Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Miami Heat Fail to Burn Jazz Again

The Miami Heat had beaten the Utah Jazz 7 straight times. Not even the Spurs have an active streak like that against the Jazz. Forget trying to explain how they've mastered the Jazz, other than saying Pat Riley has been around the block a few times and has been able to get his teams to rise up. But like all streaks, they are made to end. Behind big performances from their rising stars, the Jazz cooled the Heat and ended the streak with a 110-101 (box score) victory at Energy Solutions Arena Monday night.

Dwayne Wade summed it up pretty well:
"This team brings out the best in you," Wade said about the Jazz. "I thought we played a great game but they just made more plays when it counted to win the ballgame."

Give the Heat credit, they battled hard and the game was very much in doubt most of the way. In the end, Miami simply doesn't have enough talent to finish what it started. They did however shoot 53% from the field and 41% from 3pt range. What they didn't do, was what winning teams must do - play defense down the stretch and make free throws. The Heat allowed the Jazz to score 36 points in the 4th quarter and pretty much lost this game at the free throw line by going 16-31 for 51%. I haven't done any digging, but when is the last time you saw an NBA team miss that many free throws and shoot so poorly? Before you blame it all on Shaq (2-6 FT), you should know that Mr. Wade was the biggest offender (6-12), and Alonzo Mourning (3-6) didn't exactly look comfy at the stripe. If the Heat had shot 80% from the line, they would have scored 9 more points in this game...which was the margin of defeat.

Some Headlines -
  • Booz continues to roll: Carlos Boozer came back from injury in a big way with 24 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists.
  • Jazz get their money man back: Mehmet Okur had perhaps his best game of the year after returning from his back injury - 25 points and 6 rebounds while finding his outside stroke, with 10-14 shooting and 4-5 from downtown.
  • DWill decisive over JWill: Deron Williams continued his red hot streak with 24 points, 15 assists, 2-3 from 3pt range, and only 2 turnovers. For the season he is shooting 52%, averaging 9.1 assists and now up to 19.3 ppg. If you are not watching him play these last few weeks, you are missing some special PG play.
  • Team ball produces results: The Jazz assisted on 38 of their 42 field goals (90.5%). So in today's 1-on-1 game, Utah stands out as unique. They lead the league in assists per game, field goal percentage, and 3rd in the league in points per game.
  • Brewer slows Wade: We give Ronnie Brewer the heat whenever a stud guard scores 35 points, we should give him credit when he slows down a great one. DWade still had 26 points and 10 assists, but he did have to take 20 shots to do it and was not able to get to the basket down the stretch the way he has in the past. DWade against last year's Jazz would have taken over the close game late.
Was it throw back night or what?
Sixty percent of the Heat starting line-up could very well be 10 years past their prime, and if you didn't know better, you'd think it was throwback night.
Consider Penny Hardaway, started with Orlando 15 years ago and the 1999 season was the last time he scored more than 12 points a game. You are forgiven if you didn't realize he as still in the league - he play only 37 games for New York 3 years ago, 4 games for New York and Orlando 2 years ago, and last year ago he took the year off - so that is 41 games in 3 years. Talk about a reclamation project! Penny however went scoreless in 14 minutes against the Jazz.
Consider Jason Williams, who has been solid in Miami, is now in his 10th season and maybe will never find his prime. Remember the aggressive, bald-headed Jason Williams from his Sacramento days. Who had all the promise in the world, but was too out of control. Looking at his career, he has found control - but never shooting accuracy (only 1 season has he shot better than 41% from the field) or big time scoring (only 1 season has he scored more than his 12.8 ppg rookie average).
Consider Shaquille O'Neal, who is now in his 16th season and 4th for the Heat and officially on the downward slide statistically. While he has had some terrific seasons in the last 10 years, he just isn't in the physical shape to impact the game the way he has in the past. Rather than be negative with the Diesel, let's be real - he is a giant man who has had an amazing career and has been one of the most dominant big men to play the game. It's no fair to ask him to carry the load these days.

Up next for the Jazz, are the Sacramento Kings in California. The Kings have all 6 of their wins at home (6-3) and join the Knicks as the only win-less teams on the road (both 0-7). To read up on the Kings, I recommend Sactown Royalty as a strong blog (and one of the best looking too).