Miami Heat Confidence Meter: 9.3 (That was fun!)
• Heat fans were made aware 30 minutes prior to Tipoff that Joel Anthony would not start or play versus the Phoenix Suns. Facing a team that runs in excess of 50 Pick and rolls a game with Dexter Pittman guarding at least 15 of them is not a confidence building prospect. Well, I have to say that Dexter Pittman was not only “good” versus the pick and roll, but very good. He moved well, and recognized the initiation of each pick & roll and stepped out almost in anticipation. He played quality minutes on this night, where he was expected to be a liability. Part of the Heat’s success defensively, came in what was a surprising on the ball effort by Mario Chalmers on Steve Nash. He “blew up” at least 3 pick and rolls by stepping out further than the pick to force a new action, then recovered fast enough to maintain the Heat’s defensive posture. Impressive effort by Mario Chalmers.
• Lebron James was short on his shot all night, and Dwyane Wade had trouble finishing at the rim. Chris Bosh however, could not miss. Bosh’ 12-16 effort was much needed on this night when the Heat’s offense lacked any consistent punch. While the Heat’s defense against the Steve Nash pick and roll was actually pretty good, their defense versus Suns secondary offense, was not. There wasn’t any “laziness” but there did seem to be a sense of relaxation at times that led to easy Suns scores. This Heat team really can beat teams at their leisure. Even western conference playoff contending teams. The Suns came in as hot as any team in the west, and they were beginning to find a formula for gaining that 8th seeded playoff spot. They started running multiple pick & rolls, and then ran secondary offense to free up open three point shots. This always works when your team can knock down jumpers to apply legitimate pressure.
• The Heat took to forcing turnovers, and after falling behind 90-80 with 7:29 to go, the Heat just took their intensity to another level. The defensive posture changed and the paint point attack returned. The Heat had that look all night of a team that had their best effort in reserve and would break it out if needed. They did. The Suns when presented with a defense that took away options versus a rudimentary offense, took to frozen isolation plays and that is not their game. It also helps when Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem just might be the best two pick and roll defending power forwards in the game. You sprinkle in the perimeter defensive prowess of James and Wade and you can see how the Heat can deliver a 17-0 run to knock out the Phoenix Suns.
• It is interesting that for the last three games, the first wing player off the bench has been James Jones. Could it be that Coach Erik Spoelstra has realized that Shane Battier is most effective as a primary Sub versus Isolation types, and teams that do not boast any set offense to be run through a wing player, really do not lend to Battier’s strengths? Maybe. Coach Spo may be stubborn, but he is a quick learner and he is a student of matchups and isolated advanced stats. It is obvious to anyone that the first substitution for the Heat all year has lent itself to stagnant offense, and he seems to be trying to remedy that by playing James Jones with Lebron James who always seems to find him for open looks. This is more than a trend, and it seems to be the way forward for when Mike Miller comes back.
Miami is at Detroit on Friday night. Tipoff is at 7:30 pm.