Should Dwyane Wade play in Denver, or should LeBron James go without his co-pilot?
In another installment of the Heat Index's 3-on-3 series, our writers give their takes on the storylines before the Heat visit the Nuggets on Thursday and aim to improve to 7-3.
1. Fact or Fiction: The Heat need to change starters to fix defensive ills.
Tom Haberstroh: Fiction. The Heat's bench defense has been atrocious thus far so I would start there, not the starting lineup. Pairing Joel Anthony with Ray Allen instead of Udonis Haslem would make a ton of sense to see if it can stop the bleeding. Haslem isn't a threat with his mid-range jumper anymore, making it harder to justify him playing over a defensive savant like Anthony. No massive overhaul necessary yet.
Michael Wallace: Fiction. The Heat have lost three games this season to three of the hottest squads in the league who have proved that beating Miami was no fluke. We're three weeks into the regular season. Relax. If these defensive lapses persist for another three weeks or so, or after 20 games, then it might be time to re-evaluate the approach.
Brian Windhorst: Fiction. The starters issue is almost always, ahem, a nonstarter with me. I have very little concern who starts. Whether you make Shane Battier a reserve or not he's going to have matchup problems guarding power forwards. Where the Heat need to start is to not allow their man to embarrass them off the dribble. That's the genesis of a lot of problems.
2. Over/Under: 1.5 games Wade misses before he plays again.
Haberstroh: Over. Look at the schedule. The Heat could rest Wade in Denver where they've traditionally been blown out, then give him the night off again against the lowly Suns on Saturday and wait until next Wednesday to activate him for the Bucks game in Miami. Take two games off, get a week of rest. If the foot is really bothering him, this seems to be the most prudent path.
Wallace: Over. At least, that should be the case. More disturbing to me than the defensive miscues or the struggles on the road is the fact that both Wade and LeBron James are banged up already. At some point, it's only human for LeBron to hit some sort of wall considering all the high-stakes ball he's played this calendar year. Wade, on the other hand, is having a horrible trip. With his foot now injured, it might be best to shut him down for the final two games in Denver and Phoenix.
Windhorst: Under. He'll sit one game, maybe. In speaking to Dwyane yesterday I didn't get the impression he felt this was a serious issue.
3. Over/Under: 70 Denver points in the paint on Thursday.
Haberstroh: Over. The elevation? Playing less than 20 hours after walking off the court a thousand miles away? Gave up 72 points in the paint last time they faced "the Manimal" & Co.? I'll take the over.
Wallace: Under. Slightly. I can see this one getting away early from Miami, as has been the case in recent visits to Denver. All signs point to the rested Nuggets setting yet another high-scoring ambush for the weary Heat.
Windhorst: Under. I don't have a good reason; it's the best paint scoring team in league and the Heat have been terrible on defense. Ty Lawson is counting down the minutes to the game. But for some reason I feel the Heat will beat low expectations tonight.