Preview: Heat come to Oracle for last game before All-Star Break

Can Golden State contain King James tonight? - Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the two-time defending champion Miami Heat visit Oracle for the only time this season. That is, if they don't meet in the Finals.

Golden State Warriors vs. Miami Heat

Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA

TV: CSN Bay Area / NBA TV // Radio: KNBR 680

Blog Buddy: Hot Hot Hoops

The Warriors last played the Heat about a month ago, in Miami, and it showcased the offensive brilliance Golden State could display even against one of the top defenses in the NBA. Golden State is the only team to beat the Heat in Miami in each of the last two seasons, showing that they are capable of beating anyone at home or on the road.

Tonight, the Heat come to Oracle looking for revenge after Stephen Curry and David Lee embarrassed them on their home floor early in 2014. Curry went for 36 points and 12 assists as the crowd oohed and ahed after every shot he made in the second half. A player who can light up a scoreboard in a hurry, Curry dominated every facet of the game offensively, making crisp passes, attacking the lane, and burying three after three. He was a key reason David Lee had a season-high 32 points, as Lee ended up with open layup after open jumper because Golden State executed the pick-and-roll to perfection.

Tonight, it's worth seeing if Miami resumes its famed maniacal defensive strategies of trapping ball-handlers and forcing turnovers against Golden State, who have struggled mightily to take care of the ball this year, per NBA.com. Zach Lowe of Grantland wrote in January that the fact that "teams have caught up to Miami" caused the Heat to play stretches of games with a "basic conservative" pick-and-roll defense. The Warriors are one of those teams, eviscerating the Heat's trapping schemes a month ago, scoring 123 points on 56% shooting and 15-29 on threes, video game numbers.

It'll be an interesting matchup between the Heat defense, that can force a bazillion turnovers in the blink of an eye, if it chooses to play that way, against Golden State, a team that can look as spectacular or as woeful offensively as any team in the NBA on any given night. For the Heat, it's not much of an issue, given that they hold a nearly insurmountable lead for the second seed in the East, but the Warriors need to become more consistent on offense in order to shoot for home-court in the playoffs, much less be considered championship contenders.

The Warriors can dominate offensively seemingly any time they put their minds to it, murdering the 76ers on Monday, winning 123-80 and leading by as many as 49 points. Granted, Philly is "redefining tanking", but to put up 123 points is a good thing for an offense that has struggled this season, ranking only twelfth in offensive rating, per NBA.com. Hopefully this gets a highly celebrated offense in gear for the stretch run post-All-Star Break.

The Heat this season have shown they are prone to "coasting" in the putrid Eastern Conference; Dwyane Wade has missed 13 games already and he, James, and Bosh are all averaging career-lows in minutes per game. But it doesn't really matter because, I repeat, the East is just putrid. Miami is moving to the "Spurs model" of resting its' stars during the regular season, and it would be a boon to the Heat, especially James and Wade to get some much-needed rest before the playoffs.

Seriously: Miami has nearly a ten-game lead on the Rapters for second in the Eastern Conference behind the Pacers. The Pacers and Heat have clearly separated themselves as the head of the class in the East, destined for a bloodbath in the Conference Finals. Miami has all the time they need. Will they show up ready to play tonight against the Warriors?

Sorkin's Four Keys to a Warriors Win

  • Protect the Paint. The Heat are one of, if not the most ruthlessly efficient offensive team in the NBA, leading the league in Offensive Rating and True Shooting Percentage this season. LeBron is the league's most destructive force in the paint, leading the NBA last season in both shots attempted and field goal percentage in that area. Also, Dwyane Wade led all guards in field goal percentage in the lane last season. It's going to be important to see how Golden State defends the most important real estate in the game one of the league's best rim protectors, Andrew Bogut, out again due to a shoulder injury.
  • Run, Run, Run. With Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors have four perimeter players that can get out and attack in transition. Indeed, Curry and Thompson each rank in the top twenty in fast-break points per game. Golden State can't let Miami's elite half-court defense set up, and to do that must get out on the break and convert.
  • Look out below! Threes raining down! If Curry and Thompson, and to a lesser extent Iguodala and Barnes, are hitting threes, that causes a trickle-down effect on the rest of the offense making it easier to score inside for David Lee and the other forwards.
  • Start Fast. Whenever the Warriors lose, it feels like it's always because of a lack of focus or effort to start the game. For Golden State to start fast, they need to make crisp passes, hit open shots, and use their bevy of excellent perimeter defenders to limit LeBron James

Predictions!

Curry goes for 33 points, 11 assists, and 9 boards, with six three-pointers.

LeBron puts on a show of his own and tallies a forty-point night.

In overtime, the Warriors pull out a thriller 113-110.

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