Once he proved he could hit a couple shots the Heat clamped down on him real good. That's where we shined (and showed that maybe we've learned something). Instead of just Zach forcing up shots into big double coverage the guards started taking over. They didn't just chuck jumpers! They blew past the relatively weak Heat defenders for layups. Then when the Heat adjusted by collapsing when the guards drove our guys kicked it out for jump shots. This was one of the first times all season you could see clear, consistent adjustments being made to what was going on. It was very, very good to see. It was also reflected in most of our guys' shooting stats. Ime 5-9, Jarrett 6-13, Brandon 7-16, Juan 4-8, Jamaal 2-4. Five of the eight guys who took any kind of shots at all were at or near 50% shooting. I loved watching them all work for shots and good passes.
Our defensive plan was simple, but mostly effective early on. We collapsed hard, double teaming Wade, Shaq, and even Kapono whenever they got the ball. We let Haslem take as many shots as he wanted and tried to make the others shoot from as far out as possible with hands in their faces. Now the Heat still shot a good percentage because they're a good offensive team and we don't have great defenders, but we forced them into enough misses to stay tight.
Finally, and maybe most impressively, our rebounding was pretty darn good tonight. We actually won the rebounding battle! That, more than anything, helped us stick with them.
So how did we lose by 20? First we lost some of the offensive principles in the second half that had gotten us there in the first. We tried to and soon everyone was doing it. 104 points isn't a tragedy to give up to the Heat but scoring 85 made it really hard to win. Along with that we stopped rebounding so well. But the two main disasters were turnovers and D. Wade. The Heat had a 27-5 advantage in points off turnovers in this game. How are you going to overcome that? We'd cough the ball up or run the clock out and they'd be off to the races. And Wade really came with it when it was winning time. Love him or hate him, Fatty had the analysis right in the game thread. Dwyane Wade showed us what a real superstar looks like and plays like. He ended up with 35 and only needed 7 free throws to do it. We simply had no answer. And there was no shame in that. At this stage of our development we shouldn't be expected to.
So even though we fell apart, it was for semi-understandable causes and that shouldn't overshadow the good play we had for much of the game. With Wade doing what he did we were going to lose this game anyway. If we hadn't fallen apart completely maybe we only lose by 8 or 5. But we'll dust off and come out again tomorrow, hopefully with as much energy and commitment as we had early on.
--People are likely to bag on Zach for the low shooting percentage (6-16) and not making much of an impact, but this wasn't his worst game. For one thing he didn't hold the ball very long, which really opened things up early. He also did a reasonable job helping on the Miami big men. He did force too many shots into huge, set Miami double teams in the second half but that's what he's wont to do. Also he only got 2 defensive rebounds for the game, which is unacceptable no matter who he was guarding. But he didn't cost us this game.
--Brandon Roy had a magnificent first quarter, putting up 13 points to Wade's 15. He was brilliant on the drive. The Heat adjusted and shut him down and we saw the need for a consistent third scorer on the team, since teams like Miami are savvy enough to contain both Zach and Brandon at once.
--Jarrett Jack also had a spectacular night driving the ball. His statistics didn't fully reflect it but this was one of the better games I've seen him play in a while.
--Ime had another solid game...14 points and 7 rebounds. Juan Dixon did also. Jamaal didn't play all that poorly either.
--Lamarcus and Martell had forgettable games. Martell looked lost out there again. I don't know...I think he needs some help.
--Boy...Shaq is just a shell of his old self. I don't feel all that sad about it because I remember all the years he was talking smack because the refs would let him clear people out with that forearm and dunk all the day long, but it's still startling to see. He had an open dunk and could only fingertip it. That shows you how far he's fallen. 6 points, 5 rebounds in 24 minutes.
--The Heat had a regular block party on us tonight. Shaq had 5, `Zo 4, and Wade 3. We served up some ill-advised shots though.
--In the first half the refs actually called a five second violation on Zach. It's called so rarely I bet some people don't even know what it is. Technically by the rulebook when you post up after you start your move you have five seconds to do something. It was a rule put in a few years ago in response to the Charles Barkley/Houston snooze-fest offense. But it's never, ever called anymore. This was the first one I've seen all season...or in two or three seasons really. Frankly if they called it with consistency Zach would be whistled every second play. But this is what gets me about the NBA. They don't call the thing EVER and then they trot it out when you're playing against the World Champs? Then they wonder why there are accusations of favoritism. I'm not saying the ref actually took that into account. It probably never entered his mind. In fact I don't know WHAT was in his mind. I'd be interested to know how often he had called it before. But when stuff like that happens to an underdog team playing a heavy favorite, you know what? People are going to talk. These guys really need to get their act together sometime.