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Danny

Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami HEAT Official Game Thread and Preview

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(Photo Credit: Joe Murphy)

The Miami HEAT return home tonight to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. The HEAT (39-14) have won 10 games in a row, a season high. Tip off is set for 6 PM; coverage on Sun Sports starts at 5:30 PM.

1: Why did it take All-Star Weekend for everyone to catch on to how good Kyrie Irving is?

Couper Moorhead: While anyone who uses Twitter to accentuate their NBA viewing has known about Irving for quite some time, the majority of casual fans still don’t purchase League Pass – and since Irving missed a huge chunk of his one year in college as well, he simply missed out on nationally televised exposure up until last weekend. Some are jumping ahead a little too quickly to anoint him as one of the very, very best point guards in the league – he is fantastic, but not without flaws – but guys like Irving that play entertaining, efficient, winning basketball deserve attention, especially with so much underserved hyperbole tossed about in this league.

Danny Martinez: For the casual fan, there seems to be a lag period before a player is truly appreciated. The last two seasons, the Cavaliers haven’t had many nationally televised games, so it was hard for Irving to get serious exposure. Well, that’s changed now. Irving is one of the best players in the league and is only 20 years old. All-Star Weekend wasn’t a surprise to those who follow NBA action every night on twitter, but it still served as Irving’s coming out party. He’s a treat to watch and the thought that he’s this good this fast is scary.

2: The Cavaliers took some grief last year for their selection of Tristan Thompson, but has he looked better this season?

Couper: Thompson’s greatest issue last season was that he simply couldn’t make a shot, but even then he had good rebounding and activity (offensive boards, blocks) rates. Now he’s catching and finishing around the rim with consistency and even has a few touch shots in the 4-10 foot range he can go to. Defense is another story entirely, but Thompson has at the very least shown that he has both talent and the drive to improve his play.

Danny: Thompson’s season really took off when Anderson Varejao went out injury. Thompson had always posted strong rebounding numbers, but even they jumped to another level when he started to receive more playing time. Offensively, Thompson is scoring more efficiently than last season. He’s still not a finished project on that end, but the improvement has been promising. Thompson’s growth in just two seasons portends good things for the Cavaliers moving forward.

3: Is there anything left for the HEAT to prove in the regular season?

Couper: There are always going to be people that hold a regular season record against a team like the Knicks – in third place in the East now behind Indiana – against the HEAT, but I don’t know what else the HEAT can possibly prove until the playoffs roll around. If you know where to look and have been paying attention the defense has shown up at a playoff level in spurts, the offense is world beating and nobody is playing the type of heavy minutes that should worry anyone about fatigue. We’ve always known that they just need to get to mid-April healthy, but even the toughest to please out there don’t have much to nit-pick these days.

Danny: No, not really. Over the course of the season, there has been chatter that the HEAT defense had fallen off, that the HEAT struggled to win on the road and that the HEAT struggled too much on the glass to have a chance to repeat. None of which were really true, but space had to be filled. This most recent 10-game winning streak should put an end to the worries as the HEAT have played great basketball, on both ends of the floor, at home and on the road. The only place left to prove anything is the postseason. We’ll get there soon enough.

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The Dinosaur better step up 2 night,hes been playing like a girl lately.

This is the worst comment of the season.

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The irony of King James beating his cavs. I don't know the rumors about him returning to that team. Bet he won't for few more years. Not unless they've had great signings and a 52 or so wins on some other year which I doubt. He'll come up 40 points or more tonight: 40 points, 12 rebounds, 8 or 9 assists. Some of the Heat should be tired. Get some minutes off Lewis.

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It's only vs the Cavs but I'm still excited to go to the game :D Hopefully D Wade has another big game.

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interesting, I thought everyone had already caught on to how good Kyrie is before the All-Star weekend. Between his Rookie of the Year, game winning shots, highlights on Sportscenter, the Uncle Drew commercials, I thought he has had pretty coverage. Everyone I talk to is pretty familiar with his game but maybe its just me.

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Stay in ur lane.

This is my highway. But really, insulting any player by using a "girl" reference is weak. It's 2013, we should be past that by now. Also, Bosh has had one bad game during the 10 game win streak, the Atlanta game.

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I can't complain about any of the starting 5 lately. just tremendous basketball!

Dont you think it's dangerous ? I mean we are only in February and we are playing so good, too good ?

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Dont you think it's dangerous ? I mean we are only in February and we are playing so good, too good ?

Hope they really play like this all season next season

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      Joe: Since that victory over Miami on December 20, Orlando has posted a 7-19 record. As a whole, the team has struggled on both ends of the floor, ranking well-below league average in offensive rating (100.6) and defensive rating (107.3). While the Magic have been really poor offensively, their shortcomings on the defensive end are especially surprising given that they have both Bismack Biyombo and Serge Ibaka. That said, Biyombo’s minutes have decreased over the past two months. We’ll see if they can get back on track as the season continues.
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      3: What matchups can each team try to take advantage of Monday night?
      Couper: Orlando is an interesting team for Miami in that there are no immediate one-on-one matchups to exploit. Hassan Whiteside has a good deal of size advantage over Bismack Biyombo, but Orlando’s stable of big-men can try to move Whiteside around the floor defensively with Nikola Vucevic or simply pull him away from the rim with Serge Ibaka. Goran Dragic had an advantage when D.J. Augustin was starting, but Elfrid Payton is a very capable point-guard defender if he gets the majority of the minutes at that spot. And if Gordon plays, Orlando has a small-ball four to put up against the one-through-five stylings of James Johnson.
      But Orlando’s roster makes sense in that way against a good many teams, which is why they were projected to have a very good defense before the season began. In practice, with them ranking in the bottom third of the league on that end, it hasn’t been the case. So even if the HEAT doesn’t have a ton of physical advantages, they can create them with their execution – especially execution on the level that they showed last week against Atlanta and Minnesota. The three-point shooting will likely cool off, and already has, from the three weeks of being over 40+ percent, but as long as the ball is getting into the paint and finding open shooters from there – on that note, Dion Waiters could return Monday night – then getting Orlando to make multiple rotations is a good place to start.
      Joe: The center matchup should be pretty intriguing on Monday night. In that last matchup against Orlando, Hassan Whiteside had a monster game with 32 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks. Throughout the contest, the big fella found success against both Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. As such, it would make sense for the HEAT to try and get Whiteside in a rhythm early on like on December 20. Of course, the flip side of that is Whiteside will have to come out and contest Vucevic on the perimeter. The 26-year-old Montenegrin takes the majority of his shots from mid-range and converts on 45.8 percent of them. Not to mention, he’s also a terror on the offensive glass.
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      Highlights:
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      October 26-HEAT at Magic
      Game Notes:
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