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Game preview: Miami Heat vs. Utah Jazz

Hello There, Alright, I’m not quite sure how else to say it, so I’ll just say it. A couple of weeks back, Matt approached me about helping out with this blog. My initial response was something like "why the HELL would you want me to do that?" Matt and I worked together on the University of Miami student newspaper for a number of years, but even then I really wrote only about football and baseball. However, basketball has always been a sport I have loved to both watch and play, so I decided to give it a go. And away we go... Wednesday night the Heat take on the Utah Jazz, currently 2nd in the Northwest Division and tied for 5th in the Western Conference. On paper, this looks like a game the Jazz should win. However, with the Heat being as unpredictable as they are, it bears worth watching. I mean, really, this team loses by 20+ to the Grizzlies and then bounces back with blowout wins over the Raptors (alright, that’s kind of a gimme) and the Magic, defending conference champs? Enough said. Here’s how the two teams matchup according to DeanOliver’s Four Factors of Winning. This are some stats that Matt has been using, and I like it a lot. Effective Field Goal% The Heat rank fifteenth in the NBA at 49.9%, while the Jazz rank 6th at 51.9% EDGE: Jazz Turnover % The Heat ranks 2nd in the NBA at 12.6% while the Jazz ranks 20th at 15.1%. EDGE: Heat (BIG) Offensive Rebound % The Heat ranks 24th in the NBA at 25.1% while the Jazz ranks 19th at 26.0%. EDGE: Jazz (Slight) Free Throw Rate The Heat ranks 8th in the NBA at 32.7% and the Jazz is 6th at 33.4%. EDGE: Jazz (Slight) Stats from http://www.statsheet.com/ Additionally, the Heat likes to play a slow down game, ranking 29th in the league in possessions and 2nd in possessions allowed. The Jazz ranks right near the middle of the pack in both categories, meaning that they can go both ways. Heat Key to the Game • The Heat has to slow down Jazz point guard Derron Williams. Anyone that has ever watched him play knows that he is the driving force behind the Jazz. He likes to get in the lane and create for his teammates and averages a double- double. He is physical for a point guard as well. As per the stats above, the Heat take care of the ball and play good defense. Both will be important, as the more they keep the ball out of Williams’ hands the better off they will be (thank you Captain Obvious). Now, the real question is who do you guard him with? The ideal answer would be D-Wade, as he is the best perimeter defender the Heat has and has the size to matchup with Williams. However, at some point someone else is going to have to pick up the slack to keep Wade fresh on offense. That means that between Mario Chalmers, Daequan Cook and Carlos Arroyo, someone will have to stick on D-Will. Bottom Line: Turn the Jazz over and force them in to a slow down game and the chance of beating them goes WAY up. Who is the NBA’s version of John Madden? That’s what I feel like right now. Jazz Key to the Game • The Jazz will work the high post pick and roll game with Williams and Carlos Boozer until they are forced to stop. The combination of Udonis Haslem and Michael Beasley should be able to at least slow down Boozer, particularly Haslem, a good matchup for a 6’9" forward that likes his jump shot a lot. The X Factor for the Jazz: Mehmet Okur. He’s a 7 footer that can bang down low with Jermaine O’Neal and Joel Anthony, yet he also shoots 38% from downtown and attempts almost 4 three pointers per game. If the Heat put O’Neal or Anthony on him, he will snipe from outside and draw away a defender that would help clog the lane against Boozer and Sixth Man Paul Millsap. If the Heat puts a smaller guy on him, like Beasley, Okur will go inside and outmuscle him all night. In what appears to be a pretty close matchup, this could be the Tipping Point. So there you have it. The Heat struggle at home, with an 8-8 record. The Jazz struggle on the road with a 5-7 record (as of 9:04 PM EST 12/21/09). Could this get any closer? I say nay. In a game like this, I’ll take the team with the best player. And, as we all know, the best player on the floor in this game wears No. 3 for the Heat.