(Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon)
The Miami HEAT are in Denver tonight to take in the Miami HEAT. The HEAT are playing on the second night of a back-to-back and are playing their fourth game in five days. After last night's loss to the Clippers, the HEAT are 6-3. The Nuggets enter at 4-4.1. Neither Dwyane Wade nor Udonis Haslem has ever won a game in Denver. Does that change tonight?
Couper Moorhead: When the HEAT’s schedule comes out in the middle of the summer, the road game in Denver is usually the first one you circle – and it always seems to come on the second night of a back-to-back as well. It’s not just a Miami thing, either. Playing Denver under these circumstances, whether or not you believe the altitude comes into play, is one of the toughest things to do in the league. The good news is, this isn’t the type of situation that can ever be replicated in the playoffs. It will be a tall order, but Miami can win – there’s just nothing to worry about if they don’t.
Danny Martinez: Well, there’s a reason that the HEAT haven’t won in Denver in a really long time. Unfortunately, that reason plays into tonight’s game. Playing the second night of a back-to-back in the thin air in Denver is tough. Playing that game at the end of a long road trip and it’s doubly tough. That’s what the HEAT face tonight. Denver is 37-6 over the last three seasons when playing at home against teams on the second night of a back-to-back. Of course there’s a chance the HEAT pull out a win, but I wouldn’t expect it.2. We just saw Denver a little more than a week ago. What should carry over from that game?
Couper: Kenneth Faried, being one of the best offensive rebounders in the league, will do his thing on the boards, but otherwise this should be a completely different game. Even just a week or so of time to gel makes a big difference, and everything tends to run a little more smoothly on your home court.
Danny: The game against Denver was the only time this season that the HEAT have gotten beat badly on the boards. The Nuggets frontline was relentless attacking the offensive glass. If it hadn’t been for a strong offensive effort, the HEAT probably would have lost the game. With the HEAT playing on the second night of a back-to-back tonight, I expect the Denver big men to focus on beating the HEAT on the glass again, especially on the offensive end.3. Why does Miami’s spacing look so much more jumbled up than it did at the start of the season?
Couper: Some of it is that the HEAT are just getting everyone’s best defense right now, and those defenses are doing an exceptional job running three-point shooters off the line while also offering sufficient help in the paint, but the team has also just hit one of those ruts you hit over the course of the regular season. LeBron James is still playing wonderful basketball while the ball movement has been excellent, and as long as everyone stays committed to the offense, through makes and misses, thing will work out fine.
Danny: The biggest reason the floor is shrinking for the HEAT is they’ve been unable to generate consistent stops. Earlier in the season, the HEAT were pushing the pace off of stops, getting Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James early post position and fanning shooters out around the arc. Without the stops, it’s harder for the HEAT to find the rhythm they’re looking for.
Some of the other reasons are a little mundane, but they have probably played a role as well. Fatigue, injury and defensive adjustments are all playing into the HEAT’s offensive constriction.4. Could Denver’s pace be at least a temporary cure-all for some of Miami’s issues?
Couper: It should help open things up a bit, sure, but that pace Denver plays with at home is also the main reason teams have so much trouble winning there.
Danny: Yes. Denver likes to push the tempo at all costs. That is the game the HEAT want to play on offense. A quicker pace will lead to more space for HEAT attackers and ideally more efficient shots. By getting into a shootout, the HEAT may solve some of their offensive struggles by accident. It will be tough to run with the Nuggets since the HEAT are playing on short rest, but if the HEAT can settle into a rhythm they’ll be fine.5. We have discussed this already, but are we just playing a waiting game when it comes to the defense?
Couper: I doubt anyone on the team would say that they are playing perfect defense right now, and it’s tough to correct those things in the midst of a four-game-in-five-nights stretch, but once the HEAT get home they only have three games in 13 nights. That should give them plenty of time to tighten the bolts.
Danny: Yep. It might be frustrating to some, but we’re still a long ways away from having to actually worry about the defense. Unfortunately for the HEAT, things may get worse before they get better. The Nuggets will provide a tough test, but after that the HEAT schedule becomes home heavy and spaced out. This will provide the HEAT ample practice time to clean up any issues they find. There’s a good chance that two months from now we’ll all laugh about the time the defense was doubted.