Monday Mailbag: “Playoff Edition”

For those of you unfamiliar with a “mailbag feature,” the basic idea is for a writer (in this case, me) to dig through their mail (or perhaps more commonly now, their emails) and extract a few questions to answer. Because I am new to the blogosphere and therefore have yet to receive any inquires, I have provided my own questions. So without further ado, let us jump into it.

Will a slow start become a habit for the Miami Heat?

It is no secret that the Heat had a rough start to game 1 against the Charlotte Bobcats. There was no rhythm, their pace was rushed, and their shots were forced. In fact, the team was almost unrecognizable. Obviously in the end they prevailed, but starting off in such a way is a gamble…no one wants to have to play catch up. With that, it is unlikely that the Heat will have this issue from here on out, and I this for three reasons. First, it was game 1 of the playoffs. Regardless of how talented a team you are, nerves are bound to run rampant. Plus it takes a minute to see what your opposition is made of. The Heat have also been subjected to 21 different starting lineups throughout the season. This would throw off any squad. Now that everyone is healthy, Miami can hopefully get back on track. And lastly, the Big Three have not practiced with one another (prior to Friday’s workout) in over a week. They are the glue that holds the team together, so when they are off, the whole team is too.

Should the Heat’s focus shift away from Al Jefferson now that he is injured?

In short, absolutely not. Al Jefferson was not at his best Sunday afternoon after being diagnosed with a strained plantar fascia, but that did not stop him from scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. The big guy will admittedly be in pain, but has already begun treatment so the Heat should in no way overlook his ability or commitment to the series.

What will a comfortable rotation for the Heat eventually feel like?

The ideal situation would be for the Big Three to once again get comfortable with one another. Although individually they had good games, together they seemed out of sync. Udonis Haslem also needs to once again find his groove after sitting out for the entire month of February. After this, it will be key to find a few bench players who are consistently solid; there will be no room for streaky play. I believe Norris Cole will be crucial during this playoff run, and James Jones also showed a flash of brilliance yesterday, which he can hopefully keep up. The ultimate goal is to find a few rotations that always work, instead of Erik Spoelstra having to tweak things game after game because of inconsistent play.

Wade for the Win: Heat/Bobcats Game One Recap

Prior to Sunday’s matchup against the Charlotte Bobcats, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made it clear that he would not be limiting Dwyane Wade’s minutes in game 1 of their playoff series. Many thought this was a bad decision, one that would lead to fatigue and sloppy play on Wade’s part, but it turns out the joke is on us. Wade walked away with 23 points in 34 minutes of play, only outdone by teammate LeBron James who had 27 in 38.

Points were not all that Wade contributed. The Heat had a rocky start, taking rushed, forced shots, their tempo out of control. It took almost two minutes for anything to drop for Miami, with Wade giving them a step-back jumper. Wade then hit a crucial hook shot around the eight-minute mark, granting the Heat their first lead.

During the first quarter, the Bobcats took full advantage of their opponents’ struggles, at least up until Al Jefferson hobbled off the court with two minutes remaining. According to Jefferson, he felt a “rip” in his foot after an awkward landing, and his diagnosis has now been confirmed as a strained plantar fascia. He was given two painkiller shots in order to return, and for now remains a go for game 2. This slight hiccup aside, the Bobcats finished the quarter strong, with a 23-19 lead over the Heat.

Although Miami was still behind for most of the second quarter, they slowed down their pace, leaving room for players like Norris Cole to go to work. Cole hit two quick shots, first a 3-pointer and then a driving layup, bringing the Heat within two. James finally made his first second quarter appearance with seven minutes on the clock, and roughly three minutes later the Heat took off on a 9-0 run. Even on a bad foot, Jefferson certainly brought his talents to the table with six points in nine minutes of play after returning from the locker room. But it was not enough; the Heat took the lead 49-42 at the half.

Going into the third, Wade stood at 10 points while James had 12, but it was once again Wade’s aggressiveness that led the Heat forward. Wade, coupled with James Jones’ 12-point surprise performance and the consistently solid James, held the Bobcats to a 72-65 lead, overcoming an energized Kemba Walker, who had eight points and an assist for the quarter.

The game got away from the Bobcats for good during the fourth, with Wade once again steamrolling the effort, putting in eight points and two assists. Charlotte had a glimpse of hope at the start of the quarter with a giant dunk for Josh McRoberts over Chris “Birdman” Andersen, putting them only five behind, but James quickly crushed that dream and there was no looking back. The Heat won 99-88, placing the series at 1-0.

The Heat play the Bobcats once again in Miami on Wednesday, at 6 p.m. CT.

Three on Two: Heat/Bobcats Series Preview

Three became one this past Friday, when the Miami Heat’s Big Three finally practiced together. LeBron James, having sat out during the final week of the season because of a sore back and ankle, joined Chris Bosh who also took a week off to recuperate, and Dwyane Wade to prepare for their upcoming post-season matchup with the Charlotte Bobcats. Although Wade was in the lineup when James and Bosh were not, he had previously missed the last nine games because of a strained hamstring.

The Big Three are not alone in their less-than-optimal states, as Udonis Haslem did not play a single game in February, Michael Beasley tweaked his ankle during the season’s closer and Greg Oden is still listed as day-to-day. This season, the Heat have used 21 different starting lineups, and have lost six out of their last eight games.

The good news is that the Heat have won 16 consecutive games against the Bobcats, 15 of which took place during the Big Three’s reign. In fact, during their last tête-à-tête, Lebron set both a personal and Heat franchise record of 61 points in a single game, bringing the final score to 124-107.

One year ago, the Big Three would be looking far past round one, their eyes on the prize, and this series would have been a clean 4-0 sweep over the Bobcats.

However, with the amount of recent injuries plaguing the Heat, leading to too many changes in the lineup and not enough team consistency, the Bobcats may have more to rejoice about than finally getting some prime-time television attention.

Charlotte may not have a self-proclaimed Big Three, but Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker have certainly proved themselves to be an unexpected, yet successful power duo. Jefferson, the 10-year NBA veteran and highest paid free agent in franchise history, relies on old-school, fake-out tactics while Walker, only three years deep into the league, dazzles on quick drives to the basket. At first glance, these two may not have much in common, but one thing is for sure: they will be keeping the Heat on their defensive toes.

The Bobcats went 20-9 after the All-Star break and have doubled their number of wins since last season. Charlotte was swept by the Orlando Magic the last time they made the playoffs, in 2010. In many ways, they have more to prove.

So will this be a straight, no brainer, four-game series for Miami? Maybe. Though I see it looking more like a grinding five-game defeat for the Heat. With the Big Three slightly out of sorts and Charlotte ready to prove themselves worthy of playing among the champions, I have to give at least one win to the underdogs.

Will this be the start of a three-peat for the Heat? I cannot wait to find out.

Welcome To My Blog

Love them or hate them, the Miami Heat are currently the most spoken-about team in the National Basketball Association (otherwise known, of course, as the NBA). I have always appreciated their talents, with Dwyane Wade once being one of my favorite players, but I have to admit my unwavering dedication to the Heat did not start until LeBron James joined the squad during the summer of 2010; King James is my favorite professional athlete and I will happily follow him wherever he goes.

Welcome to my blog, a site where the Miami Heat will always be the topic of discussion…from looking at specific games, to analyzing the team as a whole, to calling out players and beyond, I will touch upon everything, balancing the most serious of topics with laughable rumors. As if my first paragraph was not enough of a disclaimer, I will try and keep things in a positive light, but that by no means should be read as that I will tweak the truth or leave things unreported.

In terms of who I am, here are the basics: 24, currently in my last quarter as a graduate student at DePaul University in Chicago, I am in the New Media Studies program. Born and raised in the Chi, I grew up loving Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, even getting to meet Toni Kukoc himself one night when the Bulls were playing the Toronto Raptors. I lost interest in sports for a while, until the latter part of high school when I realized how much I enjoyed watching our (admittedly horrible) basketball team and really got back into it when the Bulls drafted Derrick Rose in 2008. During my time as an undergraduate, I started writing about Chicago’s revamped team for the Chicago Flame, as well as started my own generalized NBA blog: http://nbabya.blogspot.com. During my last year as a college student, I interned at Comcast Sportsnet Chicago, interviewing the Bulls at the Berto Center every weekend as well at any off-court events taking place, a time in my life I will absolutely never forget. Upon graduating from the University of Illinois-Chicago, I worked for their basketball team (the Chicago Flames) for almost two years, first in sports information and then moving to marketing and development. Shortly after I entered graduate school at DePaul and have been working towards a career in social media/sports media, ever since.

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I look forward to this journey and especially cannot wait to see what the Miami Heat will do during the postseason. My guess? They will win another championship, but as they say, only time will tell. So regardless of what end of the love/hate Heat spectrum you are on, jump in and join the conversation; because when it is all said and done, I know they have you talking.