Wolves (2-3) at Heat (3-2)
6:30 pm CST
The Wolves finish their stint in Florida with a game against the Heat tonight in Miami. Obviously last night put a damper on things for the Wolves in the near term, but the schedule is relentless and they will take the court again tonight looking to even their record at 3-3.
The Heat are, of course, trying to reinvent themselves after LeBron James left to return to Cleveland following four seasons, four Finals appearances, and two titles. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade remain and are the focal point of the team, and they added small forward Luol Deng via free agency to play the small forward spot. They aren't the same title contenders they have been, but they are also not bereft of talent.
The Heat won their first three games of the season before losing the last two at home to the Rockets and at Charlotte. Bosh has been the big offensive force for them, averaging 24 a night on a 61% true shooting percentage. He's embraced the three pointer, averaging over 4 3PAs/36 and making them at a 43% clip in the early going. He's also getting to the line 8.5 times/36, and posting a defensive rebound percentage over 30%, and an assist percentage over 15%. In other words, he's dominating.
Led by Bosh, and to a lesser extent Wade who is having a good start to the season as well, the Heat are 6th in the league in offensive rating. Their three point shooting has been good, primarily behind Bosh and Shawne Williams who is 12-26 on the season behind the arc. They shoot it well and get to the line, and have been very hard to stop so far.
They have also struggled to stop opponents, as they are giving up a 53% efg so far. Opponents are shooting an above average percentage from every distance on the floor against the Heat, and are getting a higher than average percentage of attempts at the rim and from three. Part of this might be that they have played the Rockets, who are committed to taking those types of shots, but they also give up a high fta/fg rate. The defense has not been stout in the early going.
It wouldn't be a Heat preview without a shoutout to global hero Josh "McBob" McRoberts. McBob is laying low early in the season, not playing much and muting his impact. It's all part of his plan to take the world by storm later and leave the rest of the league gasping in his wake.
The Wolves. Oof. Optimism was high after their excellent win on Wednesday in Brooklyn, only to be dashed last night against the Magic when Ricky Rubio went down with an ankle injury that appears likely to keep him out of the lineup for a while, which was followed by an overtime loss to the Magic.
We can't have nice things.
It's been utterly apparent early this season that Rubio is the best and most indispensable player on the roster. The team just does not function anywhere near as well when he isn't on the floor, and now he's going to be out for an undetermined amount of time.
I'm not expecting good results. Mo Williams will step in as the starting point guard, and while he's shown the ability to score on occasion, he is not nearly as good a director of offense nor is he anywhere near the defensive player Rubio is. Zach LaVine appears to be the new backup point guard, which does not fill me with confidence. We'll get to see our lottery pick; I guess that's something. But he's appeared thoroughly unready to play at an NBA level thus far, and I don't think things are going to be smooth with him out there.
We'll have more on the injury when we learn more. In the meantime, the Wolves are likely going to struggle. Tonight they will need to find a way to take advantage of the fact that the Heat play small, with Bosh and Williams at the front court positions and Chris Andersen out with injury. Bosh is a very good defender, but hopefully Nikola Pekovic can use his strength to advantage. Saddling Bosh with a couple of early fouls especially could give the Wolves a chance to be competitive tonight.
Game thread later. Here's a link to our friends at Hot Hot Hoops. Go check out the email exchange Zach did with them in advance of this tilt.