2012 has been an incredible year for the Miami Heat.
Is there really any better place to start in discussing the Warriors' game against the Miami Heat tonight than that?
Surya Fernandez of SB Nation's Hot Hot Hoops tried to refute the obvious logic underlying the Heat's loss to the Wizards in addition to discussing their defensive struggles, the effectiveness of small ball against their lineup, and whether David Lee is truly a stronger MVP candidate than LeBron James.
Q&A with Hot Hot Hoops
1. Warriors > Wizards > Heat. That logic is irrefutable. But just so we're clear, do you see that loss to the Wizards as a fluke/letdown or indicative of an inherent weakness for this team when you look back at it now?
Surya Fernandez: Purely a fluke. Well, I didn't expect the Heat to go 82-0 but I certainly expected the Heat to have these sort of games from time to time. Just like any elite team, it's inevitable that from time to time they are caught playing down to the competition and then it's too late when it's time to play catch-up.
The Heat have been guilty of it plenty of times so far this season but LeBron James and Ray Allen have bailed them out in the fourth quarter. This time those timely threes didn't fall and it was game over. These are the kind of games that seem like a big deal at the time and then everyone forgets about them by the end of the season.
2. Mike Prada of Bullets Forever mentioned in his recap of that loss to the Wizards that they started small in that game, which is certainly an approach that the Warriors are likely to take. How effective is that approach to beating the Heat?
SF: You could argue it both ways, since the Heat's lack of size in the paint has been exposed by teams as well. But this is nothing new since this the core of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Joel Anthony, Mike Miller, etc. has been in place for a third season now. While the Heat may have weaknesses, they can still count on their pure talent and usually their defense (I say usually because their defense so far this season has been a bit puzzling) to win games.
Is playing small a good approach though? It really depends on matchups. There have been plenty of times where the opposing team's point-guard has had an easy time penetrating against the Heat and then either finishing at the rim or dishing the ball for open perimeter jumpers (like the New York Knicks have done for two victories already). Coach Spoelstra is integrating Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony fully into the rotation the past several games in the hopes that this will be resolved. Then again, Spo can always send LeBron to lock down a speedy guard in the fourth quarter.
3. In Diego Quezada's recent Hot Hot Hoops piece on the Heat's defense, he mentioned slow rotations as a major problem for the Heat. Another problem for the Heat is that they've been beaten on the offensive boards by percentage (a Warriors strength) so far this year. But is there anything else that stands out to you as a consistent pattern in the Heat's 5 losses this season?
SF: I would agree with Diego on the slow rotations as a huge factor. I also see players like Chalmers and Wade gambling too much on defense in search of steals and turnovers. If they fail, it usually means a foul or the defense breaks down which translates into easy baskets.
The Heat do get beat a lot of times in the battle of the boards as well and it could spell trouble against a team like the Warriors. The Heat certainly have had some poor games this season yielding too many offensive rebounds and it wouldn't surprise me if this happened again tonight.
4. Speaking of rebounds, Florida product David Lee is apparently fourth on Sheridan's MVP rankings, ahead of James. I'm struggling to make sense of that. Can you provide any insight about LeBron's or the Heat's season that will help me resolve the dissonance that created?
Scandal! DLee should be 1st. RT @sfbaysportsfan not a DLee fan, but he's 4th in sheridanhoops mvp rankings... ahead of lebron.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) December 11, 2012
SF: You're having trouble making sense of that for a good reason. LeBron is the greatest basketball player in the world and I recall him proving that without a shadow of a doubt once again this year winning countless awards, his first ring, a gold medal and...oh yeah, the MVP and Finals MVP. Nothing this season has shown that his game is slipping. It's simply absurd to rank anyone ahead of him at this point, let alone David Lee.
5. Just to put this out there, Ray Allen is one of my all-time favorite players - I don't see how you can't enjoy watching him shoot. Diego's piece mentioned that he has been slow on some rotations defensively, which might be understandable as he adjusts to a new team/system. But how would you say he's fitting in with the unit offensively so far? Has anything surprised or disappointed you about him so far?
SF: I've seen him play for so many years that not much has surprised me but I will say he's reminding fans that he's much more of a complete offensive player than he was utilized in Boston, where he moved off the ball constantly around screens to free himself for spot-up jumpers. Since the Heat like to run, we're seeing some more of Ray's ball-handling skills and his court vision - where he's been doing a nice job setting up his teammates. But then again, he's at his best of course when he's shooting so that won't ever change.
For more on the Heat, check out SBN's Hot Hot Hoops.