The Knicks’ hot start had many questioning whether the Heat would be able to make it back to the Finals, but New York has stumbled as of late. Combine that with a six game win streak including a Christmas day victory over last year’s Western Conference champions, and the Heat are officially the team to beat in the East again. Tonight, they travel to the dilapidated ruins formerly known as Detroit to take on the unimpressive, unintimidating Pistons.
With Ray Allen out last game against Charlotte, it was important that the other members of the Miami backcourt stepped up to take on some of his scoring load. Dwyane Wade scored 29, Mario Chalmers went 4 for 6 from beyond the arc, and the Heat won easily. This would have left everyone feeling equally confident about tonight’s game if not for one incident. In what was no doubt an act completely free of ill will, Wade’s leg accidentally made contact with the groin of Ramon Sessions, resulting in a one game suspension for Dwyane.
As he explained on twitter shortly thereafter, “I'm far from being a dirty player + my intent was never 2 kick Ramon Sessions.” Personally, I feel we have to take his explanation at face value, because I know from experience that my leg often flails upwards in a kicking motion whenever I run into something, even if my leg is between those of another man at the time. We should also keep Wade’s stellar track record in mind when discussing these issues. After all, he never threw Rondo to the ground seriously injuring his elbow, nor did he break Kobe’s nose during the most intense and competitive showcase of the year – the All-Star Game.
Wade’s cleanliness as a player aside, if Allen is out or less than 100% at the game too, the Heat would be without both of their true shooting guards who get significant minutes, two of their top four scorers, and two of their top four players in terms of usage percentage for players who get significant minutes. It is likely that Mike Miller will start in Wade’s place. While Miller is a talented shooter, his usage rate is 12.1 percent compared to Wade’s 28.7 percent. He has not been asked to handle the workload that Wade has so far this season, and the team’s offense as a whole will likely struggle as others are asked to take on Wade’s scoring load.
Keys to the Game
Detroit has no knack for causing turnovers. They cause turnovers on only 12.1 percent of opponent plays, good for 29th in the league. Miami will likely be able to hold on the ball and make the most of their scoring opportunities.
Detroit is a poor shooting team. Their effective field goal percentage of 47.2 percent is 22nd in the league. At this rate, it will be difficult to keep scoring pace with a league leading Miami squad with an effective field goal percentage of 55.2.
As has been the case all year, Miami’s biggest weakness is that they are the second worst team in the league at grabbing offensive rebounds, hauling in only 21.1 percent of those available. They shoot so well, that this doesn’t come up because their overall offensive performance is still spectacular on a per-possession basis. However, tonight we might get a peek at how awesome their offense could be if they crashed the offensive boards, as Detroit is a poor defensive rebounding team with a 21st ranked defensive rebounding percentage of 72.4.