This article was written by staffer David Ramil, who is having computer issues at the moment. I am posting his work on his behalf.
By David Ramil
The ceremonial end to last season’s championship came with a visit to the White House on Tuesday, when the Miami Heat shared a podium with President Barack Obama and exchanged jokes and fond memories of a successful year.
Those seven games seem like an eternity ago and Miami must continue the struggle of the long regular season when they face the Washington Wizards at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center.
The Heat (27 – 10) seem to be in a funk, having lost two games in a row (the third back-to-back losing streak this season) and four of their last nine games. Battling through injuries and complacency, this matchup versus the Wizards (17 – 19) will test Miami’s determination and focus. Also, this is the third of a six-game road trip, but a five-day rest from Friday’s overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets certainly will help keep the Heat refreshed. Dwyane Wade and Shane Battier will return to the starting lineup, while Mario Chalmers (tendinitis) is likely still out.
As for Washington, they can provide matchup problems for Miami, although those were not evident in a 103 – 93 Heat victory back on November 3. Speedy guard John Wall (19.6 points and 8.6 assists per game) has shown some maturity and can be a handful, if a bit erratic at times. Marcin Gortat is their leading rebounder (at nearly 9 a game) and Nene, the bulky forward/center, has recovered from a calf injury. Together, they can make it a long rebounding night for Miami.
The Big Three Questions for the Game:
How will LeBron bounce back from fouling out against the Nets?
The way he should – like a true MVP candidate. No one on the Wizards roster can challenge James defensively and recent news stories have questioned his commitment, his scoring and labeled him a “flopper.” This kind of public attack is the kind of slight not seen since 2011, and it could be just the kind of motivation to get James ready for the long season grind.
How will Norris Cole handle John Wall as the starter?
Cole has made some great – and some not-so-great – plays while filling in for the injured Chalmers. Wall is quick and a fearless attacker. Limiting his productivity while facilitating the offense will be a challenge. Expect Norris to play his typical tight defense while looking to feed the other starters and not his stat line. With Roger Mason, Jr. getting some time at the point, Cole needs to be efficient and ensure foul trouble doesn’t keep him on the bench.
Will the Heat be motivated following their trip to the White House?
Probably not. As much as the average fan expects Miami to be constantly motivated, this group is too smart and too focused on the big picture – a championship – to take this game seriously. At some point they’ll need to flip the switch as they have so often in the past. But they’ll still contend for the top seed in the Eastern Conference even if they ultimately won’t make it a priority.