This first post All-Star break edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” — Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews upcoming 76ers opponents — features tonight’s opponent, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.
Tonight’s game down at the Wachovia Center will be a match up of two teams with very little in common during 2009-10. The Miami Heat are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, while our 76ers are improving on defense, but statistically speaking are still one of the most defensively challenged squads in the League. This Miami team is comprised of an All-World superstar in D-Wade and some decent complimentary pieces. On the other hand, the Sixers have no real superstar and a number of complimentary pieces that don’t mesh together all that well. The Heat are directed by a solid head coach in Eric Spoelstra. The Sixers, well we have Eddie Jordan. The Heat are currently in the NBA Playoff race and expected to be a “buyer” at the trade deadline. As you know the Sixers are not currently in the playoff race and are expected to be a “seller” on Thursday.
But this preview theme for tonight’s game is not all doom and gloom for Philadunkia’s home team. In fact, we think the Sixers have a great chance to win this contest and here’s why…The 76ers were hot (5-1) heading into the All-Star break, Miami was not (2-5). The 76ers should be well rested, as none of the Sixers players participated in the NBA All-Star weekend events. Miami should be a little tired as three of their players – Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley and Daequan Cook were in Dallas over the weekend for the on-court events and the off-court festivities. Finally, with the trade deadline looming on Thursday, this could be the last game as a unit for this current 76ers roster and we think that will provide some extra motivation for the team to go out a play well. We think that extra push will enable the Sixers to overcome their deficiencies when compared to the Heat “on-paper” and win this one.
On last note…We’re very interested to watch the return of Allen Iverson tonight after 6 games away from the team. For us here at Philadunkia, we’re more interested to see whether or not Allen is immediately inserted back into the staring lineup, who’s minutes will be impacted by his return and what kind of shape Iverson is in, more so then how he actually plays. If Iverson squaks at the reduced role we’d like to see him have in his latest return to the Sixers, it could be a career defining mistake. If he accepts a reduced role, doesn’t upset the chemistry that developed while he was gone and provides a needed spark at times, he could be a valuable asset down the stretch.
For a little more insight into the Heat team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Matthew Bunch from hothothoops.com to answer two questions on Miami from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on this Heat squad from an insider’s perspective.
Philadunkia : From the outside, the Heat have been a difficult team to figure out in the 1st half of the season. They’re sitting in the 7thspot for the Eastern playoff race, but they’re one game under .500 (26-27). They pulled off two respectable Ws right before the break vs. Houston and at Atlanta, but the Heat are 3-7 in their last 10 games, including two Ls to Milwaukee. Can you give us a better feel for this Miami team and what to expect from them in the 2nd half?
Matthew Bunch @ hothothoops.com : I’ve made it known on multiple occasions that while I know the team well, I do not understand it. They almost beat the Clevelands and the Bostons of the world, then lose a home-and-home back-to-back against Milwaukee. Here’s my theory: they’re an average team with a couple of doses of above-average talent. Yes, they have the ability to beat anyone on any night, but they also have the ability to put up a couple stinkers.
I think the second-half performance of the Heat will depend on how they get out of the gate these next couple of weeks. If we see play like we did in the last two games and the Hear get closer to the five seed, they’ll probably get there and stay there. If they come out flat, they’ll probably pack it in and wait for free agency. They need a carrot, and they’ll be providing it.
Philadunkia : It’s been rumored that the Sixers nixed a three team deal that would have brought Michael Beasley and some expirings to Philly. While we’re not in love with Beasley, we are intrigued as to see what he could do on the offensive end if he didn’t have to defer the ball to an All-Star like Wade. We know there are some critics who think his time in Miami has been and will be a disappointment, but hat are your overall thoughts on Beasley and his future potential?
Matthew Bunch @ hothothoops.com : I might be the only one, but I’m very happy with Beasley’s play in Miami. For someone who literally didn’t learn how to play defense until he showed up on the Heat’s doorstep, he’s grown into that well. And he’s filling the cup.
Obviously he has more to do. The expectations of being a top-two draft pick are astronomical. But he is a legitimate scoring option who’s getting better and better on defense. I’ll be terribly disappointed if he gets traded away. Unless it frees up more cap space and we can get LeBron and Bosh (Yes, it is a possibility. I dream at night about it.).
Two Points of Analysis from Matthew Bunch @ hothothoops.com :
1) With all the firepower the Heat posses in their lineup, some casual NBA fans might surprised to find out that Miami is a very solid defensive squad. They rank 6th in opponents’ scoring average (95.7 pp.), 7th in opponents’ FG % (44.7%) and 12th in opponents’ 3PT% (34.8%).
2) Udonis Haslem has played 490 games for Miami and trails only Alonzo Mourning in games played in a Heat uniform, so it’s very interesting that the seven year veteran and a locker room leader is having his name bounced around in trade talks so frequently this year. Of course a $7million expiring contract will make a guy very popular around the League.