The Heat And The Hopeless, Week 1: Where Our Dueling Heroes Battle For Supremacy

MIAMI - NOVEMBER 02: Forward LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat drives around center Darko Milicic #30 of the Minnesota Wolves at American Airlines Arena on November 2 2010 in Miami Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

In the second edition of a new SB Nation series, we take a closer look at the hottest basketball team on the planet -- the Miami Heat -- and the literal polar opposite. From South Beach to the Great North. All season long, we're tracking the Heat and the Minnesota Timberwolves as they flirt with the best (and worst) records in NBA History. Click here for the introductory edition.

The Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves have each played a week's worth of games, giving us small insights into what these outfits might look like for the rest of the season. But on Tuesday night, our two superteams actually played each other.

So hold on. We'll dig in to the Heat and Wolves as individuals in due time, but first we must pause and appreciate the basketball eclipse that took place in Miami Tuesday night. If you put a hand over your right eye, the T'Wolves' disarray might completely obscure the Heat's dominance. Truly a twice-in-a-season event to remember.

1. Can You Say Showdown?!

While the announcers may have billed this one as the NBA's youngest team (Minnesota) vs. the NBA's oldest team (Heat), I think that's probably being a little unfair to Miami. A 57 year-old Juwan Howard skews the average on that one. But the NBA's best vs. worst? That seems fair.

And to Minnesota's credit, they certainly made a game of it for the first six minutes. Then Miami went on a 9-0 run, their announcers compared them to The Flying Melinda's and nature took over. What happens when you put a lion in the same room as a Yellow Lab puppy? This:

The Heat took control in the first quarter, took a commanding lead in the second, and by the third, the torrent of offense got to be a little ridiculous. Miami was up 27 points going into the fourth quarter, and neither Wade nor James played a minute in the fourth.

And Wesley Johnson, who's actually been surprisingly aggressive early on this year, probably gave us the definitive reality check of the night, with some help from Wade and James. Shortly after getting dunked on Dwyane Wade on one end, there he was on the Minnesota fast break, hoping to scoop home a lay-up ... when LeBron James coasted in out of nowhere to swat his offering into the 15th row. Because life isn't fair, Wes.

Minnesota had 18 turnovers and shot just 36 percent from the field, which is exactly what you'd expect from a comically young team without a quality point guard, on the road, with a terribly overmatched coach, playing the best defensive team in the league, in a game where their best scorer gets carried off the court before halftime.

See, in America or the NBA, rags to riches isn't quite as easy as it sounds. If we grant that the Heat went to Harvard and grew up with a model family and a two-car garage, the Timberwolves are basically working with a public library card and long history of abusive foster care. Maybe they're Will Hunting someday in the future, but until then, regardless of talent, there's a lot working against them.

The Wolves just need to find their Skylar, ya know? And maybe a coaching Robin Williams to help them work through some daddy issues. And Chuckie, to give them a kick in the ass when they need it most.

"You don't owe it ya self, Lazah Haywahd. You owe it to ME."

... Sorry, that analogy got a little out of hand. But yeah, I'm re-watching the game at the moment, and my attention's waning. One of the announcers just said, "Wayne Ellington's stock has been rising lately, you know." HOW EXCITING! Let's just move on.

Final score: Heat 129, Hopeless 97

2. Comparing The Recaps.

First, from our T'Wolves blog, Canis Hoopus:

I was in the 7th grade when I went over to a friends house to play some Nintendo and hang out with his older brother who was back on leave from his first year in the military.  We went out to the local playground (Keeywadin) to play some basketball and I remember going up for a rebound and accidentally catching the older brother in the neck with a flying elbow.  He sternly looked at me and calmly said "Don't do that again."  

Being the little idiot that I was, I went up for the next rebound with my chicken wings high up in the air and I caught him across the left ear.  Before I knew it, I was on my back with a forearm across my chest and a hand pushing my right cheek into the ground.  

"I told you not to do that again."

And so went the Wolves against the Miami Heat

And our Miami Heat blog wins the award for most backhanded compliment ever:

LeBron capped off a 14-point 3rd quarter by hitting a shot at the buzzer, putting the Heat up by 25.  Despite being down by so many points, credit to the Timberwolves for coming out playing so hard in the 4th quarter.

... I suppose when you're losing that badly, strategy just kinda goes out the window.

3. And Just As Fun ... The Newspapers!

Or, the comments on the newspaper recaps, to be exact.

Some highlights from the Minnesota Star-Tribune readers:

NBA is a SHAM

David Stern is perfect for running this sham called the NBA. The lottery is fixed, the trades are "approved", the refs are "owned" and paid by the NBA, and the circus makes its way around the country all arriving in the same NBA trucks. Pro wrestling on hardwood! And BTW, why did the NBA sue Tim Donaghy from releasing his book "Blowing The Whistle"? They actually paid him hush money to go away. Have fun at your NBA games. LOL -- simplyhot

Did anyone serious think the Wolves would compete against top teams?

Not in your wildest dreams would you expect to compete against the stacked teams this season. No, the Wolves are a couple more years away from competing against playoff bound teams. Yet there is no excuse for shooting 36% while the Heat shot close to 60%. This wasn't just Lebron, Wade and Bosh; the bench players shot a very high percentage as well. No defensive effort, no contesting shots. -- PooOnU

PooOnU

I find it interesting that you post a lot on the Wolves forums.Your comments are mostly negative.I wonder are you a Wolves fan?? -- Ljb6599

1 DOWN-12 TO GO

I said that they will lose 13 in a row, 1 down 12 to go...I hope they can show me that I'm wrong, but I doubt it. -- Claybo4144

Untitled.

The big three are nothing. The Wolves will bite them in the face if they dare step foot on the Target Center floor. -- nightthief

The NBA

another "who cares" season. -- comment229

Annnd... Okay! So a bit of a mixed bag there. How about the Miami Herald?

CValdes10 says: "Where are all the HEAT and LBJ haters at??? ...ESPECIALLY "LeTurnover"

Marsh025 says: "They have all LeQuit their stupid whining."

Anonymous says: After their public political activism locally in support of Obama, Meek and the Democrats, it's newsworthy and noteworthy that Wade, Lebron and Mourning were "spanked" (politically-speaking) tonight by Miami residents. It would be nice if all these people with so much money would be more in-touch with the "average Joe" and support them and defend them against the encroaching over-reach by politicians and Big-Government types. ... The arrogance shall now be corrected.

Raul_patterson says: "dude, what are you talking about, they did not set out to oppose the public majority. They simply supported who they liked. Get some treatment for your paranoia."

GregGembe says: "Question: Who fell harder yesterday, Beasley or Democrats?"

HarleyRay says: "Is this fun, or what? At least we have one real winner in town, and we can thank Pat Riley for it. Go Geat!!"

ChazThePhoenix says: "that was the "clinic" that everyone expects for all the games....what was that Haters? I cant hear you...what happened? did YOUR team loose....again"

ChazThePhoenix says: "time to go on other teams sites and bash...."

And ... yeah, that sounds about right. I'd like to nominate Chaz The Phoenix as the embodiment of Heat Nation, by the way. And yes, I think he's someone we'll be tracking all year long.

Heatfan_medium

Chaz? Is that you?

4. At Long Last, The Miami Heat Have A Nickname

And while it might upset some of the commenters from above, we're taking cues from the hispanic media on this one. Los Beach Boys is just way too emasculating NOT to catch on.

That's my biggest issue with Miami at this point. It's clear that they're going to be one of the two or three best teams in the NBA at minimum, but do they really need to take themselves so seriously? Watch the video at the top of my weekend recap. They got introduced to "In the Air Tonight" for God's sake! Completely free of irony. While Phil Collins played in the background, this was the Miami Heat on opening night:

Miamiheat_medium

And just like that, the Miami Heat's unofficial, long-running satire of self-important professional athletes hits another high. Or low. It all depends on whether Los Beach Boys are in on the joke.

5. Can Kevin Love Be Traded Or Something?

"I think Kevin Love's an unbelievable player. He's done a great job. He's not a guy that plays above the rim, but he always carves out space, and he's always one of the league leaders in rebounds."

That's LeBron James takling.

"How do you not love this guy? He reminds me of Dennis Rodman."

That's Eric Spoelstra. And just about everyone in the league would echo their sentiments. Everyone except for Kurt Rambis and David Kahn, who refuse to play him more than his current 26 minutes-a-game. That logic is explained here, courtesy of Canis Hoopus:

Rambisdecisions_medium_medium

Makes perfect sense, when you break it down that way.

But seriously, go read his GQ blog:

Gotta talk about the rookie, Wes Johnson. He's 6-foot-7, a long, athletic, shooting guard out of Syracuse. He can really shoot the ball. We've got a bunch of characters on this team and he's definitely one of them already. He's kind of like the instigator, the guy behind the scenes making everything happen, pulling all the strings. He's sneaky. You gotta watch him. He's got this golden-boy image—and he is—but you just gotta watch him. He's quiet, and it's the quiet ones you've gotta keep an eye on. He instigates on and off the court. During games, he's the guy looking at the other bench, going, "I'm gonna kill this motherfucker." And off the court, he's always behind the scenes, saying, "Did you hear what so-and-so said?..."

Basically, if you don't want Kevin Love on your team, you're an idiot. And if you can't appreciate Kevin Love on your team, you're just as bad. So ... let's hear it for David Kahn and Kurt Rambis!

6. Oh By The Way, Wesley Johnson Looks Pretty Good.

If you'd asked NBA scouts to predict the top five pick from this year's draft that's most likely to underwhelm in the pros, chances are about 90 percent of them would have tabbed Wes Johnson. He's averaged 10 points-a-game in 22 minutes, but more important, he's shown more fight than anyone expected. For more, read Kevin Love's excerpt above, or just watch this highlight.

7. Halloween Celebrations!

In Miami, Dwyane Wade went in white-face as Justin Timberlake. Naturally.

1377752-dsc_5173_medium

And we'd make fun of him for this, but if you look at the full gallery of photos at World Red Eye, it's pretty much impossible to ridicule him for anything. Because he's dating Gabrielle Union, and she's better looking than any of your girlfriends. And the party looked pretty amazing, too. Basically, life is unfair. That's what the Miami Heat will prove to us this season. Over and over and over again. Life is unfair.

Meanwhile, a night later in Minnesota, the T'Wolves celebrated by playing the Grizzlies.

Wolvesgrizzlies_medium

And now I feel better about my life. Especially since Memphis had 22 steals, the most surrendered by any team since ... you guessed it! The T'Wolves did that last year, too. Life is unfair.

8. Checking In With Darko Milicic

You may remember that David Kahn made Darko Milicic the centerpiece of the Timberwolves offseason. It was a bizarre move, to be sure, with the disconnect crystallized in Kahn's legendary TV exchange with Chris Webber this offseason:

Kaaaaahn: With us, it was like manna from heaven.

He's 7'1, legitimately. He moves fluidly like a forward. I've haven't seen a big man pass like him.

Webber: (laughing) Wow. Wow...

Kaaaaahn: He really does pass like Vlade.

Webber: Wow. Like Vlade Divac?

Kaaaaahn: Absolutely.

Webber: Whoa...

Kaaaaahn: Vlade will be the first one to tell you that.

So how's Darko doing? In Thursday's Star Tribune, Jerry Zgoda asks, "he's got to make a shot sometime ... doesn't he? Milicic has an 14.3 field-goal percentage (4-for-28) and didn't make a shot in games against Milwaukee, Miami or Orlando (0-for-6)." MANNA FROM HEAVEN.

8. Jokes Aside, The Heat Could Win 70 Games And An NBA Championship.

Because their defense is just unreal. And if they can keep up this effort all year long, it's going to be next to impossible for opponents to stop them. Kevin Arnovitz explains at True Hoop:

They clog passing lanes. They collapse on penetration intelligently -- still being mindful of the space they've left behind. And they harass incessantly. With impunity. Joel Anthony still poses challenges for the Heat staff, especially on the offensive end, but his anticipation and happy feet defending the pick-and-roll are helping his team make stops. For all of Arroyo's failings, he, too, is making smart decisions as a half court defender. And Bosh? We might have a Ray Allen effect -- a guy who arrived into a new situation with a horrible defensive reputation, but just needed a coherent system to show off his instincts. Don't expect Bosh to take home any hardware this season for his work on the defensive side of the ball, but he's far, far better than advertised.

Whatever cohesion the Heat still lack on offense, Spoelstra has already instilled a fluid brand of defense that maximizes his team's uncommon quickness and smarts. Fans will tune in to watch the offensive exploits and the dazzling Top 10 fodder -- and who wouldn't -- but the Heat are going to succeed on the strength of their defensive system, one that has a chance for a historic season.

It's kind of terrifying to think about, really. But when you consider the firepower Miami's got on offense, particularly when games get close, the value of their defense really comes into perspective. Why have the Heat won four straight games by 20 points or more? It's not because of LeBron and Wade and Bosh on the offensive end.

And at that, you have to do two things:

  1. Credit Eric Spoelstra.
  2. And prepare to watch a lot of 20-point blowouts involving the Miami Heat this season.

Meanwhile, while Minnesota may not give us any historic seasons, they at least provide our moment of zen for this week. Kevin Love and Wesley Johnson, everyone:

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