The Heat are healthy and ready to go. Especially King James — who is as giddy as a school boy for the playoffs to start.
If you’re lucky enough to be at the game tonight you’ll get your own “Witness Miami” #WhiteHot t-shirt. They look incredibly fresh. In other news, I do not envy the people that had to put those t-shirts on every single chair in the arena.
If you’re not lucky (like me) you’ll simply be stuck watching it on TNT (first world problems). FYI, the game starts at 7PM (EST). Also in case you wanted to schedule it in advance, here is the full Miami Heat first-round playoff schedule.
But enough chatter — let’s get down to the keys for Miami.
Miami was last in the NBA in rebounds per game. But according to NBA Statistics, against the Bucks, the Heat have averaged 49.9 rebounds per game while the Bucks have only averaged 43.7 rebounds per game. Hopefully The Birdman can help provide an interior presence that leads to quick transition offense or second-chance points.
- Dwayne Wade’s right knee: I know he had 21 points and 10 assists last game against Orlando (let’s be honest though, it was the Magic). But he was also out for five games in a row in March — and Dwayne Wade is a freakin’ warrior and simply does not miss five games due to a small knee tweak. So it has got to be a moderately big issue, right? Or maybe last year’s memory of Wade’s left knee causing him problems in the playoffs has made me a little jumpy when it comes to D-Wade’s knees…
- Miami’s Bench:
The reason the Miami Heat will win the NBA Finals this year is because of their bench. I think the Oklahoma City Thunder’s starters, the San Antonio Spurs’ starters — hell, even the Knicks’ and Pacers’ starters — can give the Heat’s starters a run for their money. What the Heat have that those other teams don’t have (except for the Spurs, maybe) is a bench that can literally beat teams singlehandedly (though calling the Washington Wizards and the Cleveland Cavaliers “teams” might be overkill). Mike Miller has been absolutely lethal recently (53.3% 3FG% in last five games) and Norris Cole’s recent surge in playing time has given him the valuable experience needed to lead this team in the playoffs when LeBron, Wade, and Chalmers sit.
- Defending the Bucks’ Pick-And-Pop:
Ersan Ilyasova is a pretty good shooter from three point range. So how well the Heat defend the pick-and-pop with Ilyasova and Ellis/Jennings will be integral to the success of the Heat’s defense. If the Heat can close out quickly on Ilyasova to prevent any long range shots, and play good help defense if Ilyasova pump fakes and drives to the hoop, one of the Bucks’ best three-point shooters has been neutralized.