Heat (54-26) at Wizards (42-38)
April 14, 2014 at 7:00 PM
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
TV: CSN Washington
Radio: 106.7FM The Fan
Projected starting lineups:
C- Marcin Gortat
PF- Trevor Booker
SF- Trevor Ariza
SG- Bradley Beal
PG- John Wall
C- Udonis Haslem
PF- Michael Beasley
SF- Shane Battier
SG- Dwyane Wade
PG- Mario Chalmers
Last time they met was..
March 10, 2014 @ AmericanAirlines Arena
A lot of teams have a lot to lose tonight. The Wizards are guaranteed a playoff spot, but their seeding could be the difference between a first round sweep or a chance to get to the 2nd round. With the Heat and the Pacers jockeying for the 1-seed, the battle for the 6th and 7th seeds becomes all the more intriguing. Translation: Nobody wants to play the Miami Heat. Beating the Pacers in the first round is unlikely as a low seed but Indiana’s slide is more offensive than what RGIII attempts when he’s on the run. They’ve struggled to score and dropped six of eight games at a recent point. Playing the Pacers in the first round is daunting, but not more hopeless than playing the two-time defending champions. Edging Indiana would be surprising, while knocking out Miami in the 1st round would be a monumental upset.
If Indiana wins their final game against Orlando in a couple days, the Heat are powerless in controlling their own destiny. You’d assume that the Pacers should easily handle the Magic and snatch the #1 seed, but anything is possible. All the Heat can do is win their last two games and hope Indy loses.
Let’s assume that the Heat get stuck with the 2nd seed. They would match up with the 7th seed. Currently, the Bobcats hold the 7th seed. The Wizards hold the 6th. Washington controls their own destiny in the sense that if they win their last two games, they will be entrenched into that spot. If Charlotte loses one of their last two games (versus Atlanta and Chicago) then that also means the Wizards will be guaranteed the 6th seed.
If Washington loses one of their last two games (Miami, Boston) and Charlotte wins their last two, then the Charlotte Bobcats push the Wizards into the 7th seed. Translation: They’d play the Miami Heat. Translation: What should the Wizards build on in the offseason? If the Wizards claim the 6th seed, I have full faith in them competing with Chicago or Toronto. It will be an uphill battle in both cases, but I don’t see those series’ going any less than six games.
Which Heat team should we expect tonight?
The Wizards have the ability to beat the mess out of Boston in the season finale, but will have to play nearly perfect to beat the Heat tonight even though it’s been reported that the Heat may sit LeBron and Chris Bosh. Whether or not Miami has thrown the towel in on obtaining the 1st seed is up for debate. If Miami feels like they don’t have a chance then Spoelstra might take the big dogs out of the game early. Dwyane Wade is already being reported to only play limited minutes tonight, and we might see an emptying of the bench in the 3rd quarter.
The other scenario is that Miami doesn’t give up on its quest for homecourt throughout and comes out firing. Most teams – regardless of what’s at stake, don’t like to go into the playoffs on a sour note. Losing the 1st seed in a collapse of sorts is sour, but going into the playoffs losing two of your last three games doesn’t exactly boost team morale. The Heat haven’t prided themselves on dominating all 82 games of the regular season as much as they’ve emphasized going into the playoffs playing their best basketball. Then again, that was before they’ve won two titles. That type of success can change you, and it could change the Heat’s philosophy to resting some guys for the last two games so that they can go into the playoffs fresh.
All things being equal, the Wizards should be glad to have Nene back for this game. John Wall will have a tough time taking over as he usually does, considering that the Miami Heat’s style of play focuses on trapping all pick and rolls and severely limiting the driving in ability of slashing point guards. The Wizards struggle offensively when Wall isn’t going because guys like Ariza and Beal are either hot or on ice. If Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza can start hitting some triples then that should open up the spots at the top and corners of the key for Nene and Marcin Gortat.
Getting the ball into Nene’s hands in his sweet spots would be beneficial. Making sure guys start cutting and rotating to open spots on the court to utilize Nene’s elite interior passing skills is imperative. In essence, other players will have to open up the game for Wall, and not vice versa. Al Harrington hasn’t been sharp in the last two games against the Heat, notably going 1 for 11 from the field. The bench unit has done a solid job in the last month of spelling the Wizards starters and they will need for that to continue if they stand a chance tonight or in the playoffs. If Andre Miller and Al Harrington, along with Drew Gooden, can contribute tonight and beyond then the Wizards have a shot to beat anybody.
Given the circumstances surrounding the implications of both teams wins and losses, the game tonight for the Wizards should have a playoff atmosphere. A win against the two-time defending champions on their home court would give some Wizards some extra confidence going into the purgatory of the NBA year. However, they won’t be in the playoffs for long if they draw the team with the highest ceiling and best playoff reputation in the 1st round. Tonight the Wizards have to beat the Heat to stay out of the kitchen. Well, at least for now.