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NBA Scores And More: Heat's Offense Needs Creativity; Steve Blake Already Paying Off For Lakers

It's just one game, so there's no reason to freak out over the Heat's poor debut. That said, they need to find a way to run some better offensive sets. And in L.A., the offseason pick-up of Steve Blake already proves valuable for the defending champs.

Boston Celtics 88, Miami Heat 80

So much for the roaring debut of the new Miami Heat, huh? Instead of beginning their supposed reign over the NBA in style, they looked pretty terrible in falling 88-80 to the Boston Celtics. They scored just nine points in the first quarter and 30 points at halftime, two totals lower than any quarter or half score they put up last season. Yeesh.

I'm not all that surprised Miami lost. Like we mentioned before the game, the first few games of the regular season favor the team that emerges from the preseason unscathed and cohesive. The Celtics have a core of players that know each other's tendencies, and they stayed healthy in October. The Miami Heat have a core of players who have never played together -- much less played with anyone remotely similar to each other in terms of style of play -- and they did not stay healthy in October. Throw in Boston's home-court advantage, which added a whole new level of emotion to the game, and you can see why it wasn't so crazy to predict a Miami loss last night.

That said, the way the Heat lost is concerning. I know they will need some time to figure out how to work well together offensively, and going against a defense as good as Boston's is a tough first test. But if you ignore the names and faces and just look at the offensive sets, the Heat looked ... well, they looked a lot like they did last year. They halfheartedly ran through their sets for about 10 seconds until someone got an isolation, at which point everyone stood around and watched. Once that stopped working, Erik Spoelstra went to his "give the ball to the star and have everyone clear out" offense, which got them back in the game, but isn't the way you win consistently. The only difference is that "the star" last night was LeBron James, and not Dwyane Wade.

Yes, Miami made it a game. But they did so by rolling out the following lineup late in the third quarter:

  • LeBron James
  • Udonis Haslem
  • Zydrunas Ilgauskas
  • James Jones
  • Eddie House
You know what that looks like? That looks like the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2006-2010. We know how that ended up working out. 

It's early, so it's not time to panic. That said, Spoelstra needs to do a better job of designing a half-court offense to put James, Wade and Bosh in good positions to score. I really believe that there's nothing inherently selfish about James, Wade and Bosh as a trio. If taught to play off each other, they will. But it's on the coach to find a way to create some offensive sets that involve lots of cuts and screens on the weakside when someone else is isolating. You can't win consistently in this league when all the action offensively is happening on one side of the court. Spoelstra needs to fix that problem, and soon.

From the blogs: Celtics Blog writes that Paul Pierce's clutch play while fighting through injury in the fourth quarter was the key to the game. Meanwhile, Peninsula is Mightier is wondering what happened to Bosh, who shot just 3-11 from the field. Wade at least was rusty from his hamstring injury; what was Bosh's excuse?

Los Angeles Lakers 112, Houston Rockets 110

How big a pickup was Steve Blake for the Lakers this summer? I'm not saying this only because of his game-winning shot, but because of all the other things he's going to provide. As big as his game-winner was, I think his two three-pointers at the end of the third quarter to keep the Lakers within striking distance were even bigger. He knows where to be in the Triangle, hits key shots and is adept at moving off the ball. Check out how he loses Aaron Brooks on his big bucket.

With Blake around, the Lakers can finally afford to limit Derek Fisher's minutes until playoff time. That's big for a team that's clearly not playing for regular-season wins.

Houston shouldn't be upset with their performance, though. Their issue remains the same: when push comes to shove, who scores big buckets in the fourth quarter when the offense breaks down? Kevin Martin and Brooks played well, but neither are quite good enough to be that guy. That said, I was surprised at how well they were able to keep the pace up even with Yao Ming in there. They'll win a lot of games this year simply by running teams off the court. I also thought Yao looked pretty good, considering he was playing his first meaningful game in 15 months.

Kobe Bryant struggled with his shot, but still managed to score 27 points against Shane Battier's defense. He'll have games where he doesn't shoot well, so this shouldn't be a surprise. Pau Gasol, meanwhile, was a monster, dropping 29 and 11 on a very good Rockets front line.

From the blogs: Silver Screen and Roll writes that the Lakers were able to overcome the emotion of the pre-game ring ceremony and put forth a good effort. The Dream Shake writes that the Rockets looked a lot like they did last year, despite their new additions. 

Portland Trail Blazers 106, Phoenix Suns 92

It's only one game, but the Blazers proved why they are so friggin' scary to many of the top teams in the Western Conference. We think of them as a slow, plodding team that bangs the ball into the post, but they have so many pieces on the roster that they can match up with pretty much anyone. Last night, they pulled away from the Suns in the fourth quarter by using the following small lineup:

  • Andre Miller
  • Brandon Roy
  • Wesley Matthews
  • Nicolas Batum
  • LaMarcus Aldridge
That group outscored the Suns by 17 points in the final five minutes and 43 seconds to put the game out of reach. Imagine what happens once they get their big men back.

Phoenix played well for a while, using their depth, speed and shooting to stay in it, but clearly missed Amare Stoudemire in the fourth quarter. Nobody stepped up as a scoring threat, forcing Steve Nash to do way too much work on his own. Jason Richardson had 22 points in the game, but didn't score in the final 7:45. Last year, Richardson was the beneficiary of the dangerous Nash-Amare pick-and-roll, raining three-pointers when defenders cheated off him to help on Stoudemire. Now, he needs to score on his own, and that's going to be a challenge.

Hedo Turkoglu provided six points and three rebounds in 27 minutes as Phoenix's starting power forward. Yeah, that's not going to get it done.

From the blogs: Blazers Edge writes that the Blazers stuck to all the things coach Nate McMillan preached in the preseason, and also reserved some special praise for newcomer Wesley Matthews, who had 13 points, six rebounds and three assists. Bright Side of the Sun writes that Steve Nash did too much in the fourth quarter instead of trusting his teammates. Finally, SB Nation Arizona writes that the Suns' rebounding woes are fixable.