Saturday, April 17, 2010

Heating Up: Which Miami Team Will Boston See?

Here's the first of a slew of articles that will continue throughout the Boston-Miami series giving you a deeper look at the Heat, their players, and the anecdotes that lie within the team. What different looks does this team have? How loyal is their star? Just how tough is the Southeast division? And one unknown, depending on how the series goes...

For a team that only finished three games behind the Boston Celtics, the Miami Heat seem to be the clear underdogs here regardless. Maybe those opinions will pan out to be true after the first game or two of the Celts-Heat series in the first round. Maybe they won't.

But one thing is for sure: When adversity isn't placed directly in front of the Boston Celtics, they tend to disappoint. In a way, adversity must be on the Celtics' side to win.

However, it's not just about which Boston Celtics we'll see; the series is equally as dependent on what face of the Miami Heat we'll see. Will Boston find themselves against the defensively-concentrated, more team-oriented Miami Heat team, which Dwyane Wade thrives in even though the game has less possessions and his teammates are more involved; or will the Celtics be challenged with merely Dwyane Wade and Miami's "Let's funnel the ball to Wade, let him barrel towards the bucket and draw fouls, and once Boston collapses on him after a few trips, have him dump it off to the open big man or a good look behind the arc" tactics?

Which one is more difficult to handle, is the question. Let's look at a few numbers/facts.

Wade's Heat have demolished the league in their last two months taking 12 out of their final 13 and finishing the season on a defensive tear. They also lost just three game in the month of March. The Heat have held opponents to 88.7 ppg in their last 13 games and they look to be that team who replaced the Bucks as the very good but not great squad after Andrew Bogut's injury. Michael Beasley finished the season with a 25 point game and many people are expecting him to do more of the same against an older, less mobile Boston front line. Look to see the Celtics mixing things up down low if Beasley frightens them in the first few games.

But that all boils down to how Wade's teammates play. If Haslem is chipping in, Beasley is giving Boston fits, and Q, Daequan Cook, and Chalmers are all hitting their threes, then Boston is in for a tough fight. Sure, Garnett could come out more fired up than we've seen him all season, suffocating Beasley and anchoring Boston's interior D. But that doesn't alter nor fortify his defensive abilities at this age, and Beasley could still beat him if the Heat decide to open up a more athletic style of basketball.

Big Baby couldn't cover him, because although he has more talent than most recognize in the fast break game, Beasley could torch him on the wing. It's not about Davis' quickness, which surprisingly could match Davis if he was playing smart and true to Beasley. It's the fact that Beasley needs but a quarter of a step to utilize his seven-foot-plus wing span and 35 inch max vertical jump (Draft Express). To put this in more picturesque terms, Beasley's draft day vertical leap is only seven and a half inches off Nate Robinson's and he obviously has a greater wing span. And despite originally being listed at 6'10", Beasley is still 6'8" win basketball shoes on, one inch shorter than Glen Davis. But, as put by put it, Davis doesn't get great lift when he jumps and has a medium wing span. So Davis is a no go.

Shelden Williams is NOT going to see time in the playoffs, Rasheed doesn't have near the mobility to slow him down, and we can't pull Perk off the block even if Miami's best post-up options are Jermaine O'Neal, Joel Anthony, Magloire, and Yakhouba Diawara. So it goes without saying that Beasley could give us more trouble than even a double-covered Wade, who is as good as finding teammates and giving them good looks than anyone in the league. Why do you think a lazy Jermaine O'Neal came close to cracking 14 a game this season, or Quentin Richardson is averaging 10.1 in the last 10 games?

On the other hand, that was the Quentin Richardson that was receiving the ball from a Dwyane Wade that sparked a dominant defensive stretch and a couple of win streaks to close out the season. What does Miami look like when Wade is monopolizing Miami possessions? For lack of a better answer, the Heat simply look beatable. The decision by Spoelstra is influenced by how well Miami as a whole is playing. If they are playing poorly, most of the offensive play sequences are centered around Wade until the defensive adapts and teammates are accumulating multiple open looks each time down the floor. The evidence? Miami has attempted just 12.4 3-pointers per game for the last 13 games (12 of them wins are arguably the Heat at their hottest in terms of the Heat as a unit) as opposed to the season average of 17.4 3-pointers. What does this mean? The Heat have more opportunities to take it down low and get easier points, which is obviously when any team is at their best, even the more potent of shooting squads, as opposed to when it's just Wade either driving and drawing fouls or driving and kicking it out for threes.

So what team do I think we'll see? I think we're going to see the Miami Heat team we've seen for the past two months. And honestly, I'm going to say that if they beat us, I will not be shocked. I don't think they will. I think we can put them away. But I'm not going to call it an upset if the Miami Heat beat us playing their best.

In the end though, it's Boston in six or less. I think we can handle Miami's style of team play if we stick to it and play every possession for 48 minutes hard. If we do, Miami might even change their game style and try to throw a Wade 45-pointer at us. Not that we couldn't handle it.

Go Celtics!

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