Tonight the Utah Jazz will host the Miami Heat. These are two clubs going in different directions. The Heat are the kings of the mountain having gone to the NBA Finals in each of the last three seasons, and have won the last two. The Jazz are still trying to find out how deep the basement of the NBA is. Miami is the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference, have a 35-13 record overall, and a 15-9 record on the road. The Jazz are the #15 seed in the Western Conference, have a 16-33 record, and are 10-14 at home. The overall information is lopsided, but it's almost a complete inverse when you see that the Heat are on an 8-2 run in their last 10 games, and have won three in a row. The Jazz are 3-7 in the last 10, and have lost four in a row.
1. Miami HEAT head coach Erik Spoelstra started as a film room guy, and now manages an NBA locker room that has gone to the NBA finals three times and features a few Hall of Famers on it. As a non-NBA player how do you think his players respond to him? Can you describe some of the qualities he possesses and how he has changed / improved over his career from a rookie head coach to being one who is five wins away from 350 combined regular season and playoff wins in six seasons?
Isaac: It's an interesting question for sure, and one that was talked about a lot during Spo's early days. When the team started 9-8 during the first year of the Big 3 era, a lot of people wanted Spo fired in favor of somebody who would understand the pieces of the team a bit better.
Fast forward to 2014 and Spo is absolutely the right man for the job. He's just the right combination of calm and fiery. His players know that they can trust him, and he also has their back if they feel like the officials are doing a poor job and somebody needs to do something about it.
It also helps that he has had Dwyane Wade in his corner during his entire tenure. If Wade didn't vouch for Spo, there is no Big 3. When LeBron and Chris joined the team, they knew it was Dwyane's team. And Spo was Dwyane's coach, so they both bought in.
2. The HEAT are an interesting team to figure out. Of course, if any team could figure them out, they'd probably dethrone them. I don't know how likely that is to happen though. One thing that pops out to me is that the HEAT force the most turn overs on defense out of all the teams in the NBA, and themselves turn the ball over the second most on offense. (NBA Rank #1 in Defensive TOV%, NBA Rank #29 in Offensive TOV%) Do the numbers accurately help describe what you see in the games?
Isaac: I don't think the Heat are actually the second worst team in the league in terms of turning the ball over, but as with most things with this team, when it rains, it pours. Those numbers are probably inflated by some particularly bad nights.As for on the defensive end, that seems accurate. Their trapping style of defense leads to plenty of steal opportunities for Wade and LeBron, who are among the best in the league in converting those opportunities to results.
3. How much more does Dwyane Wade have in the tank?
Isaac: Is 'enough' an acceptable answer? He's not the Dwyane Wade of old, but I think he could still be the #1 guy on most teams. The Heat have done a great job of resting him when needed, and we should see that pay off in the postseason.He still has the ability to blow by people or finish through contact, but he isn't able to do it as frequently as he used to. The skills are definitely still there, though.
4. Greg Oden and Andrew Bynum were actual media cycle topics this year. And both because of the Miami HEAT. Would you have wanted them both in Miami? What would the benefit have been?
I was vehemently opposed to the Heat signing Bynum, in large part to the presence of Oden. Here's how I saw it:
Two guys, both 7 footers, both with bad knees. But with Bynum, we've seen what that looks like, and it ain't good. He was awful in Cleveland, except for a random 4 game stretch in December, which was followed by a few more awful games. I had no idea what to expect from Oden, which is why I preferred him. What if he does have something left? The thought of Oden having something was greater than the knowledge of what Bynum had.
5. This season LeBron James is 62 / 170 from downtown, making 36.5 3pt%. Ray Allen is only at 61 / 173, making 35.3 3pt%. What is this world, where LeBron is better from downtown than Ray? Is this likely to sustain itself over the rest of this season?
Isaac: I'm really not sure. LeBron picks his spots very carefully on threes, so he should maintain a solid percentage. Ray went through a really cold stretch earlier this season that's dragged his percentage down, so I would expect a similar hot streak later in the season to bring it up.
Still, Father Time isn't on Shuttlesworth's side here. He's got some gas left in the tank, but it's starting to run out. He's still a huge threat when the Heat run him off screens, but the shots just haven't been falling as frequently as they used to
6. Did you know that the Utah Jazz are one of the few Western Conference teams to have a "respectable" record against the Miami Heat over the last decade? (The Jazz are 6-14 in the last 20) That's almost like a win every year, which is not bad as we only play twice a season. Us! The Jazz!
Isaac: I was actually at a Heat - Jazz game a few years back where Dwyane hit a buzzer beater to beat the Jazz. I think it was during the Deron Williams era. Still one of my favorite basketball memories ever.