Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Miami Heat on fire, but not in a good way.

The Miami Heat are officially in crisis.

It's been bubbling for a while, with losses in 4 of their last 6 games, they now stand with a 10-8 record, only good enough for 5th place in the East. While the record is not particularly bad, and it still is early in the season, things are happening now that may have a damaging effect on the rest of the season.

During one of those 4 losses, coach Erik Spoelstra called for a time-out, and while he was walking towards his players, he and LeBron appeared to walk into each other accidentally. However, sharp-eyed analysts quickly pointed out that LeBron James appeared to intentionally walk into his coach in a show of anger and aggression. Allegedly, the players and their coach are not on good terms right now, with several players claiming that Spoelstra is not letting them 'be themselves.'

I'm going to back up Coach Spoelstra on this one, as much as I think he's got his tactics wrong. Spoelstra has got probably the hardest job in the NBA managing a team with two of the sport's best players. Dwyane Wade, long-time hero and adopted son of Miami, and LeBron James; newcomer, MVP, league's future and probably the largest ego in the game. Instantly Spoelstra had problems brewing. The Heat would need to put in hours upon hours of hard work and practice to be able to gel into an efficient and dangerous offensive unit. The problem is, LeBron James isn't exactly the type of guy who enjoys constant work and training. He goofs around and makes jokes throughout practices. Spoelstra allegedly lost patience with 'King' James and gave him a very humiliating dressing down in front of his team mates. Spoelstra is in a very difficult place right now. If he decides to give his players what they want and they still do not function as a team, he will be criticised for not laying down his authority. However, if he decides to maintain his tough stance, he risks losing the support of the men that matter, his players. I think Spoelstra needs to maintain his stance, but he also needs to sit his players down together, and they all need to talk. Spoelstra shouldn't lecture them about their failures, together they need to talk about how they are going to get this experiment to work.

The other problem in Miami are their fans. Not often a sentence that appears in sports. Miami's fans the league's worst for supporting their team right to the end of a game. They have hardly been turning up in numbers either at the start of the game, many only showing up well into the 1st Quarter. The fact that the Heat have had to start running prize schemes for fans who turn up for the Tip-Off.  Incredible.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Bosh gets it in gear

For 3 weeks Chris Bosh has been sitting in idle, no power in the engine and the hand-brake well and truly on.

Against the Phoenix Suns though, he finally managed to get the engine in gear. And he did it in style. He drove Miami Heat to victory with a stunning 35 point total in just 30 minutes of play.

Bosh is that 3rd part of the 'Miami Three.' And so far he's been a little bit like a third wheel, not being able to get involved with the pairing of Wade and LeBron James. Everyone expected his points per game to take a dip after changing from the #1 shooting option in Toronto, to the #3 in Miami, but we didn't expect him to be quite so bad at everything else. By all means his rebounding should stay the same, his assists could have potentially gone up too. But they didn't. They dropped too as if he didn't want to play.

Bosh finally found a rhythm against the Suns
Bosh's season had been so underwhelming so far that there were rumours flying around that the Heat would have to make an emergency-signing to get an strong, athletic center. There were rumours that if the Heat could have traded then Bosh would have been gone at the end of the season. Bosh told us again and again that he would change, and he was getting very close to the point where people were not listening.

Then he finally got it all together with a game-high 35 points, dominating the game against the Suns which Miami won by 27 points. Not only did he score a lot of points in a fairly short amount of time, but he scored a couple of game-changing baskets to put an end to a 21-8 Phoenix run. His last seven points also started an 18-3 run that killed off the late challenge by the Suns.

The next step for Bosh is to prove that this wasn't a one-off performance tonight against the Charlotte Bobcats. He probably won't hit 35 points again in such a fashion, but he will need to play very well and score the same sort of points, big, game changers and at least 20-ish points to be able to say he's finding his form.

Miami need him, 7-4 for the season so far. After 10-11 games (barring injuries) teams can begin to work out their starting 5 and their 6th man. Bosh needs to put in a little series of big games to establish himself well and truly the third part of the Miami Three.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Lakers show they can be beaten

The Lakers started the season with an 8-0 run, something unseen since the 1997-1998 season. Since then they have lost 118-112 to the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets showed that with the right mixture of plays the Lakers are not invincible.

Denver appeared to settle for more jumpshots than usual. By settling for shooting mid/long range shots, they limited the effectiveness of Pau Gasol's ability to defend the paint. This tactic left the Lakers with a big problem as Pau isn't the best at getting out and contesting shots.

Kobe's 25pts weren't enough to turn the game
Then the Lakers played the Phoenix Suns in a rematch of last years Western Conference Finals, at the Staples Centre where the Lakers were still unbeaten. The Suns came along and beat them comfortably. This surely must of the Lakers' Head Coach a little worried, losing 2 games in a row, one at home and with rest in between both?

The Suns came in and copied the Nuggets' gameplan from the get go. They stroked in a team-record TWENTY TWO 3-point field goals.Just one LESS than Los Angeles even attempted to make. 66 points out of their 121, just under half. And what's more they only missed a handful of 3pt attempts. Again, the Lakers were shown that size isn't all that matters. It isn't a full-blown crisis just yet, but if they lose to the Milwaukee Bucks alarm bells should start going off.

And no, this doesn't mean they won't win their 3rd straight Championship. The Lakers still have the edge over everyone (except maybe Boston) when it comes to 7-game series'. They are just better, they have good depth in every position, Kobe doesn't show any signs of ageing and Pau Gasol is quickly becoming a huge part of the Lakers team and one of the top players in the league.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Game of the Week

This week's game of the week had to be Boston Celtic's 110-105 Overtime win against my Chicago Bulls.

The game started slowly, Point Guards Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo throwing everything at each other throughout the first quarter. The Bulls edged that 23-19, Ray Allen being the stand out player of the quarter getting 9 points. He's now just a few points away from becoming the best 3-pt shooter in NBA history. After the break, the Boston offence had a party. They went on a huge run taking them from 19-23 down, to 33-23 up, before closing out the half 49-38.

The 3rd quarter was a messy one with neither team playing really well until the Bull's bench pulled them back within 6pts by the end of the 3rd quarter. Going into the 4th, the momentum was with Chicago and we were treated to one of the best single quarter games for a long time. Both teams hitting HUGE shots at key moments, from difficult positions. 3 3pt-ers for the Bulls kept them in the hunt, 2 from Luol Deng with under 2min 30sec to play. By now both teams were getting tired and looking to kill each other off.

Then, one of the big moments of the game. A missed pass from Rondo to Ray Allen resulted in a chase down to the corner near the Celtic's basket. Keith Bogans dived for it with Allen, grabbed the ball 3 yards from the baseline and managed to call a time-out while sliding along the floor, seconds before going out-of-bounds. This moment with 23.3seconds left, the score 96-96 left the Bulls with all the time in the world to make the final basket. Rose took all the time he could, fumbled and Noah couldn't get the shot off in time.

On to a 5 minute Overtime then. 3 big buckets in the opening minute gave Boston the 100-98 lead, before a solid Kyle Korver knocked down a long 3 pointer. Ray Allen only went straight up the other end and blasted a 3 of his own to bring the lead back home. With the score at 105-103 for the Celtics, Rose lost the ball on a bad pass to Gibson, who then fumbled himself resulting in Rondo tearing away, passing inside to Davis who then won a foul off Korver. Big Baby Davis split the throws but increased the lead.

A second Rose turnover in 30 seconds led to a Ray Allen slam dunk that killed off the game for the Bulls. Deng brought some hope with a nice tip-shot with 38 seconds left to reduce the lead to 3, but on the Bulls' final play, Noah overran his dribble, Garnett stole from behind in a great show of timing and accuracy. Deng took the foul, sent Davis to the line who made both and the game was up.

Boston won their 4th straight and go 5-1, 2nd in the East behind the 6-0 Atlanta Hawks. Chicago lose their 2nd straight and fell to 2-3, 4th in the East. Both teams top their respective Divisions, but the Bulls are in a 3 way tie in the Central Division with the Pacers and a surprisingly strong, post-Lebron Cavaliers.

Friday, 5 November 2010

NBA 10-11 Week 1

Wow. What a start, if this is how the season continues, we could be in for a memorable Playoff/Finals story.

Miami opened at the Boston Celtics with a loss. That's right, the so called 'Superteam' of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh failed to defeat one of their biggest rivals on opening night.

Crisis, i think not. It's only one game and only game 1 of 82 at that. The Heat then proved to everyone just how deadly they can be when they defeated a hotly-tipped Orlando Magic 96-70 in the Florida Derby. Wade and Lebron have already combined to create highlight plays this season and they will go on to win at least 55 games, maybe even 60. They won't touch the Chicago Bulls' 72-win haul though, and they WON'T win the NBA Title next Summer. Yes, I went there. Miami have 3 of the best players of the current generation. But they have nothing else. And I mean nothing. The players they brought in to fill out the roster are all very average and not exactly good enough to beat a team like the Lakers, the Celtics or even the Bulls. Yes, the Heat can win Games, but as the saying goes: "Good Players win games, but Great Teams win titles." Miami will be soundly beaten by LA or Boston over a series of 7 simply because their bench players are better. Enough on this story for now, this will run and run all year.

Chicago started their season with an almost totally new team. Rose, Noah, Deng and Gibson returned as starters from last year, but they managed to nab Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Keith Bogans, Omer Asik and CJ Watson in the off-season. Rose and Noah are definitely game winning players, and with Boozer, another game winner and probably the biggest prize after the 'Miami Three', the Bulls can look to win around the 50 game mark.

The Bulls opened with a loss to a very good Oklahoma City and followed that with a huge come-from-behind victory over the Detroit Pistons, and then a domination of Portland Trailblazers, handing them their first defeat of the season. Coach Thibodeau needs to keep an eye on defensive concentration, as in all 3 games they let the opponents get to the Free Throw line far too many times.

Then the mini-crisis began. The Knicks rolled up in Chi-Town and made 16 three-pointers go in, out of just 24 attempts, leading to a 120-112 defeat for the home team and sending both teams to 2-2 (.500), both will look to move back to a winning record next time out.

Bulls @ Celtics is definitely my pick of the coming 4 days' games, until then, try to keep up with it all if you can.