Time to Ice the Heat

First, I wanted to make you all aware that Manu Ginobili is out for the rest of the season, including the playoffs.  If Manu had been able to come back to strength, I thought the Spurs could be a darkhorse contender and crash the big four’s party.  Now?  The best they can aspire to is the same as the Hornets – maybe the Conference Finals.  Maybe.

The similarities between the Hornets and Spurs are pretty striking now:  A big and small pair who can create their own shots – and a bunch of somewhat limited jumpshooters surrounding them.

On to the game.

Matchup: Hornets(47-29) @ Heat(41-36)

Off Efficiency: Hornets 106.6(10th), Heat 105.1(17th)
Def Efficiency: Hornets 104.0(10th), Heat 104.7(13th)

Both Miami and New Orleans are trying to get some steam going as they enter the playoffs.  Neither are having a lot of luck as Miami has gone 5-5 and the Hornets 6-4 over their last ten.  Neither team has fielded a world-beating defense this year, and for half the game their offense will be to simply throw the ball to their star guard and let them see what they can do.

For the Hornets, this poses a problem, as they haven’t show much ability to shut down the paint with Tyson out – and Wade loves him some paint.  For the Heat, Haslem has the footspeed of West, O’Neal and Magloire the footspeed of Marks, and Anthony the footspeed and mistake-prone play of Hilton Armstrong.

In other words, expect lots of penetration.

Peja should still come off the bench, but unless Wright proves he can be at least a moderate offensive threat, expect that to end soon.  Even if Peja is hitting as few shots as Wright is, at least opposing defenses will respect him and guard him on the perimeter, with Julian, they just pack it in and West and Paul suffer.


Hornets: Tyson is still out.  Posey isn’t expected to return until Friday at the earliest.
Heat: Udonis Haslem is out with an injured finger.

Positional Analysis

PG: Mario Chalmers v Chris Paul
Advantage: Hornets
Chalmers is a strong rookie point guard.  His assist numbers aren’t so impressive, but that’s mostly because Wade operates as a secondary point guard while on the floor.  He has a nice stroke, plays the passing lanes well, and is a solid compliment to Wade in the Miami backcourt. 

SG: Dwyane Wade v Rasual Butler
Advantage: Heat
Wade is a machine getting to the free-throw line, and after we saw Ronnie Brewer, who is a lesser version of Wade, tear Butler apart when Rasual got little help from his teammates, I expect to see a similar slaughter here.  On the plus side, expect Butler to get a bunch of nice looks from deep.  Wade really likes to roam this year, and Butler could capitalize and lessen the damage.

SF: Yakhouba Diawara v Julian Wright
Advantage: Hornets
Diawara is the latest starter at the small forward slot as the Heat shift Jamario Moon into the power forward position to cover for the injured Udonis Haslem.  Diawara is a borderline D-leaguer who has never been able to shoot and gets by on his slightly better than passable defense.  Julian should be able to handle him.

PF: Jamario Moon v David West
Advantage: Hornets
Moon is a small forward, and if he’s stuck in the post trying to guard David West, expect West to punish him and provoke double teams.  Unless the doubles start forcing turnovers, expect Diawara to leave the game, Moon to slide back to the 3, and either Magloire, Joel Anthony or Beasley to enter the game to give West some resistance.

C: Jermaine O’Neal v Hilton Armstrong
Advantage: Heat
O’Neal does what he’s always done – rebound at a mediocre level and avoid contact while hitting fade away shots.  The Heat will probably go to Jermaine early against Hilton – and Hilton will probably be unable to resist the magnetic force that forces him into fouling at every opportunity.  O’Neal is inefficient and generally soft, but I expect him to still do alright since he’ll be facing Marks and Armstrong.

Advantage: Heat
Jamaal Magloire, Michael Beasley, Daequan Cook, Chris Quinn, and James Jones make up the Heat bench.  That’s a pair of dead-eye shooters in Jones and Cook, Beasley has a nice mid-post game, and Magloire will foul someone hard just for old times sake.  Chris Quinn will also enter the game and run the back up point better than anyone will expect.  It’s a decent bench.  However, if Peja finds his rhythm again, he and Daniels should make this even enough.

Enjoy the game.  And ponder this while you are at it.  If Peja Stojakovic, who religiously avoids drawing fouls, was guarded by Hilton Armstrong, who cannot avoid giving fouls, what would happen?  My money is a tear in space-time, causing the collapse of our universe – or a very silly Stargate Episode.

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