Wow. By far, last night’s game was pretty good. I mean real good. The crowd was great. People started standing with five minutes left in the fourth quarter and never sat down again. It was a good 45 minutes of standing, cheering, jeering and screaming. The Miami Heat have sustain as one of the most hated teams in the NBA and anytime anyone beats them (as the Warriors cane back from 17 points down to overtake them in OT with an impressive, 111-106 win) the feeling is great! It’s a marquee game, even if its against a lesser opponent. And let’s be real here, the Warriors are not in the same class as the Heat. But they sure showed what everybody knows. You can buy talent, but you can’t buy chemistry and you can’t buy any heart.
It looked like a typical Warrior game in fashion. The played well through the first two quarters, but when half time ended and the third quarter began, the Heat began to pull away with authority. A few impressive (but equally irritating on how 2.5 superstars can even fathom to play on one team cause they can’t handle the pressure themselves) scores by the Big Three and the Heat had the Warriors back on their heels, leading 76-61. It seemed like an early night for the Heat and another dreadful loss for the Warriors. But new Warrior, Nate Robinson, provided the energy that was needed for a comeback. The Warriors cut it to six several times before Robinson hit one of his two threes to cut the lead to three. Then after a (controversial, it could have been a foul if it was Dwight Howard) no call led to Robinson beating LeBron to the basket for a lay-up. The Heat called a time out and Udonis Haslem was still heated on the no call and ran his mouth. His foul leaking mouth led to a technical which Robinson calmly sank. New ballgame, game tied, down to the last minute or so.
The Heat draw up a play but great defense on Dwayne Wade and Monta Ellis grabs the rebound before getting fouled by Wade. With a foul to give, the Warriors take the ball up court and Brandon Rush drives to the middle, leaves his feet before throwing an errant (and stupid) pass that Shane Battier intercepts. Robinson races down the court and fouls LeBron, which stops the clock and I personally think is a good foul. In the past, if LeBron had any real weaknesses to exploit, it was his foul shooting, despite him shooting at about 80% this year. And a good foul it was, because LBJ clanked the second free throw and the Heat were only up by one.
But again, a hurridly pass by Monta to David Lee is another turnover and the Heat now have the ball back. They rush down the court and Wade is fouled. Unlike LBJ, Wade sinks both. Warriors move the ball up the court and with the shot clock winding down and no one else willingly to take the shot, Robinson shoots one. Unfortunately, he misses, but hustle and determination led Dorell Wright to grab the offensive board. The Warriors move the ball around a few and as most of the Heat are focused on Monta, he swings it to Wright, who has Battier rushing at him full speed, who steps in and knocks down one of his six threes for the night. Tie game, new ball game again!
Miami goes down and draws up a play, but great defense on Dwayne Wade again and his misses his jumper. The Warriors grab the defensive board and calls a time-out. I’m not sure what the play was drawn up but the execution was horrible. The Warriors didn’t get a shot up as Monta waited too long to make his move and Wright just stood in the corner so that his man (LBJ), could go and double Ellis. But overtime is a new ball game.
It’s pretty much a one point game in OT, with each team leading every 30 seconds or so. But then Wright hits his final three pointer of the game putting the Warriors up by one. The very next play, the Warriors put on a great defensive stop and Nate Robinson steals a bad pass from LBJ while Wright leaks out for the dunk. With the Warriors up by three, the Heat had great chances to cut the lead to one or tie the game. Both of their game changer (Wade and LBJ) both miss shots and they were forced to foul Robinson. He sinks both. The Heat call a time out and everyone knows that a three is going to launched. Somehow during the play, David Lee is switched onto LBJ. LBJ, knowing he’ll have to shoot a three, doesn’t do much and throws up a brick. Warriors grab the rebound and the come-back is complete. 17 points down against the best NBA team out there, the Warriors show grit and determination.
As I was complaining in earlier posts, the Warriors needed other people besides Monta to step up and contribute. Last night was a great indication they heard me (yeah right!). Four Warriors finished with double digit points while the bench provided a great lift. Monta finished with 22 points, three steals and three assists. But he also had nine turnovers. Not his best stat game, but he was a presence out there and he made the Heat think twice before manning him up. David Lee had a solid double-double and finished with 20 ponts and 14 rebounds. Eight of those rebounds were on the O-boards as he kept the ball alive enough so the Warriors could have another chance to score. Finally, after all those post of complaining about Wright, he finally woke up. It was fitting that it was against the team that drafted him and let him go to make room for LBJ and Chris Bosh. He lit up the score sheet with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Finally productive and confident, Wright knocked down six threes, which was four more than the Heat knocked down as a team. And as for the bench, Robinson showed how valuable he still can be if in the right situation. He was the leading scorer for the Warriors as he provided the spark off the bench and finished with 24 points, five assists and four steals. He was 14-14 on the free throw line.
Both teams had a pretty awful shooting night. In the fourth quarter alone, Miami had 12% shooting percentage while only scoring 12 points. They shot only 18& from the three while the Warriors shot 33%, connecting on nine while the Heat only managed two for the entire game. The difference was the free throw percentages. While the Heat shot 10 times more free throws and both teams made the same amount (26) the Warriors only missed four giving them a 86% while the Heat struggled at 65%. I always believe in tight games, free throws are where you win and lose points, which equals, where you win and lose games. In the other categories, the Warriors were pretty much even with the Heat, even beating them out in the assists category (23-16). The only real difference is in the fast break points where Miami out ran the slow footed Warriors (looking at you Lee!) and killed the Warriors 30-14. But it wasn’t enough to overcome their scoring drought in the fourth the infectious confidence that Robinson brought all night.
The Warriors played without Stephen Curry (third game in a row) and are limited in the Big Men as Andris Beidrins is out and it looked like Kwame Brown injured his right shoulder last night on a hard foul. While the Warriors are sitting with a 3-6 record, their three wins are impressive. They’ve beat three playoff contending teams (Heat, Chicago Bulls and NY Knicks) but sustained losses to mediocre teams that they can beat. If they can find a way to channel that energy and confidence from last night’s game moving forward, they will have a great chance to be a surprise team of the West. They play against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday before embarking on a four game East Coast trip that sees two back to backs. It will be a good momentum builder to get a win on Wednesday before heading out.