Sometimes, an entertaining game of basketball is just that: entertainment. That’s — in its own perverse way — the blessing of the denouement of the kind of season that Timberwolves fans have grown accustomed to over the last several years. Go back a decade and the Wolves were the #1 seed in the Western Conference, following years where the end of season concern was getting out of the first round. Just after that, entire seasons were slogs, lit only dimly by some notion of rebuilding the team with little consistent direction to indicate such a thing was even happening. Continue Reading…
Archives For Miami Heat
J.J. Barea was unhappy with Ray Allen pushing off near Barea’s throat, and decided to even it out by bumping Ray to the ground. Allen then lost his cool, got up to confront Barea and your typical NBA kerfuffle broke out.
Official Ed Malloy went to the monitor, probably watched a torture scene from the movie Hostel, and deemed that the action he saw on the monitor was not acceptable for an NBA game. He changed the Flagrant-1 foul to a Flagrant-2, which gives Barea the automatic boot from the game. After the game, Barea expressed his thoughts on Ray overreacting to a “soft foul,” said he’s been hit much harder than that every night, and said he expected the NBA to downgrade it to a Flagrant-1 foul.
The NBA has downgraded a Flagrant-2 foul on Minnesota Timberwolves guard J.J. Barea to a Flagrant-1 foul.
The Timberwolves announced the decision on Tuesday, one day after Barea was ejected in the fourth quarter against Miami after a foul on Heat guard Ray Allen. Barea knocked Allen to the court with a chest bump and Allen immediately took exception and confronted Barea. Officials initially ruled it a Flagrant-One, which gives the opponent two shots and the ball.
Upon reviewing the play, referee Ed Malloy changed it to a Flagrant-Two, which brings an automatic ejection. The Wolves were down six at the time, but Miami responded with a 17-5 run to put the game away.
Barea says he is pleased with the league’s decision.
A Flagrant-2 foul could result in a suspension for the next game if the league decides that it’s necessary to punish the player who committed the foul, but it’s not an automatic suspension. But by downgrading it to a Flagrant-1, it ensures Barea won’t miss any time, which he shouldn’t. Should it have been a Flagrant-1? That’s debatable. I, personally, don’t have a problem with it being a regular foul or a flagrant. But to watch that play and say it’s an ejectable offense just seems crazy to me.
If Ray Allen doesn’t react that way, Barea probably doesn’t get ejected. I don’t think it was a matter of this being a Wolves-Heat thing or anything like that; I think it was simply a matter of an overmatched crew chief for the officials losing control of the game and not knowing how to regain control by any way outside of tossing Barea.
Good to see the league changed it to the proper foul designation.
Defense is the NBA’s dark art. At this year’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston this past weekend, Kirk Goldsberry and Eric Weiss presented a paper on what they termed The Dwight Effect. Using data from STATS, LLC’s SportVU camera system, they sought to account for more than stats like blocks and opponent field goal percentage in measuring interior defense. Although they admitted their approach was still mostly one-dimensional, their work began to incorporate the idea of a player like Dwight Howard changing shots without even doing anything—in essence, him being on the floor warps the space around him defensively because players don’t even want to come into the paint.
This distorting effect that good defense can have on another team’s offense was on full display last night as the Heat brutalized the Timberwolves in Minnesota. As you can see just from the final score, the Heat didn’t look great offensively. Spoelstra said as much in the tunnel after the game, conceding that the offense was ragged, but maintaining that their identity came from their defense. Continue Reading…
LeBron James seems to spend entire quarters of basketball simply haunting the game’s periphery. He fades into the mesh of his team, defers to his teammates, takes only the opportunities that present themselves. Bt he doesn’t disappear, as some have claimed; he looms like some awful force rising in the distance. When you play the Heat, there’s always the possibility, as both Boston and Oklahoma City discovered last spring, of LBJ stepping out of the shadows and crushing you where you stand.
It gets worse. It turns out that even when LeBron seems to be peripheral–as in the first half of tonight’s game, when Dwyane Wade spun and sliced his way to 18 points on 12 shots–he is still exerting subtle control over the game’s narrative. There are only a few moments of LeBron’s performance against the Wolves that really stand out–hitting that string of third quarter threes or finishing that nasty half-court alley-oop from Ray Allen. And yet: 22 points; 11 assists; seven tough boards; four blocks. Yes, this is the best basketball player in the world.
You know the old saying, “when the going get tough, the tough get out and run in transition?”
Well, the Miami Heat are tough and they like to get out and suffocate you with their transition offense. It’s not even really so much a transition offense as it is a locomotive coming at you in one of those old-timey Westerns. Their opponents get careless with the ball and essentially tie themselves to the tracks and allow the Heat to twist their mischievous and villainous mustaches as they wait for the 3:10 to Yuma to come barreling through.
In three games this season, they’ve already amassed 70 fastbreak points against their opponents. They had 31 in a Christmas day blowout win over the Mavericks, 19 in a much more modest win against the Celtics, and 20 in a nail-biter against the lowly but equally scrappy Bobcats. While you can chalk it up to a little viewing of “Small Sample Size Theater,” the Heat are obliterating the 13.5 fastbreak points per game they averaged last season. The big reason for this is obviously the stalking duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
They treat the passing lanes like a pretty girl they noticed on Twitter and just had to know more about. They try to find them on Facebook, glean any information about location and workplace they can, follow the passing lanes on Foursquare to attempt to just “happen” into the same place one night. They follow them home and make notes about all of the entry points. They wait until nobody is home and then break in to steal the shoes and clothes from the passing lanes’ closet. They steal knickknacks to make a shrine of the passing lanes.
There was almost nothing surprising about the Miami Heat’s casual vaporization of the Wolves on Tuesday. (Well I guess that the Lebron/Anthony Tolliver faux-beef was a little surprising–since when do the oligarchs of our pop consciousness care about mild, self-deprecating parody?) A thirty point win seemed almost inevitable. Magnificent performances by Wade and James are part of the routine. I understand this much.
What was really startling for me was simply that this team exists at all. This off-season, I got used to thinking of this Miami Heat pop-cultural phenomenon as just another high-gloss TV show, heavy on the melodrama, heavy on the pyro. This had to be just another shimmering refraction of the simulacra, right? Maybe the renegade handiwork of an undernourished, over-caffeinated video game programmer or the projected viral video of some nerdy twelve-year-old’s ultimate basketball fantasy (“wouldn’t it be awethome if…!?”)? They weren’t gonna, like, actually show up at actual basketball arenas and play real NBA games against other flesh-and-blood humans were they?
But sure enough, there they were: Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, all wearing the same uniform and taking the same floor as our Wolves, a crew of NBA neophytes and non-celebrities if there ever was one. Given that our young bunch was squaring off against a mythic Superteam, its kind of hard to make any firm judgments about the Wolves’ performance. Kevin Love is struggling to bring his defense up to Kurt Rambis’ standards? Well, checking Bosh one-on-one and attempting to rotate to Wade’s baseline drives sure isn’t gonna cast the most forgiving light on that effort.
And sure, at many points in the first half, the Wolves moved the ball more quickly and decisively than at any other point this year so far. But the frantic pace at which they had to play to stay even a half-step ahead of Miami’s ravenous help-and-recover defense, took its toll at the basket. The Wolves brought great energy to the task of creating open shots, but they never could find the balance or composure to hit any of them. And you think extreme defensive effort is a necessity right? Well a team this talented can use that effort against you. It seemed that every hard rotation, every trap and double-team resulted in an open three-point shooter or weakside cutter. The Wolves would have had to play nearly perfect defense to slow this team. Needless to say, that wasn’t happening.
Which brings us to some of the real wonders and terrors of playing the Heat. The first is that, as Tom Haberstroh of the The Heat Index pointed out today, Miami almost never plays a five-man lineup that does not include one of the ten best players in the game. For some reason, this is even more disturbingly impressive to me than the idea of all three stars playing together. Haberstroh continues:
But some of LeBron’s most effective moments in a Heat uniform have come when he’s played with the so-called second unit, one that closely resembles his former digs in Cleveland. In fact, when LeBron goes to work without Bosh and Wade, the Heat have outscored opponents by five points in just over 25 minutes of play. It’s a reminder that even when the Heat let off the gas, they’re still deploying the game’s most talented basketball player.
In other words, the weakest lineup you’re likely to face is some version of last year’s Cavs or Heat. And certainly Lebron’s work with the “second unit” against the Wolves–a heady mix of deft pick-and-roll passing, drives-and-kicks and the obligatory impossible 20-foot fades–was pretty overwhelming.
This was to be expected I guess. But Wade was the real stunner. Lebron’s ridiculous power and speed allow him to operate within totally foreign concepts of space. The old physical rules do not apply. Wade works within more familiar spatial territory, but he discovers new ground within it. With his immense gifts of vision, quickness and balance, Wade creates angles through the lane, space between and around players that seem obvious in retrospect–once he’s finished easily at the rim–but that are impossible to us normal people to imagine or foresee. It was astonishing to watch Wade play within the expanded space created by the Heat’s three-point shooters and the attention commanded by Lebron. With just the slightest stretching of the defense, just the slightest gain in maneuvering room, the game, for Wade, become frighteningly easy.
Even without Martell Webster, without Beasley, the Wolves gave this game a pretty good old try, at least until that blistering third quarter made their best efforts moot. Deep down, though, they seemed to be sharing my exact thoughts: I can’t believe this is really happening.
Well, the Timberwolves’ David Lee flirtation is over, as the former Knick has agreed to a sign-and-trade with the Golden State Warriors. Chad Ford reports:
Lee’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, told ESPN.com that Lee has agreed to a sign-and-trade worth $80 million dollars over six years with the Golden State Warriors…The deal will send Lee to the Warriors for Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuike among others.
Wow, Anthony Randolph and Amar’e Stoudemire are on the same team. Galaxies will explode; matter will dissolve; Toney Douglas will become a man.
But the Wolves didn’t just mope around tearfully staring at their framed David Lee basketball card. Nope, instead they managed to land Michael Beasley, the second pick in the 2008 draft in exchange, essentially, for nothing:
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that the Heat agreed Thursday night to a trade that will send Beasley to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who can simply absorb Beasley into empty salary-cap space and furnish Miami with additional financial flexibility to continue the dramatic transformation of its roster. To complete the trade, Minnesota must only part with a 2011 second-round pick to acquire Beasley. The teams have also agreed to a swap of unspecified future first-round picks.
One reason that this move is awesome is that, until the Three Tenors officially sign their deals, the Heat have only one player on their roster, Mario Chalmers. This is the answer to one of those great heretofore totally irrelevant bored basketball nerd hypotheticals: would you trade your entire team for Lebron, Wade and Bosh? (Yes, apparently).
Now, as his draft position indicates, Beasley is magnificently talented; on age and ability alone you would have to say that the Wolves scored a major coup in accepting Miami’s largesse. On the other hand, he’s a weird dude, who has already been to rehab (either for a mental breakdown, for substance abuse, or both) and couldn’t manage to get through the NBA’s rookie transition program without getting fined $50 grand. Also, so far he hasn’t really been all that good (.516 TS%, 12.8 Rebound %, pretty scattershot defense) and doesn’t really seem to enjoy playing professional basketball. It’s really hard to tell how this will go.
On the other other hand, have you noticed that the Wolves now have a whole lot of forwards on their team? Especially ones (like Beasley, Love and Jefferson) that are a little undersized and that don’t defend all that well? More moves to come, I’ll wager.