Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
I know it was the first game of the season for both teams and we must be sure not to overreact to what we saw yesterday, but: Boy oh boy did the Miami Heat look like an unstoppable basketball team. The team we saw yesterday was the team we expected to see all of last season. Getting out on the break on makes and misses, burning the opposition with speed and occasionally power and being able to use Dwyane Wade and LeBron James efficiently every time down.
This could also very certainly be an outlier for the Heat. To comeback and play their first game of the year against the team that beat them in the NBA Finals on their home floor right after they raised the banner is sure to bring as much motivation to a team as a playoff game. And we can’t forget that the Mavericks are still adjusting defensively without Tyson Chandler protecting the rim and some of their offensive pieces haven’t had time to come together while the Heat have only made a couple of small additions (and one huge subtraction: Mike Bibby).
But still. Miami was absolutely incredible in this game. Those who didn’t get to watch and have only seen the final score: this was truly a 30-point blowout. Last season the Heat played some incredible defense and that continued in this game. Dallas only shot 37% from the field as a team (and 32% from three) and that’s with a fourth quarter run slightly increasing those numbers. Like I said, I’m sure their chemistry will improve but we did see how big losing DeShawn Stevenson and J.J. Barea was, at least in this match-up. Replacing both players, who were capable three point shooters, with Vince Carter and Delonte West allowed Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers to run at Dirk and go for the ball. Chalmers ended up with four steals and Dirk shot just six for 15 from the floor.
Hit the jump for the rest of the recap…
Jason Terry started off slow but his second half surge helped him get to a team high 23 points. Other than that, though, the rest of the second unit shot 26% from the field. Lamar Odom made his first shot (a difficult, stop-and-pop three as soon as he touched the ball) and I kind of got the feeling that he was about to make a statement with his play. But then he missed his next five shots, turned it over twice, committed four personal fouls and was ejected from the game.
LeBron, on the other hand, made a definite statement yesterday. Miami did a great job channeling the Oregon Ducks in this game and had a ridiculous 31 fast break points. But we’ve seen LeBron and Dwyane Wade get out on the break and finish before albeit not that often in one game. Seeing them pick-up the number of transition chances they had was encouraging but even more so was how LeBron was used in the half-court. I remember a few instances where LeBron went off the dribble and took pull-up jumers, which are not the greatest shots, but far more often in this game, he was in the pinch post area with room to create. James has made a subtle adjustment on his jumper from the pinch post area as he’ll now keep the ball high and shoot much quicker, and I don’t think I’ve seen him miss on that shot just yet. James was able to mix in post-ups, excellent mid-range looks and 19 free throw attempts, which produced a 37 point output and an Pure Scorer Rating of 18, just two points behind Carmelo Anthony, the leader in the clubhouse with a PSR of 20 in his opener.
Wade also found himself in the post a bit more often than last year and he was also hitting his mid-range shot. When LeBron is going to put out 37 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks and Wade is going to have 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists, Miami is not going to lose a lot of games, especially when they play as well as they did on defense. One encouraging note for Wade and James: neither attempted a three-point attempt. In fact, nobody in Miami’s starting line-up hoisted up a three, and the team only made four of seven attempts on the afternoon (not surprisingly, James Jones had three of those four triples).
The other player that hit a three was rookie Norris Cole, who I loved before the draft and now love him more than some of my secondary relatives. Cole has proven to be the exact point guard that Miami needs. Last year the Heat had two point guards with very similar offensive skillsets. Mario Chalmers is more athletic than Mike Bibby but on offense, the majority of their duty was to stand in the corner and hit spot-up jumpers. Now Miami has gone with two different point guards. Chalmers is a good fit with the big three on the floor as the starter because that unit doesn’t need someone else to push the ball; that unit needs a capable shooter from deep. Their second unit, on the other hand, could use another push the pace kind of player in the event that James or Wade is on the bench and that’s Cole. I was happy to see in this game that Cole wasn’t just pushing the pace to find Wade, James or Bosh at the rim, he was looking to attack himself, which will put defenses in a very tough position when trying to determine whether or not to stop the ball or the lob.
Cole’s numbers weren’t eye-popping: seven points on three-of-eight shooting, two rebounds, one steal, four turnovers. But the element he added stylistically with the second unit was very encouraging. Udonis Haslem was also encouraging, as he pilled up 14 rebounds. Due to some foul trouble for Chris Bosh (five fouls in 24 minutes), Haslem got starter’s burn and was very good. The scary thing about this performance was that Miami didn’t even get five minutes from Shane Battier. They may be deeper than previously thought.
Dallas will have better days, but after looking at their personnel in this game, I think it’s clear that they have taken a step back this season. Their defense is due for a major regression and the incredible three-point magic that propelled them on offense in the playoffs doesn’t seem like it’s returning.