(Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon)
The Miami HEAT play host to the Phoenix Suns Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. After Saturday's thrilling victory, the HEAT sit at 2-1. The Suns are coming off a loss to the Orlando Magic and are 1-2. Tip off is set for 7:30 PM and the game will be televised on Sun Sports. Now, here are five burning questions:1. The Steve Nash days are over in Phoenix, so how does this affect the matchup with Miami?
Couper Moorhead: No matter how the personnel changed around Steve Nash over the years, you knew that as long as the reins were in his hands Phoenix was going to be one of the league's most efficient offenses.
Through just a few games without Nash this year, the Suns have been one of the least efficient offenses. That's about all there is to it, really. This team still has some good pieces, but no offense was as dependant on the playmaking skills of a single player, and that is impossible to replace or reproduce short term. Miami defenders no longer have to worry that looking away from an offensive player for one second will result in a Nash assist, and when you aren't worried about those passes, things become simpler.
Danny Martinez: I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that Steve Nash is one of the most gifted offensive players of our generation. Just a few seasons ago, the Suns scored a historic rate with Nash calling the shots. Nash had a hand in pretty much every Suns possession dating back to 2005. With him gone, everything changes.
Goran Dragic is a very good replacement for Nash, but he cannot match the control over the game that Nash had. Dragic and Marcin Gortat will still run a lot of high pick-and-roll action, but it won’t be the same. It can’t be the same.2. If Michael Beasley scores 30 and Phoenix wins, what do you say to the folks that bemoan Miami trading him?
Couper: A little perspective in advance, folks. It's natural to wonder what could have been with a former Miami player, but there was literally not a single logical path to the team having the offseason it did in 2010 had it decided to hold onto Beasley.
One game doesn't mean much, anyways, and there's nothing wrong with wanting Beasley to play well. Every single team and player in the league can play extremely well and the HEAT can still win -- those things don't have to be exclusive.
Danny: No NBA team has been as successful as the Miami HEAT over the last two NBA seasons. Two NBA Finals appearances and one NBA Championship later, it’s hard to justify any questioning of the summer of 2010. Part of the reason Beasley was traded was to make room for Mike Miller. Mike Miller gave the HEAT this
. Things have worked out just fine in Miami. A big game from Beasley Monday night doesn’t change any of that.3. The win over Denver was incredibly fun, but the defense was still lacking. What areas need to improve?
Couper: The defense in the final quarter against Denver was encouraging, regardless of how often the Nuggets wound up scoring. Recent lapses haven't been worrisome in the least, but seeing HEAT players swarm passes while they are still in the air offers confirmation that the principles that won a title haven't gone anywhere.
The one thing you would like to see cleaned up sooner than later are the interior rotations off dribble penetration. Miami has struggled with this sporadically over the past two seasons, but the effect is magnified a bit when you don't have as many shotblockers along the baseline capable of making up for being a step slow. Joel Anthony gave the defense a nice burst of energy the other night, but the only long-term solution here is for the timing to improve and for bodies to get between the ball and the rim when help is required.
Danny: The Nuggets are known for their ability to get to the rim. Still, 72 points in the paint have to concern the HEAT, who pride themselves on controlling the area around the basket. The Nuggets presented a unique challenge in their ability to crash the offensive glass. HEAT rebounders will be focused on boxing out Suns players under the rim.
Also, the HEAT haven’t been able to control penetration by opposing guards or cause many turnovers. In the fourth quarter of the Nuggets game, the HEAT were more active in passing lanes and more aggressive in shutting out Nuggets attackers. The HEAT forced five Nuggets turnovers in that period, after forcing just four in the entire first half. Look for the HEAT to zero in on causing skirmishes that lead to run outs.4. Sticking with defense, how much leeway are you giving things? At what point do you start to worry?
Couper: If Miami is healthy and in the bottom half of the league in defensive efficiency halfway through the year, then it's time to be concerned.
But things have little to no chance of getting to that point. Erik Spoelstra isn't going to be spending a ton of practice time working on offense in the coming week(s).
Danny: Three games do not undo two full seasons and postseasons of elite defense in my opinion. Yes, the HEAT are playing a little differently this season, but they often played small or unconventional lineups the last two seasons without seeing much of a defensive drop off.
I wouldn’t start to worry until at least ten games into the season. Even then, I wouldn’t worry much. The HEAT have been very good at solving any defensive woes in the past (remember all of the baseline looks against the Thunder in March last year?), and I suspect they won’t have much trouble doing the same this year.5. Never mind the 40 points, has Chris Bosh ever looked more in control of his role with the Heat?
Couper: While it's an odd description, it's also apt that Bosh calls himself the "Random Guy" of this offense. He has never gotten many plays called for him with the HEAT and that has led to some growing pains over the years figuring out how best to maximize his opportunities. The shift started after a horrible shooting night in Chicago during this core's first season together, and now we're seeing the result of a player having seen an example of nearly every situation this team will see. Bosh isn't just shooting well right now, he's finding the best spots to be in on the floor at all times, he knows when to slip a screen if the floor is well spaced and he knows that if he has an advantageous matchup, it's on him, not a play call, to attack it.
Danny: No, he’s never looked this comfortable. It seemed as though in every preseason game recap I wrote “Chris Bosh was excellent tonight,” and that’s because he truly was. His play has carried over into the regular season. Bosh has attacked defenses in a myriad of ways and seems to know exactly what buttons to push when he’s guarded a certain way. Saturday night was a long time coming for Bosh. Don’t be surprised if he offers up a few more games like that this season.