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Danny

Spurs at HEAT Official Game Thread and Preview

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(Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann)

The Miami HEAT return to action against Western Conference power, the San Antonio Spurs. The HEAT are 10-3 and are riding a four-game winning streak. The Spurs enter with a record of 13-3 and have won five straight. Tip off is set 8 PM. Coverage on Sun Sports starts at 7:30 PM.

1. We’ll start with the big question of the night: Who starts in the place of Shane Battier?

1. Couper Moorhead: If he’s healthy – and thus not sick as he was last week – my best guess is that it will be Rashard Lewis. Starting Lewis, you go into this matchup knowing he’s giving up quite a bit of size to DeJuan Blair and Tim Duncan and lacks the many tricks that Battier uses to compensate for that disadvantage, but it’s still a net positive keeping Miami’s offensive spacing at the status quo and therefore affording LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh the freedom they need to operate efficiently in Erik Spoelstra’s read-and-react sets.

Danny Martinez: I think this is one of those situations where there really is no bad option. Rashard Lewis, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony and Mike Miller would all be capable starters in that spot. If the HEAT maintain their spacing, Lewis and Miller are the best options. The Spurs are currently starting three guards, so Miller could work, but it would force LeBron James to cover a power forward for an extended period of time. James could handle it, but the extra effort may not be worth the headache. Lewis is really the perfect fit, at least offensively. He’ll space the floor the same way Battier does and he offers a little post game on top of that. Defensively, Lewis can tread water against any power forward the Spurs put on the floor (Tim Duncan is NOT a power forward). I think he gets the nod.

2. Given the changes the Spurs have made to their system over the last few seasons, does their offense resemble Miami’s more than people might think?

Couper: It still seems to shock people these days, but the Spurs are a better offensive than defensive team these days. They’re ranked fifth on both sides of the ball, but last season they were the most efficient offense in the league and just outside the Top 10 in defensive efficiency. And just as with the HEAT, the Spurs keep floor spacers on the court at all times, always giving ballhandlers a shooter to hit in the corner should the defensive get caught out of position. Strange as it is to say, as much fun as we have had watching the HEAT play the Nuggets, this game should be just as entertaining.

Danny: Coach Spoelstra intimated as much during practice yesterday. The Spurs spread teams out, run lots of pick-and-rolls and love finding open shooters in the corner. Sound familiar? The Spurs are still saddled with their old reputation of playing slow, methodical basketball. It couldn’t be farther than the truth. Instead, they play extremely fast while maintaining the precision of a brain surgeon.

3. Sticking with that line of thinking, if Miami’s defense has another up-and-down game, where are they going to get burned?

Couper: Shooting will always suffer from some variance night-to-night, but if the rotations are slow the Spurs will be playing pop-a-shot from the corners after Tony Parker darts into the lane off high screens. San Antonio will isolate Tim Duncan in the post as well, but if defenders get caught ball watching, the Spurs have been expertly trained to cut into open space along the baseline.

Danny: The Spurs love to make the extra pass along the perimeter. If a shooter has a sliver of daylight, the ball will find him. By running a spread pick-and-roll, the Spurs force teams to provide help defense. They’re patient and wait until the right opportunity opens up. If the HEAT don’t play one of their better defensive games, they may get lit up from behind the arc. Few teams shoot as many threes as the Spurs do and over the last couple of seasons, even fewer have made them at a higher rate.

4. Will Tim Duncan ever stop?

Couper: As the players like to say, Father Time is undefeated. Duncan won’t be able to last forever, but it’s remarkable how good of shape he manages to keep himself in. His minutes has dropped because Popovich knows that they’re playing to be ready for the postseason, but Duncan’s per-36 minute numbers are almost exactly the same today as they were ten years ago. He can stick around as long as he likes.

Danny: No.

5. Last 40 seconds, tie game, what set does each coach go with?

Couper: Spoelstra has been hammering two different sets late in game so far: the corner screen that leads to either a curl or a Wade-James pick-and-roll and the Ray Allen play that has Allen slipping a high pick followed up by a double-screen in the middle of the floor. He’s flashed a number of variations on each, but unless he gets James or Wade in a mismatch he likes or the play breaks down and James and Bosh simply run a pick-and-roll, look for one of those two sets. As for Popovich, he’ll often run option screens for Tony Park to get him moving off the ball as non-playmaker holds the ball up top, or they’ll use a Parker-Duncan pick-and-roll to decoy for off-ball screens creating a look for a shooter.

Danny: The HEAT are very fond of the corner set that we saw featured against the Cavaliers the other night. The play has all kinds of fin triggers that can lead to open driving and cutting lanes and three-pointers. Defenders get caught having to make quick decisions, picking which poison will go down the smoothest. As for the Spurs, the play that they ran to beat the Lakers was great. A series of screens and re-screens eventually freed Danny Green up for the game-winning three. Selfishly, I’d like to see them run something like that because I want to see how the HEAT would defend it.

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Infernoian Preview

1. We’ll start with the big question of the night: Who starts in the place of Shane Battier?

Wuchuhurd: I would have to go with Mike Miller. Its basically replacing Battier with the same player.

Scar: I would like to see Bosh move back to the PF spot and have Anthony play some games as the starting Center. Since that probably will not happen, I will go ahead and guess Rashard Lewis.

2. Given the changes the Spurs have made to their system over the last few seasons, does their offense resemble Miami’s more than people might think?

Wuchuhurd: Absolutely. Both teams offer great ball movement and spacing and feature their own army of 3 point snipers.

Scar: You could say Miami's offense resembles San Antonio's since it came before the Big 3 era of Heat basketball, but yes they are similar: Three stud players and a bunch of role players capable of making the other team pay.

3. Sticking with that line of thinking, if Miami’s defense has another up-and-down game, where are they going to get burned?

Wuchuhurd: Tony Parker appears to have the easiest matchup especially when you consider Miami has had trouble with speedy PGs in the past.

Scar: The Center position. It will either be Duncan, Splitter or Blair getting a couple of head scratching easy buckets.

4. Will Tim Duncan ever stop?

Wuchuhurd: He has the perfect combination of size and a below the rim/extremely fundamental game. He could go another 55 years if he wanted. Ok maybe another 5 years as long as he takes care of his body.

Scar: In theory, yes. But somehow he is starting to regain some of his youthful finesse. The man just doesn't age like everyone else. While others players skills drop dramatically at his age, he stays constant. The Big Fundamental is one of the more accurate nicknames, and he lives up to being in the argument for best Power Forward of all time.

5. Last 40 seconds, tie game, what set does each coach go with?

Wuchuhurd: On Miami's side you know its going to be in LeBron's hands on a pNr with Bosh setting the screen and LeBron diagnosing the right play. Same with the Spurs and Tony Parker though they would also like to have the ball in Ginobli's hands.

Scar: The Heat will look for Allen to once again be magically wide open as LeBron drives and draws every Spurs player on the court. The Spurs will put the ball in Tony Parker's hands and allow him to find the right basketball play in crunch time.

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Second Unit when Dwade and Bron on the bench in my opinion:

Chalmers

Miller

Lewis

Bosh

Joel

This would allow Bosh to play Big in the post of offense while resting a bit on defense with Joel doing the hard work. Plus it will allow our defense to remain strong. Chalmers can penetrate and kick, or set pick and rol with Bosh. lewis and Miller can hit the 3. I left Cole out because he makes too much errors and just is wrong for the second Unit. Cole should be in the game when Lebron and Dwade are there to give him confidence.

(but of course Spo is not listening.)

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Second Unit when Dwade and Bron on the bench in my opinion:

Chalmers

Miller

Lewis

Bosh

Joel

This would allow Bosh to play Big in the post of offense while resting a bit on defense with Joel doing the hard work. Plus it will allow our defense to remain strong. Chalmers can penetrate and kick, or set pick and rol with Bosh. lewis and Miller can hit the 3. I left Cole out because he makes too much errors and just is wrong for the second Unit. Cole should be in the game when Lebron and Dwade are there to give him confidence.

(but of course Spo is not listening.)

What about Allen better than miller and the rest is good but maybe haslem for joel ahh I cant choose

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What about Allen better than miller and the rest is good but maybe haslem for joel ahh I cant choose

This is not a bout favoritism, or who you like. This is about efficiency and who matches better for what the Heat are trying to do. Their second Unit is being abused, Haslem is not the same player he was. He is not making his shots and he is NOT A CENTER. Bosh might be playing centers but HE IS NOT A CENTER. Joel is. Allen plays best when he is in the game with Lebron as well. Miller Rebounds, and can score just like Allen.

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Maybe we put our guys at their natural spot. Bosh at the 4 and Joel at the 5. I can see a lot of PnR on San An's end and Joel is our best PnR defender. But we can stick with our space the floor lineup and insert one of our shooters. Like Danny said, there is no wrong option

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This is not a bout favoritism, or who you like. This is about efficiency and who matches better for what the Heat are trying to do. Their second Unit is being abused, Haslem is not the same player he was. He is not making his shots and he is NOT A CENTER. Bosh might be playing centers but HE IS NOT A CENTER. Joel is. Allen plays best when he is in the game with Lebron as well. Miller Rebounds, and can score just like Allen.

We are in the position-less era of the heat but maybe you right tonight becuase of Spurs big men but on any other night no way and dont hate on spo he IS A GOOD COACH!!!

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I really wish I could see this game. It's on way too late for me. Have a great time if you guys are going. Go heat!

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This is not a bout favoritism, or who you like. This is about efficiency and who matches better for what the Heat are trying to do. Their second Unit is being abused, Haslem is not the same player he was. He is not making his shots and he is NOT A CENTER. Bosh might be playing centers but HE IS NOT A CENTER. Joel is. Allen plays best when he is in the game with Lebron as well. Miller Rebounds, and can score just like Allen.

Haslem's shooting over 50%....

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This is not a bout favoritism, or who you like. This is about efficiency and who matches better for what the Heat are trying to do. Their second Unit is being abused, Haslem is not the same player he was. He is not making his shots and he is NOT A CENTER. Bosh might be playing centers but HE IS NOT A CENTER. Joel is. Allen plays best when he is in the game with Lebron as well. Miller Rebounds, and can score just like Allen.

what's a center?

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Hate BATTIER is out,but you've got to love the diversity of MIAMI players.Starting LEWIS will afford MIAMI the space and pace offense,but I like the WARDEN to start.That'll shore up the defensive end,allowing our bigs a little free up time in the paint.Just my opinion...TEAM HEAT since '88!

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lol no Tim, Parker nor Manu.....

its a slap in the face for everyone who bought tickets for this game !!

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lol no Tim, Parker nor Manu.....

its a slap in the face for everyone who bought tickets for this game !!

they'll have to settle for lebron, wade, bosh, and allen

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lol no Tim, Parker nor Manu.....

its a slap in the face for everyone who bought tickets for this game !!

Leonard is still out, and Green wont be playing either. I would have thought that Pops would rather sit them out against the Magic, seeing as how the Spurs could meet the Heat in the Finals.

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Here's hoping for a big game from Wade. I think he's due to go off. Here's hoping for Lebron to hit his free throws. He's due to hit a good clip.

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lol no Tim, Parker nor Manu.....

its a slap in the face for everyone who bought tickets for this game !!

Bet they're glad they put this one on National television now.

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lol no Tim, Parker nor Manu.....

its a slap in the face for everyone who bought tickets for this game !!

Punk move by Pop. I'm sure they were running on empty against the Magic. Why not sit them out against the magic?

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Pop is probably thinking he might as well let his guys get some rest on a night of a back2back where it's going to be very tough to get a win anyways. What Pop doesn't know is that scrubs our are weakness.

<_<

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Things just got scary seemingly since MIAMI struggles against lesser talents.Let's hope MIAMI don't fall into this trap that Coach Popovich has set.Hearing that the Spurs aren't playing their starters has gotten me nervous...TEAM HEAT since '88!

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I don't see anywhere that suggests their big 3 are all sitting....

anyone have a link?

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      While Dragić and Hassan Whiteside have been the focal point of Miami’s offense all year, you can make the argument that Johnson & Johnson are just as important to the team’s success.
      2: What has made the Houston Rockets so good this year?
      Couper: It’s all about the offense. Houston is currently third in Offensive Rating, scoring 112.6 points per 100 possessions – trailing only Toronto and Golden State teams in the midst of possibly two of the best offensive seasons of all time. As Erik Spoelstra put it at practice on Monday, it’s a perfect marriage of a franchise with specific beliefs (valuing three and layups over mid-range shots), a coach in Mike D’Antoni who was part of revolutionizing league scoring with the Steve Nash Phoenix Suns, an incredible individual talent in James Harden who has taken on even more of a playmaking burden this year at point guard and a dynamic mix of athletic talent and incredible shooters (Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson) which lets the team play with great pace.
      Great offense alone doesn’t carry you to a 32-11 record, however. The Rockets lost Dwight Howard in free agency but the replacement frontcourt of Clint Capela, Nene and Montezl Harrell has helped keep the Rockets around league average defensively. Put it all together and it’s an entire franchise, not just a player or a style of play, firing on all cylinders. 
      Joe: Threes, threes and more threes. Houston leads the league by a wide margin in 3-pointers attempted per game and connects on 37.5 percent of them. Of course, when you have a team coached by offensive guru Mike D’Antoni, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. What has been a bit unexpected is how the Rockets haven’t missed a beat despite losing some key players in the offseason like Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones and Jason Terry.
      While James Harden has had an MVP-worthy season thus far with 12 triple-doubles, newcomers Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson have really come on strong for Houston. How strong? Well, both Gordon and Anderson lead the team in three-point shooting at 41.1 percent and 40.3 percent respectively (minimum of one three taken per game).
      In addition to being one of the best offensive teams in the league, the Rockets are also one of the faster teams, averaging 101.17 possessions per game. As Coach Spo said after practice on Sunday, “It feels like sometimes they have six players on the floor. It’s the Phoenix Suns of 2003-2004 on steroids.”
      3: How can Miami combat Houston’s dynamic offense?
      Couper: Put pressure on them with Hassan Whiteside. The more bodies that have to deal with Whiteside on the glass, the fewer bodies that can leak out in transition and get set up for the quick threes which make up so many of Houston’s explosive runs. Unlike the Warriors, however, who lack athleticism and length at their center position, the Rockets have their own young athlete in Capela, who is likely to play after missing about a month. Still, Whiteside should have an advantage as far as bulk goes, so him slowing Houston down with relentless energy could pay dividends for Miami over the course of a full game. 
      Then there’s all the details. Miami will have to always be ready to help on James Harden without fouling, since he’s so dynamic at getting into the paint, but when the Rockets are able to run they have to be highly aware of where all the shooters are on the floor. Similar to the Warriors game last week, the Rockets have the personnel to punish every mistake in the open floor.
      Lastly, the HEAT can’t turn the ball over. You don’t want to be too safe with your offense because then you’re hurting yourself too much on that end, but live-ball turnovers will dig you a hole in a hurry against elite, up-tempo offenses.
      Joe: It’s easier said than done, but Miami has to run Houston off the three-point line. If the Rockets get into a nice rhythm from deep, you’re essentially done for. Case in point: Houston set a regular season record with 24 made 3-pointers against the Pelicans on December 16.
      Stopping Harden from getting into the paint will also be a tall task, as the 27-year-old is among the league's best with 11.2 drives per game. After practice on Monday, Dion Waiters talked about how difficult it is to play aggressive defensively on Harden due to his ability to draw fouls. As such, the HEAT will have to be very smart when guarding the dynamic playmaker.
      On the flip side of the ball, Miami should have an advantage against a Rockets defense that has tallied a 110.7 rating over its last seven games. Hopefully Dragić and Whiteside can put pressure on Houston in the pick-and-roll game, which in turn should lead to open guys on the perimeter.
      At the end of the day, the HEAT will be put to the test on nearly all fronts. Luckily, the team has had some solid days of work since its last game on Friday against the Bucks, so we’ll see how it all pans out on Tuesday night.

      Highlights:
      February 2-HEAT at Rockets
      November 1-Rockets at HEAT
      Game Notes:
      The HEAT are 11-30, while the Rockets stand at 32-11. Miami has won six of seven against Houston at AmericanAirlines Arena. Goran Dragić leads the HEAT in points (19.0) and assists (6.4) per game. James Harden leads the Rockets in points (28.4), assists (11.7) and rebounds (8.2) per contest.  
      Efficiencies (Rank):
      HEAT Offense: 100.6 (29) HEAT Defense: 105.0 (13) Rockets Offense: 112.6 (3) Rockets Defense: 105.7 (19)