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Game #71: Miami Heat (36-34) vs. New Jersey Nets (7-62)

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Things couldn't be looking much better for the Heat right now.  They are coming off of a big moral-boosting win at home over Charlotte and now they enter the final 12 games of the season with a major opportunity to close out their schedule on a very high note.  Sure, 8 of the 12 games are on the road, but the Heat has shown to be a solid road team with a record of 15-18 away from the AAA.

The good news...?  Of their 12 remaining games, only one of them are against a team that's above .500 and ahead of the Heat in the standings.  That game is against Milwaukee on Friday, the team that Miami is 3 games behind for 5th place.  The Heat will play only one other team in a playoff position (Toronto), and just one game against a Western Conference opponent.  That one is in Minnesota, the worst team in the West, who boast a 9-25 record at home. 

The rest of the games are all against teams in the Eastern Conference, none of which are in Miami's division.  So if you wanna talk about having your fate in your own hands, the Heat has exactly that.  Unfortunately, one of the problems that I've had with Miami this season is that they seem to play down to their weaker opponents.  However, since losing to Minnesota at the end of February the Heat has gone 4-0 against teams with less wins then they have. 

In fact, since that game Miami has gone 8-4; the losses were against Charlotte, San Antonio and Orlando (twice), but they beat the Lakers, Hawks and most recently the Bobcats to go along with the aforementioned weaker teams.  Ok, so have I bombarded you with enough schedule talk?  You have to admit, the table is set for Miami to head into the playoffs on a serious high note, lets just hope that they take advantage of the opportunity in front of them.

Shifting our focus to Michael Beasley, he is coming off of one of his better games in recent memory and that can be attributed to both Erik Spoelstra and Alonzo Mourning getting in the kids face and telling him to chill with the jumpers and get back into the paint.  Zo spoke to Beas before the Charlotte game but the message took a little while to get through, as Super Passive took only 1 of his 6 shots inside the paint.

Spo reiterated the message to Beasley at the half and it seems that something finally penetrated the thick skull of our most recent lottery pick, with all four of his 4th quarter shots coming from inside the paint, three of which were right at the rim.  Said Beasley, about Zo:

"Zo is really strong.  He didn't hurt me, but he made his presence known.  He kind of roughed me up a little bit, told me I need to play harder, stop settling for jump shots."

But...Beasley also covered his ass by adding:

"I mean, most everything we do is a pick-and-flare and pick-and-pop.  I mean, it's the offense.  If there's open shots, I'll take them.  Honestly, I feel like whenever I shoot that shot, it's going in, hands down."

I guess he hasn't noticed that since returning from his calf injury he's shooting just 32.4%.  And if you think the injury is what caused the low percentage, take a look at the month of February.  He played every single one of the Heat's 13 games and shot 41.3% from the field.  If you can't tell, I'm getting pretty tired of the kid. 

It's not his on-court struggles; that I can understand because it's perfectly normal for a 2nd year NBA player to go through growing pains.  It's the way he carries himself and reacts to things that gets under my skin.  Nothing ever seems to be his fault.  Just shut up and play the game...stop looking around with your mouth half-open and your palms facing the ceiling when things don't go your way. 

Moving on to the task at hand, Miami heads into North Jersey to start a brief 3-game road trip against the struggling Nets.  Jersey is trying to avoid making some NBA history by becoming the team with the fewest wins in a season since the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers went 9-73.  The Nets, who have 7 wins so far this season, will need to go 3-10 over their final 13 games to keep from at least joining Philly in the hall-o-shame. 

GAME NOTES

  • The Nets last 3 wins all came on the road, with their last home win coming on January 27th against the Clippers.  Since then they have lost 13-straight at the Izod Center. 
  • Overall Jersey has dropped 7 in a row and 14 of their last 16.  Those two wins came at the Knicks and at Boston (go figure).
  • Miami has gone 2-0 against the Nets so far this season, but the two wins have been by a combined 4 points.  The series will conclude with the Heat's final game of the regular season on April 14th at the AAA. 
  • Carlos Arroyo has just 1 turnover in his last 116:26 minutes. 
  • Miami is coming off one of their best defensive efforts this season.  They held Charlotte to just 29.2% shooting and blocked a season-high 13 shots.  It was the lowest field goal percentage for a Heat opponent this season, and they tied a franchise record by allowing the Bobcats just 6 field goals in the 2nd half.
  • Dwyane Wade is averaging 29.1 points, Quentin Richardson has made 35 triples and Udonis Haslem is averaging 10.2 rebounds, all in their last 10 games.
  • Miami should get Jermaine O'Neal back in the lineup after he missed the Heat's last game with a sprained left ankle.

Tipoff from the Izod Center is set for 7:30.  When the Heat were there last month the sparse crowd was ooh-ing and aah-ing over Dwyane Wade before the star pulled up lame when he strained his calf in the 1st quarter.  Wade had scored 8 points with 3 rebounds in just 7 minutes before he went down.  Let's all keep our fingers crossed that D-Wade makes it though this trip to Jersey.