Behind the Box Score, where the Heat are out of answers



Portland 106, Miami 95

Nothing's more ubiquitous than overanalysis of the Miami Heat. You can't get away from it, and everyone has a take. Everyone should, because they're very famous, and they're screwing up. If you want to make ham-fisted comparisons to whatever recent celebrity just ran afoul of the law or their employers, go ahead.

And while there are consistent themes to why the Heat lose as many close games as they do to good teams, one thing that keeps bashing over my head is the way they tend to find new ways to lose these games. That it's something different, every time, and that this always tends to smack of either a team filled with rookies and youngsters, or a squad that was just put together in an instant. Sometimes those teams, like what we see in Chicago this year, click right away. But even that Bulls team that everyone loves makes boneheaded plays in crunch time, consistently. No infant is immune.

The Heat lost this particular game because they couldn't guard anyone. And worse than that? All sorts of Portland Trail Blazers (a team that managed a white hot 125 points per 100 possessions) stepped up to hit contested shots that they usually don't make. I can rip on the Heat in oh so many ways, but I'm not going to fall over myself destroying this squad after seeing Andre Miller(notes), Rudy Fernandez(notes), and LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) nail those desperate and atypical long, contested jumpers last night. Especially down the stretch.

Want to rip on the Heat? Well, Mike Miller(notes) and Joel Anthony(notes) (even while considering Anthony's defensive gifts) are playing some of the worst basketball of any players in the NBA right now. Their contributions are at about nil, and yet they have to combine for 38 minutes because the Heat entered 2010-11 thinking it could depend on two players to bring what they had consistently brought in the past. All-around play with an emphasis on superior shooting (Miller), and lockdown defense even if the rebounding was suspect (Anthony).

Toss in 12 offensive rebounds for the Blazers, and Chris Bosh's(notes) continued use as a "bail us out late in the shot clock with a jumper, Dr. Afterthought" third wheel, and you've got a Portland win. Not even Doc Rivers (oh, crap, did I just give that away?) is fixing that.

***

Golden State 95, Cleveland 85

Baron Davis'(notes) grandmother raised him, turned him into a person who can compete on a high level in one of the more exclusive clubs in America, and she passed away yesterday.

Seemingly a million miles away, Baron Davis knew this, and still came off the bench to play a game for the worst team in the NBA against one of the league's longest-running laughingstocks in the Golden State Warriors. And though he made a few unfortunate Baron Davis-styled decisions, the guy didn't have to play, and he played. Hurting on the inside and outside, Davis tried to lead that terrible team, snapping at his new teammates at one point in the fourth quarter when he thought they were giving up on a comeback win, and putting in the effort before flying back to Los Angeles following the loss.

So I can bring up Golden State's poor defensive rotations, or Monta Ellis'(notes) hot hand from long range, or Ryan Hollins'(notes) fine play off the ball. But it really doesn't matter. I took more away from this game than I thought I would, because of Baron Davis.

***

Phoenix 113, Houston 110

Channing Frye(notes) hits a ton of big three-pointers, so people don't tend to notice either the things he doesn't do, or his absolute uselessness when those 25-footers aren't falling. It's a tough gig, that, knowing that your one skill is about as tough as it gets (lobbing bombs from far away) and that people won't be happy unless you consistently come through with something tough and unique at the same time, but that's how it is for Frye. Still, people also need to understand that he has a PER in the low teens because he doesn't score any other way, he doesn't rebound or pick up any other needed stats, and his defense remains terrible.

So while Hakim Warrick(notes) might be a poor rebounder and just as inconsistent, it should come as no surprise that he more than ably filled in for Frye during this Phoenix win. Thirty-two points for the long-jumper.

Awful defense for both teams for long stretches, with players like Vince Carter(notes) and Kyle Lowry(notes) having their way at times. Wait, "at times," for Lowry? He was hot all game, hitting seven three-pointers, and he's averaging nearly 23 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and 49 percent shooting from behind the arc in five games this month.

***

Philadelphia 110, Indiana 100

I'd like to be honest in telling you that the final score isn't representative of what a blowout this was, but despite Indiana's disappointing play, the Pacers did come back a few times in this contest. 10 points might be closer than things actually were, but Indiana didn't exactly lie down.

The team's defense stunk, though. Stunk badly. Every possession, four out of five Pacers brought the capable D, and as a result some 76er cutter or open shooter or willing driver was afforded a good look. 24 assists on 47 field goals for Philadelphia, but I'd call that an unrepresentative stat, because that ball was moving.

Andre Iguodala(notes) came through with 16 points, 10 assists, two blocks and two steals; but as @Suga_Shane pointed (via Amin Vafa) out on Twitter last night, his real contributions are coming on the defensive end. At small forward this year, he's averaging about a 19 PER, which is pretty darn good. But he's also allowing a 9 PER, which is pretty darn Keith Bogans(notes)-esque. On Tuesday, he held Danny Granger(notes) to 4-11 shooting, and 11 points. Danny is shooting 36 percent in the month of March.

***

Los Angeles 101, Atlanta 87

The Hawks could have rolled over a few times in this game, and I give the team loads of respect for showing up against the buzzsaw that is the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. There was a real chance this could have been one of those 29-12 games after the first seven minutes, but the Hawks spread the floor and competed. And when things turned all blowout-y in the second half, the Hawks made yet another run to bring it back to single-digits.

Los Angeles is just too good, though, and especially defensively. The team's length kept Atlanta out of the paint all night, and off the free throw line. Al Horford(notes) and Josh Smith(notes) combined for 33 points, but 16 of their shots came from beyond 10-feet, and Joe Johnson(notes) (11 points on 14 shots) never had a chance against the somewhat-similarly-sized Ron Artest(notes).

Sixteen points, 16 rebounds, and three blocks for Andrew Bynum(notes). The Lakers play the Heat on Thursday, and whatever you think of either team, know that the game will count. Miami is either turning its season around, or the Lakers will have everyone wetting themselves. Either way, prepare for the epic. Even if it's a 20-point game.

***

Milwaukee 95, Washington 76

A lethargic entrance for the Wizards, and though the Bucks weren't taking the best shots, they were active in their passing and movement on the offensive end. Even if it resulted in a 20-footer, it was still a heck of a lot more engaged than what Washington was coming through with.

Milwaukee's defense didn't really help the cause for the Wizards. The Bucks held Washington to under 83 points per 100 possessions, which is just a nasty, nasty mark. The lone bright spot as both an observer and a box score-going-behinder was Jordan Crawford(notes), who plays like he's on a 10-day contract that has 10 minutes left on it. Twenty-two points and five turnovers for Crawford off of the Washington bench.

I liked every Buck's defense. Every one of them. Pick a guy, I saw them getting after it. John Salmons(notes) and Brandon Jennings(notes) also hit half their shots on their way to combining for 45 points.

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