Miami Mail (Formally Known As “Monday Mailbag”)

With Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals under their belt, the Miami Heat are taking on the San Antonio Spurs once again tonight, June 8. Mostly in part because of the air conditioner fiasco and LeBron James’ leg cramps, the start of this series had many people talking. Of course, being as invested in the team as I am, I joined the conversation any way that I could. Here are some things I was asked:

Will James be fine in Game 2?

According to James, he is doing a lot better.” How much better that is, I cannot be sure, but I do know both him and the prestigious team of doctors that work with the team are doing everything they can to assure he stays healthy. It is no secret that James has issues with his legs cramping up, but we also need to keep in mind that the conditions he was playing in on Thursday night, were extreme. At one point, the temperature on the court was 90 degrees. That is unheard of. And for someone who usually likes to practice and play in cool conditions, quite dangerous. In an attempt to reverse the cramps, James took seven cramping pills, filled his body with electrolytes and consumed two and a half bags of fluids via an IV. It may be a stretch to say that he will be back 100 percent on Sunday, but as long as he keeps hydrated, does not push himself too hard and the air conditioner is once again working, he should be good to go.

How does the big man matchup of Chris Bosh and Tim Duncan look to you?

Intense. Although most people focused on the temperature issue and the status of James, there was definitely a story to be told about how Bosh and Duncan went after each other in Game 1. While Bosh scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds, Duncan had 21 and 10. Both of these big guys certainly went hard, and helped lead their team in the right direction. In fact, Miami only had 29 rebounds to their name when it was all said and done, 10 less than their opponent. However, with that said, Duncan alone committed five turnovers, and the squad as a whole tallied 23, something that could absolutely hurt the Spurs in the long run. Going into this series, many people were worried that Bosh could not handle Duncan, who overall is generally more consistent and composed. But from what I have seen already, so far so good.

What should the Heat focus on moving forward?

First off, I was thrilled to see that Miami stayed away from a slow start. Like I have said before, the habit of having to play catch-up is detrimental to the Heat. Unless they set the pace and make the opposition play their game, things generally do not work out in their favor. Because of this, that would be the number one thing I think Miami (and in particular, James), need to stay on top of, moving forward. With this said, I think forcing turnovers would be a great tactic to consider. The Spurs recorded 23 in their first meeting, only one less than their playoff record high, and probably should have resulted in a loss. Turnovers obviously lead to more ball time for the other team, but it also creates a chaotic atmosphere, stemming from a feeling of not having control. From that comes rushed shots and sloppy play, and all of that combined simply cannot win a game. Lastly, something else I have been saying all postseason, Miami needs all of it’s players involved. This is always the case, but it especially becomes true when playing against a team known for their depth. Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis helped out (with 16 and ten points respectively), but I was looking for more out of guys like Chris Andersen and Norris Cole, who each only scored two points and held three rebounds.

Keep those questions coming everyone! Email me at atachaue@depaul.edu or tweet me at @ChitownHeiress.

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Monday Mailbag (On a Tuesday…)

Having celebrated both Memorial Day and a Miami Heat win yesterday, I am technically a day behind on mailbag questions (which I usually like to get to on Mondays). However, as the saying goes, better late than never…

Is there anything LeBron James still needs to improve on, moving forward?

Honestly, not really (you had to have known that was coming…) James has been consistently playing good basketball not only during this series (especially Game 4), but throughout the postseason in general. However, if I have to give an answer, I would touch upon three things. First, he needs to be aggressive from the beginning. Miami fell victim to slow starts in the first three games of the Eastern Conference Finals, making it hard for them to be as effective as they have the potential to be. Like I said, James has been a strong contender in every game so far but life becomes harder on not just him, but his entire team, when he has to play catch-up due to an inefficient start. Second, he may consider improving his free-throws. This has not actually been a problem for James this season or postseason, but if you concentrate on numbers alone (and we all know, numbers do not lie), he is currently shooting at 75 percent, while the league average is 75.6 percent. And third, he must make sure he is consistent on the defensive end. James is a great defender, there is no doubt about that, but recently he seems more focused on scoring points than he does making sure his opponents do not. I have used this cliche many times before but at the end of the day, defense really does win games, so staying on top of that as well as being a lights out shooter creates the perfect balance for success.

Who should the Heat prefer to face in the finals, should they make it…the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder?

Personally I feel as though it may be a little too early to make this call. On top of this, I must admit I have not been paying as close attention to the Western Conference Finals as I have to the Eastern (for obvious reasons). But those two things aside, I think Miami would have a better chance of winning if they played against the Oklahoma City Thunder, than the San Antonio Spurs. Besides the fact that this would be the match-up I would prefer to watch, I make this statement for two reasons. First, although the Spurs may play a slower, more basic game of basketball, they are effective. They know the in’s and out’s of their X’s and O’s, trust each other and know what it takes to win. This actually takes me to my second point; the Spurs have experience. They have four championships under their belts (1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007) compared to the Thunder’s one and only (1979) and are stacked with veteran talent. My answer may change in a few days but for now, my fingers are crossed for a Heat/Thunder finals.

What can Miami do to secure their win tomorrow night?

If the Heat win Wednesday night, they are officially a part of the finals. Although that fact breeds excitement, it can also bring about nerves, especially given their goal of a three-peat. Therefore, it cannot be stressed enough that Miami needs to stay focused. Beyond this, Chris Bosh needs to return from his slump for good. He had a terrific run Monday night, but I am hoping that was not a fluke. His scoring, defensive plays and overall energy helped his team out tremendously, all of which will be of big help again come Game 5. Also, as I said above, the Heat (not just James) need to leave slow starts in the past. I believe a huge reason that they ran away with it Monday night was because of how well they performed in the first quarter. Miami no longer had to worry about catching up (and along the same lines, setting the tone of the game), but instead could focus on their strategies. It would probably also benefit the Heat to have a third-player (or perhaps now fourth, since Bosh has hopefully resolved his issues for good) to count on for big numbers offensively. Ray Allen and Norris Cole first come to mind, but since Allen is questionable for Game 5, my money is on Cole.

Keep the questions coming everyone! Remember, you can also reach me at www.twitter.com/ChitownHeiress as well.

 

Monday Mailbag

With the Miami Heat blowing Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers, it seems a lot of Heat haters have once again found the courage to come out of the woodwork. However, instead of getting upset, I look forward to such times as for me, this automatically means interesting questions coming my way. So let us jump into another addition of “Monday Mailbag.”

You mention the Heat need to go to Norris Cole more in the playoffs. Who else could they be neglecting who could help win another title?

This is a great question, especially considering how much talent is currently on Miami’s roster. In the past, I may have answered with the fact that Mario Chalmers is a huge asset to the squad, so he should certainly be given the opportunity to show everyone what he is working with. Unfortunately, Chalmers has recently fallen flat, and he knows it too; his frustration was visible particularly in Sunday afternoon’s game. Therefore, I am now going to go ahead and put all my eggs into the James Jones basket. Personally, I feel as though Jones has proven himself time and time again to not only be a great shooter, but especially so in high-stress situations. Even LeBron James is scratching his head as to why Jones has not seen ample time this postseason. It is definitely time for Erik Spoelstra to put some faith in his second-string.

Currently the Heat are winless against the Pacers at home, while Indiana is 4-0 on the road in the playoffs. Will this have an effect on the series?

I will admit, those statistics scare me a little bit. But I will power through and start by saying that in the NBA, the regular season and postseason are two completely different ball games (pardon the pun). The Pacers being 4-0 on the road in the playoffs is impressive, and dangerous, but the fact that the Heat did not win a game in Indiana yet this season, should not mean anything. Game 1 of any series is a chance for both teams to feel each other out and see what they are going to be up against. Obviously the Heat may have underestimated their opponent but at the same time, with the roller coaster ride the Pacers have turned into, can you really blame them? Although Indiana may have proven to be stronger on the road than some other teams, they have had to fight for their lives during this postseason. So while on paper it may seem as though the Heat should be worried when the Pacers invade their home court, due to their inconsistencies and the fact that no one quite feeds off a crowd like James, the answer to your question is no.

The Heat did not once hold a lead in Game 1. What is the biggest change you need to make for Game 2?

Game 1 was a disaster, and from my point of view, most of this can be attributed to poor shot selection and Chris Bosh missing in action. I cannot exactly take anything away from the Pacers either; they certainly came ready to play on both ends of the court, their passion for the win seeping through their pores. Roy Hibbert finally found his groove again after being highly criticized for his terrible performances in Indiana’s last few games and CJ Watson acted like a true leader. Even though James and Wade had a combined 52 points (with James recording his second double-double of the postseason), the rest of the team may as well have been sitting on the bench. Too many of the shots that were taken were rushed, some even downright ridiculous, as if being part of a team as great as the Heat was enough to magically get a ball through a hoop. On top of this, Bosh had only nine points and was 0 of 5 from the three-point line (all five of these are shots I would put in the “ridiculous” category, by the way), somewhere he should probably stay away from if he can help it. Being a part of the Big Three is quite an honor so Bosh better start acting like it before Miami’s dream of a three-peat vanishes before his very eyes.

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.