Posted 18 December 2012 - 10:54 AM
Today's preview is done by Goodyou and JulesWinnfield. Great job!
1. As we write this, we still don’t know if Ricky Rubio will play tonight with the Wolves possibly holding him out of back-to-backs as he gets back into game shape. How does the game change if he plays?
Goodyou: As we saw against Dallas, the game changes dramatically when he's on the court. His playmaking allows him to take a lot of the pressure off guys like Kirilenko, Ridnour and Barea. His ability to get Pekovic and Williams involved on the offensive end becomes vital when Love is not on the floor, and his ball movement and spacing opens up a lot of opportunities for teammates. Rubio shines at creating plays in the half court, something Miami has struggled to defend, so it will be interesting (if he plays) to see how Miami reacts. To sum, Rubio brings a totally new dynamic of playmaking to a team that desperately needs it, and, without him, Minnesota will struggle to make plays without Roy, and if Love is not 100%.
JulesWinnfield: He does wonders for the Wolves' offense, delivering crisp passes and court vision matched by few in this league. Last season Rubio put up 12,12 and 6 against the Heat but we did force him into committing five turnovers in a game that was very close. When he's on the court the offense is more calm and efficient. His ability to involve everyone, especially the big men, gives them good looks in an otherwise struggling offense (looking at the FG numbers).
2. The Wolves haven’t played Kevin Love much at center, and when they have results have been a mixed bag. Will Rick Adelman go small against Miami or will he stay big with Nikola Pekovic?
Goodyou: Will he go small? Probably not, I mean, you pretty much answered your own question. The results have been lackluster when Love is holding down the fort at the center position. Without Roy, and (probably) Rubio, the only real advantage Minnesota holds over Miami is their size. The point of going small is to draw out the other team's bigs to create a mismatch. However, most of Miami's bigs are more comfortable guarding the ball on the mid-perimeter than in the key anyways. Their best chance to win is if they pound the ball inside with Love, Pekovic, and Kirilenko. They're logic is flawed if they think they can play small (without their two best playmakers) against a team who won a championship doing just that.
JulesWinnfield: I believe he'll go big, especially since Pekovic has grown into a pretty impressive center. The Timberwolves' only chance to win (or come close to winning) the game is by trying to dominate the paint. Playing small will go into the Heat's favor, removing any previous inside advantage (except for Love's inhuman rebounding). Minnesota posses currently the worst 3PT% in the league at 28.9%, which will probably give Miami some kind of relief. Defending the three has been a recurring problem this season.
3. Udonis Haslem’s shot hasn’t just been falling more, it’s simply looked better. Do the HEAT need him to get back to shooting 40+ percent from mid-range?
Goodyou: Do they need to? No. Will it help? Absolutely. Haslem has apparently found his jumper again (its always in the last place you look!), which, if it keeps up, will open up even more space for Bosh, Wade, and 'Bron. Although undervalued, Bosh and Haslem actually had a pretty decent two man game last year. If Haslem can keep knocking down those mid-range shots it gives Bosh a bit more space to face up in the post and drive to the basket without worry about an immediate rotation from the help big. The HEAT don't need him to shoot the ball well to be successful, however, every basketball player knows that when your shooting well every other part of your game improves that day. So, if his shot continues to fall you expect to see longer minutes for Haslem, with better production both offensively, and defensively.
JulesWinnfield: They don't necessarily need him too but it would definitively be appreciated. By getting back into a shooting flow, Haslem could open up the floor more and he would also attract defenders attention instead of being, occasionally, ignored outside 12-15 ft. Haslem had problems with his shot last year as well, but the Championship was still ours. This year, being harder to defend the title, an improved shot would definitively ease the Heat's and some fans minds.
4. Two years ago, LeBron James was criticized for not being able to back down Jose Juan Barea. If that situation comes up, will he have that problem again?
Goodyou: Um, no. No he won't.
JulesWinnfield: Not at all. But he doesn't need to prove anything to anyone, currently.
5. Will the HEAT need a last-second lob to win the game?
Goodyou: I hope so! Minnesota and Miami (obviously) are two of my favourite teams. So, as a fan, I would love to see the game go down to the wire. However, I don't think it will. Assuming Rubio won't be playing, and I'm unsure on Love's condition,I just don't think Minnesota has the pieces to keep up with the HEAT. But, hey, any team can win on any night (ask the Wiz) so who knows. Hope its a good one though!
JulesWinnfield: No, that would probably mean that they didn't play a particularly good game. Don't get me wrong, the Timberwolves are a decent team but with them coming off a game the night before in Orlando and the Heat having 2 days off before should give them absolutely no excuses.