Miami isn’t all that great or terrible at much of anything. They don’t turn the ball over too much, play a half-court game and get to the line a decent rate thanks to Dwyane Wade, but otherwise they fall near the league average in most offensive and defensive categories. Their gameplan consists mostly of keeping the game close enough so Wade can take over in the fourth quarter, but the supporting cast can’t shoot consistently enough to take advantage of all the attention given their star.
It feels like we’ve seen less of them in recent years, but the Heat remain that shining example of the “Stop everyone else and you will probably win” team. And if Wade becomes Galactus Destroyer of Worlds in the process, you tip your hat and adjust accordingly.
Portland has a big advantage up front. There was a lot of early talk about a Jermaine O’Neal resurgence earlier in the season, but he’s mostly a healthier edition of the more recent versions of himself. Miami likes to run a lot of its first-quarter offense through him in the post, so if Oden and Aldridge stop him early the Blazers will give themselves a nice cushion as both teams begin to make substitutions and Portland’s talent level demonstrates its superiority.
The hidden matchup of the evening will be Steve Blake and Mario Chalmers. Chalmers isn’t always the most assertive guy, taking his role of getting the ball to and playing off of Wade very seriously, but having Blake across from him will likely make him more aggressive than usual. Wade getting where he wants to go, you can live with, but mix in Chalmers penetrating and getting O’Neal and Beasley easy looks — Beasley can finish much better than you would think — and you’ll have yourself a ballgame.
Unless Portland shows up hell-bent on annihilating anything in the paint.
This is a good opportunity for the Blazers to set themselves right and find their balance. Miami isn’t going to stop them from doing what they want as long as they execute and work the ball inside, but as we’ve seen lately the Blazers are more than capable of stopping themselves.
Keys to the Game:
Do cruel, mean, devilish things in the paint. You might as well put this on a sticky note and paste it to your computer screen. There’s no reason to shoot a ton of early jumpers against a team that will not force you into them, so don’t. As long as guys are at least getting post touches or guards are penetrating on most possessions, the offense will work itself out.
Don’t make Wade a defensive problem for Oden and Przybilla. The quickest way to get Oden out of the game is to attack him with one of the NBA’s biggest stars, so the Blazers can help their centers by being early on some help rotations and putting up roadblocks before he gets to their last line of defense. You end up leaving shooters open doing this, but since Miami doesn’t have too many of those its worth it to keep Oden on the court.
Let Roy go at Wade. More so than anyone, Roy just needs a normal game with natural spots that he can take control of. No need to overcompensate for recent events by overworking him, but put him in position to continue to feel his way around the “new” offense. This helps in the long term more than anything.
Hopefully the identity crisis is at least in the process of being over. There won’t be any grand solutions on display tonight, as answers will only come with time, but any differences between this and the last two games will be clear as day if they present themselves. As I’ve said before, Portland’s response to two of their worst games is much more important than their reactions to them. And there’s a chance we will all look back on Black Weekend in a couple months and say it was good for them.