The Miami Heat does not have an all-star. It didn’t have an all-star when the rosters were announced, it didn’t have an all-star after Adam Silver replaced the injured John Wall and it probably still won’t have an all-star when he does the same for Kevin Love. But the Heat does have a chance to move into third place in the Eastern Conference with a win in Cleveland tonight and that’s all the team is focused on at the moment.
A game back in the loss column, Miami visits Cleveland tonight for a chance to make another move in the standings. And while it’s getting healthier, Cleveland braces for the road ahead without Kevin Love.
Love broke a bone in his hand in last night’s loss in Detroit — a team, by the way, playing without Blake Griffin, who was acquired in a trade for two other starters, Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris. Love will miss the next six weeks and now Cleveland travels back home to play the second night of a back-to-back against a feisty Miami squad.
All of the variables ahead of this game point to the Heat. Love is out; Cleveland has been terrible of late and giving up 125 points to last night’s version of the Pistons is as bad as it gets; meanwhile, the Heat remain underrated around the league.
It dropped a bad, bad loss at home to the Kings over the weekend. Miami had a double-digits lead with about five minutes to play before serving it up on its own home floor. Coach Spo’s team bounced back to beat the Hornets two days later and win in Dallas in its last game.
Regardless of who Miami plays, the game seems to be close in the last few minutes. It’s been a problem when Miami gets an opponent like the Kings but the Heat has also proven to be able to play with any team in the league and it’s because of the depth and unselfish play.
I love the balance Miami has. There isn’t a true point guard and that’s the most glaring need but the combination of Goran Dragic, James Johnson and Justise Winslow has gotten the job done. Tyler Johnson is back after missing over a week with a badly sprained ankle and he can chip in as a playmaker on the perimeter. Hassan Whiteside is healthy and active on the boards. He kept Miami in the game early against Dallas with several offensive rebounds and put-backs. Josh Richardson is a budding star.
The defense is Miami’s strength, though. Winslow is a stopper and he will get a lot of time on LeBron James tonight. Bam Adebayo is also an intriguing defender because of how he can move his feet on the perimeter as a big. It wouldn’t surprise me if he matched up with LeBron for a few minutes tonight. Richardson can lock you up too and Whiteside changes everything when he’s erasing shots at the rim.
James is the obvious x-factor here. If he decides to go off against his former team, especially after last night’s embarrassing performance, everything goes out the window. Assuming Miami can at least hold him down a little bit, this team is prepared to win on the road. Even if it doesn’t pull it out, there’s a great chance it stays close enough for the three points to come into play.
Free Pick: Miami +3