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The Heat dialed up the defensive intensity against the Warriors and suddenly all their problems went away. Also: Memphis gets blown out in San Antonio.
This game was a firm reminder that there's only one solution for all of Miami's so-called woes. We've been distracted by all this talk of their lack of rebounding and size. As I've noted before, the real issue is that Miami's scheme calls for a lot of ball pressure, and when that ball pressure isn't executed well, that will put big men out of position to rebound.
But when that ball pressure is executed well, you get what happened against the Warriors on Wednesday night. Golden State coughed it up 21 times, shot 36 percent from the field and only outrebounded Miami by one. Ball pressure determines all for Miami, and it just hadn't been there enough this year.
In this game, it was there. Golden State could barely get the ball up the floor without a Heat perimeter player in their grill, and that was huge for everything Miami wanted to do. Soon, they sent their big men up high to trap pick and rolls, and their weakside defenders were much more precise in their positioning to cut off easy passes.
Why isn't it there every night? Good question. To some extent, I think Miami is bored. But it's also worth noting that playing this style for 82 games really wears you out. Maybe it's best for Miami to save it for the playoffs and for big "statement" games like this one.
Watch the Grizzlies' players off the ball for a while, and you'll realize why they have a lagging offense that's embarrassingly bad for a so-called contender. They scored well in the first half because Rudy Gay hit a ton of contested jumpers. Once the second half rolled around, the well ran dry. Because of that, the Grizzlies had to find something else, and ... well, the spacing was awful. Nobody had any room to make a move and, because of that, Memphis scored 28 second-half points.
This is what happens when you start three guys who can't hit a three, and a fourth (Gay) is incredibly inconsistent. Three-point shooting is important for reasons that go far beyond putting the ball in the basket. Good three-point shooters open up the floor and make it so much easier for a team's primary scorers. That's why the Grizzlies had so much success a couple of years ago with Shane Battier in the game instead of Gay. There was so much more room for Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to do their thing. This is something to keep in mind when thinking about possible trade scenarios involving Gay.
The Spurs, meanwhile, keep being the Spurs.
Houston really should have won this one. James Harden and Jeremy Lin missed some uncharacteristic free throws, and in a close game, that really was the difference. Dallas didn't win as much as it survived.
Harden was 5-23 on the night and, while stars will always have big games, his issues highlighted just how much the Rockets rely on him. He never stops shooting or attacking, and for now he's happy to break plays and/or call clearouts to try to get himself going. There will eventually come a time where he can't do that, because it ruins the flow for everyone else. For now, his team is probably not talented enough to succeed unless he plays that way, but you know Daryl Morey is going to do everything possible to change that. In the meantime, on nights like this, it'd have been nice if Harden deferred a little or if Kevin McHale took a more active role in drawing up plays.
One thing I did like: when Harden screened for Lin. It got Lin a couple hoops, and I imagine we'll see it a lot more late in games.
The sample is wayyyyyy too small to draw any meaningful conclusions, but ... don't you think it's interesting that the Hawks are now 3-0 without Josh Smith, with wins over Oklahoma City, Indiana and Brooklyn? I have a theory: without Smith's catch-and-survey kind of game (he's admitted as such) bogging down the offense, the rest of the Hawks play far more aggressively. Jeff Teague in particular was in attack mode early in this game, and it galvanized the rest of his team.
At this point, it's probably more important for Larry Drew to get Teague playing the way he played against the Nets than it is to get Smith back to being Smith. How he handles Smith's return to the lineup should be very interesting.
As for the Nets, this was not the way to start a difficult stretch. The honeymoon phase for P.J. Carlesimo is over.
Here's my reaction to this game.
This felt like the game that never ended but, finally, Luol Deng put us out of our misery with this buzzer-beater. I can't imagine Tom Thibodeau being too thrilled with how his team let the Raptors back in it during the fourth quarter.
What's that? The Wizards stopped running offense down the stretch and tried to hang on for dear life instead of trying to win the game? Where have I heard that one before?
This result was surprising, no doubt, but it wasn't that surprising. The Hornets have been playing well for a while now and although Eric Gordon was absent, he wasn't really the guy spurring them on through this recent stretch of good play. They have just executed well, dug in defensively and controlled tempo. Typical Monty Williams things.
The NBA is a strange league. Indiana is probably the best defensive team in the league, especially with how they discourage ball movement and open shots. And yet ... Orlando, one of the league's worst offenses, was able to move the ball freely and get a ton of open shots. I can't explain it either.