How will Miami's small-ball lineup fair against Utah's size in the paint?
The Miami Heat search for their fourth straight win when they host the Utah Jazz Saturday night. Have LeBron James & Co. regained their championship form? What do the Jazz need to do before the trade deadline? Which team's scheme is best for a title run? Our team of Heat writers breaks ahead of the matchup in South Beach.
1. Have the Heat rediscovered their mojo?
Tom Haberstroh: Yes. They rediscovered Joel Anthony. As much as it seemed like an effort crisis for the Heat, it really was just a matter of personnel. The lineup data underscores the fact that Rashard Lewis wasn't cutting it as a rotation member, even though he was shooting well from downtown. Anthony, on the other hand, makes Miami's defense so much more formidable and provides a spark for the transition game.
Israel Gutierrez: They never really lost it. In fact, the brief slide might’ve been a result of too much mojo. This group, seemingly like any great team, is at its best when it's challenged. The Heat needed to be questioned before they showed off consistently great play.
Michael Wallace: I'm not totally convinced yet, but it's certainly looking like the Heat are starting to at least turn a corner. LeBron James has led the way to three straight victories by a combined 56 points. Miami has also improved its defensive ranking, moving from the bottom third in the league two weeks ago to just outside the top 10. We always knew the Heat had this in them, but the bigger issue is whether they are motivated enough to sustain this level of play right now.
2. What should the Jazz do at the trade deadline?
Haberstroh: Trade at least one of their bigs. If there isn't a "#freefavors" hashtag on Twitter, we've failed. Derrick Favors is ready to step in now, but Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson haven't let him get the playing time he deserves. Both Millsap and Jefferson are expendable because of Favors and Enes Kanter but because of they're expiring contracts. They need backcourt help if they want to make a move into the elite West circle.
Gutierrez: Get as much as they can in return for Millsap and/or Jefferson. With Favors and Kanter as their bigs of the future, Utah needs to sacrifice this season for a chance to grab some quality players under contract for a few years. The Jazz can’t rely on free agency to lure talent.
Wallace: The Jazz are just one of those teams that seem to have two of everything, but no one really, really special at any position. From a performance standpoint, they're essentially the Atlanta Hawks of the Western Conference. My guess is they move Millsap and his expiring contract to land a quality player on a longer deal. Perhaps even the Lakers might be interested in some sort of deal to swap power forwards with Utah.
3. Which style do you prefer: Supersized Jazz or small-ball Heat?
Haberstroh: Small ball. All else equal, I want athleticism and spacing. Post-up basketball isn't nearly as fun to watch from a basketball aesthetic standpoint. Give me open court, attack and kick-out ball every time -- the more movement, the better.
Gutierrez: To watch? It's easily the Heat’s small ball. To win in the regular season? The big-man style is probably easier, assuming they’re talented. To win in the postseason? These days small ball might be better, if only because there aren’t enough talented bigs.
Wallace: How about "LeBron-ball," which is whatever style is played when James is making majority of the decisions with the rock in his hands. That said, the last time the Jazz visited Miami they overcame a triple-double from James and 39 points from Dwyane Wade and rallied from a 22-point early deficit to win in overtime. So it's obvious that anything can happen. But the Heat seem to have regained their defensive footing, and it's not like they're all of a sudden afraid of big teams.