Game 5: Hornets vs. Heat

2010-11 NBA Regular Season

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4-0 vs.
4-1
November 5th, 2010
New Orleans Arena
7:00 PM CST
TV: CST, NBALP
Probable starters:
Chris Paul > Carlos Arroyo
Marco Belinelli
< Dwyane Wade
Trevor Ariza < Lebron James
David West
< Chris Bosh
Emeka Okafor > Joel Anthony

Terrible, Vaguely Relevant Game Pun

None, because I'm going to strangle the next person that makes up a Heat pun, nickname, or nickpunname. And I like my neck. 

The Heat Outlook

After an opening night debacle at Boston, Miami has, as expected, begun to methodically destroy opponents. Sure, three of the wins came against the mediocre Nets, the terrible Sixers, and the even more awful Timberwolves. But those wins came by 23, 10, and 42 respectively. As I've noted in the past, the statistics indicate that beating bad teams convincingly can be just as good (if not better) an indicator of a team's talent level than close wins against good teams. Miami is winning through its suffocating defense, which is on pace to be the best in league history. And of course, they delivered a 26 point beat-down of the Orlando Magic, a sure title contender. The offense still has some kinks to work out (a scary thought). And I hope the defense is in midseason form, because if this isn't it, we're all doomed.

A Note on the "Heat Index" et al.

I can't possibly be the only person disgusted by all the Heat coverage. How come Boston's Big 3 wasn't covered like this? How come the back-to-back champion Lakers aren't covered like this? How come the New York $#%^#@% Yankees aren't covered like this? Brightening the spotlight on two of the league's biggest spotlight hogs (James + Wade) and turning it on to a guy that screamed "look at me! look at me!" all summer (Bosh) is something ESPN has been only too happy to do. But while it is somewhat sickening, excessive Heat analysis makes writing previews a lot easier. 

For instance, some copy-pasting from David Thorpe's latest at ESPN:

Isolating Bosh in the post forces help defenders to sag, leaving their men wide open. Bosh can either beat his man with an excellent first step or his shot-fake attack moves or look for an easy kickout pass if the defense helps too early.

Again, defenses have to be strong at the ball and near the rim, since Wade and James (especially) are so good at finding cutters. But they also must account for Bosh on the weak side, since Bosh has an excellent slinkiness factor working for him, disappearing and reappearing in the paint as defenses orient toward the ball. It's a skill he was never fully able to showcase as the No. 1 option in Toronto.

Given the talent of the ball handlers in these situations, defenses must send at least one or two helpers toward this screening action. But as they try to account for both the ball screen action and Bosh in the paint, James Jones (today) and Mike Miller (tomorrow) will be ready to make opponents pay on the perimeter.

Early drag screen for the point guard: One purpose of the drag screen is to force someone other than the big defending the screener to help on the dribbler (that defensive big often does not see the drag coming). As the screen is set on the point guard, James lifts from the corner, forcing his man to make a choice -- give help and leave James, or stay home and hope someone else stops the ball.

Incidentally, an opposing team can expect to see all of these tactics in the first 12 minutes of a game against the Heat, and that's without getting into standard pick-and-roll play or transition offense. In fact, those are the two worst actions in Miami's arsenal as of today. Both depend on chemistry and feel and take time to develop.

Take home message: Miami is really good at everything.

Subplots:

  • New Orleans will have a decided advantage at PG (Paul vs. Arroyo) and C (Okafor vs. Anthony). Obviously, the other HEAT defenders will try to minimize this disparity, but the way these two matchups shake out tonight will go a long way in determining our potential success.
  • The NBA record for a rookie HC winning streak is 9 games. Almost halfway there, Monty!
  • A win tonight, and fans have to storm the court right? Has an NBA court ever been stormed this decade (Auburn Hills does not count)?
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