Game 6 Recap

When I think center, I think of a big guy around the 7-foot height range with big broad shoulders and long arms. Last night, the center I saw was 6’7, but had the broad shoulders to go with the smaller frame. Obviously  I am describing Justise Winslow, the Heat rookie who had been a wing player the entire season.It was a bold move by Spoelstra, but having Winslow at center may have finally solved the Raptors defense.

Let’s start with some stats though. Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade combined for 52 points and both were getting to the rim at will all night. Dragic had perhaps his best game as a pro and was matching Kyle Lowry shot-for-shot throughout en route to a playoff career-high 30. Wade was the closer yet again with 8 points in the fourth quarter including an elbow jumper to put the Heat up by 8 with a few minutes to go. Josh McRoberts chipped in with 10 points and Joe Johnson had 13. Luol Deng had only 2 points, but played some great defense on Demar DeRozan throughout the game.

So why was the Winslow move so crucial? The Raptors had made it a priority to keep Miami out of the paint. They did so by defending Miami’s pick & roll game with a hard hedge on the ball handler to force a pass rather than a drive. To make things even harder, they would force the pass back to the top of the key rather than to the wing. If any Heat player got around the hedge, there was a Raptor big waiting in the paint for them. Spoelstra countered this by putting the versatile Winslow down low to help space the floor. This now gave heat ball-handlers 1-on-1 matchups that they have been craving all series. With Winslow a threat to cut underneath, Bismack Biyombo was somewhat neutralized as a shot-blocker and the Heat’s move away from a pick & roll for every play, the Raptors hedging plan went out the window.

It was an all-around great game from Miami, which was also highlighted by the Heat taking care of the ball and having only 7 turnovers. Toronto had forced almost 15 per game in the first five games, but the Heat’s ability to squeeze the orange took away a lot of transition hoops for the Raptors.

Game 7 will be tomorrow afternoon in Toronto to decide who goes on to the Eastern Conference Finals!


Game 6 Preview

It is desperation time for the Miami Heat. No doubt about it. Miami is down 3-2 to the Raptors and is facing elimination once again in the playoffs. They fought off Charlotte, but this is a different monster in Toronto that may have just a little bit more than the Heat at this point.

What is it going to take for the Heat to stave off elimination again? BIG performances from Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, and Goran Dragic. Can they do it? So far, they have been unsuccessful. The Heat were beaten up early in game 6 and were not able to fully recover from their early 20-point deficit. They were able to get within 1 in the 4th quarter, but the slow start really hurt them. The Raptors on the other hand, had their first game in which Lowry and DeRozan both played well, which bodes well for the team should they advance.

This series has been a slug fest with both teams losing their starting centers and now each team’s best perimeter defender is hampered by a wrist injury, although Deng and Carroll both hope to play tonight. Let’s keep our fingers crossed in hopes that no one else goes down for either team.

The key for Miami to win tonight is to keep Biyombo and Patterson off the glass, get some offense from someone not name Wade, and move the damn ball. In the last series, the Heat moved the ball and missed shots/turned the ball over. In this series, the Heat don’t move the ball and turn the ball over even more. Oh yes, and they miss shots because they can’t get good ones due to said lack of ball movement. Moving the ball will help the Heat to put more pressure on the Raptors while also avoiding the strong hedges that Toronto is using on the pick & roll. Speaking of which, Miami’s pick and rolls are not working at all because the Raptors are going under screens and then hedging hard to protect against the drive. Miami needs to get players moving along with the ball, which will open up driving lanes without having to set picks.

Miami could have won the last game had they kept Biyombo off the glass. He drew so many loose ball fouls and shooting fouls because of the Heat’s lack of physicality underneath. The only guy I can see matching him with strength is Udonis Haslem, who should get a lot of minutes tonight instead of McRoberts in my opinion. The Heat need to also keep Patterson of the glass, but that will be a little easier than Biyombo.

Wade was the Heat’s leading scorer last game, but most of his points came in the fourth quarter. We all know he can make plays late, but that does not mean that Miami should just grind it out until that point. They need Dragic and Johnson to produce! Johnson can score inside on whoever Toronto puts on him and Dragic is going to have to start attacking again or find a way to get around those screen hedges. My suggestion is to go around the pick and move the ball to the wing, therefore eliminating the hedger from the play. Quick ball movement should create a 3-on-2 or 2-on-1 opportunity inside.

It is a tall order, but I believe the Heat can still pull this one out. GO HEAT!

Game 3 Preview: Heat/Raptors

Let’s start with Game 2. The Heat, frankly, should have a 2-0 lead in this series. No excuses. But I will, however, give credit to Toronto for not giving up and taking advantage if the Heat turning the ball over 21 times. It was a tough game to see, especially since the Heat were given every opportunity to take control.

There are some high points though. The Heat have played pretty poorly thus far in this series, but it was a couple of key play at the end of game 1 that gave them the advantage. What that means to me is that the Heat have the ability to take control of this series. The Raptors forced over 20 turnovers in the first two games, but still had to really fight for that second win. I’m telling you guys, the Heat have a golden opportunity to steal this next game and do it in dominating fashion.

Why am I making this prediction? Because the Heat, I think, have figured out the Raptors. It’s not that hard. They rely on creating offense from their defense and then getting to the foul line. That works very well most of the time. But what if they face a team that squeezes the orange and tries not to foul? Ding ding ding, there you go Miami. All you need to do is take care of the ball better and the Raptors big calling card will be shot. Let’s remember, that after DeRozan, Lowry, and Valanciunas, the Raptors have no one (Terrence Ross is far too inconsistent) that can create offense. That means Wade, Johnson, and Dragic, the primary ball-handlers, will need to be careful and play smart while still putting pressure on defenders.

If the Raptors struggle as much as they did back home to pull one win out combined with Miami’s dominance in South Beach, then they have a ton of pressure on them. With that said, they will be playing to try and steal one, which means the Heat need to be focused and ready to come out and end it early. That’s the key, don’t let them get back in the game.



Heat/Raptors: Game 2 Preview

Hey everyone, I am currently in a public place, so I do not think they would appreciate me yelling into a computer. So I’ll just type out my thoughts.

The Heat and Raptors will resume their playoff series tonight at the Air Canada Center in Toronto for Game 2! After a rough performance from both teams in game 1, Miami was able to pull out the victory 102-96 in overtime. It was a physical games that featured runs from both teams throughout. Let’s start, though, with Toronto.

Their half-court offense was pretty bad in game 1. There was not a lot of player movement and only a few passes were made during offensive possessions. It was difficult to watch sometimes. They were their best, however, in transition and got a lot of easy baskets by moving down the floor quickly and then making a good number of passes for shots. THat was all I was impressed with. Demar DeRozan had an OK game, but missed a lot of shots. Valanciunas played very well, but the big “uh-oh” for the Raptors was Kyle Lowry scoring only 7 points on 3-13 shooting. He HAS to be better for them even to have a chance. If not, then I don’t see them winning more than one game in this series. Coach Casey will have to have him on a short leash and be ready to put Cory Joseph in if Lowry continues to have shooting woes.

For Heat, it was in no way their best performance. They had 20 turnovers and missed some key free throws down the stretch, which allowed Toronto back in the game. Luol Deng and Joe Johnson has decent games, but both can be a lot better. The bright spots for the Heat were: Dragic widely outplaying Lowry, Wade making big plays throughout, and Whiteside grabbing 17 big boards. I did hold my breath when he came down on his knee, but it is only a sprain, so he should be just fine for tonight’s game. I do want to see some more from the Heat bench. Richardson had 11 points, but the Heat need more from the guys who come off the bench. The Heat should also consider slowing down the game to make the Raptors play in the half-court. Miami is by far the better half-court team, so why not take advantage?




Game 2 Recap

If you thought Miami could not top their game 1 performance, then you were wrong! They just absolutely obliterated the Hornets defense all night, and it came, once again, from inside the paint. Miami was getting shots off from inside all night and took advantage of a Hornets squad that is scratching their heads right now.

Dwyane Wade showed just how good he still is with 28 points and 8 assists, which was huge for the Heat, especially in the second half, when the defenses tightened up a little bit. Whiteside chipped in with a double-double and the bench players really stepped up behind the rookies, Winslow and Richardson.

The big thing for the Heat was that they were able to counter Charlotte’s scoring outburst with their own. That was huge because I said before that Charlotte would look to come out and knock the Heat off balance. Miami absorbed the blow and was able to hit back pretty well with a 43-point second quarter.

My concern after this game was Miami’s defensive effort. They gave up way to many drives to the rim and let Kemba Walker get going, which is bad for any opponent. Charlotte also killed them on the glass 54-40. Luckily, the Hornets rarely capitalized on their rebounding margin. Al Jefferson also got going and was able to punish the Heat inside with a wide variety of post moves.

As the series heads to Charlotte for games 3 and 4, I expect the defense to turn up a bit more for both teams. My advice for Miami is to make it a priority to lock down on defense a get the ball out of Walker’s hands. Without Batum, who left the game with a sprained ankle (get well soon), Charlotte does not have another ball-handler, so that may be a disadvantage for the Hornets.