Friday, December 4, 2009

Payback is a Nugget

There's nothing like a little redemption to prove one's resilience and tenacity. It's not so fun when the team getting redemption is the opposition. That's what happen to the Miami Heat on Thursday night as the Denver Nuggets trounced Dwyane Wade and company to the tune of 114 to 96.

The difference maker in last night's game was the commonly underestimated Chauncey Billups. Denver's starting point guard was limited in their first match-up against the Heat back in Miami, facing foul trouble early and often. Billups displayed the value he brings to the Nuggets last night with his seven assists and countless other set-up plays. If he wasn't getting the assist, he was opening up another player to make the extra pass. And that was the stamp of the night: open shots as a result of effective passing.

Carmelo Anthony got his dosage of points, logging in a total of 22, but the point distribution was well spread with six Nuggets reaching double-digits. Miami was only able to muster two double-digit scorers in Dwyane Wade (25) and Michael Beasley (17).

The fast tempo game worked against the Heat as they boast more of a mix-it-up style; sometimes they run, other times they use half court sets. Denver was ready for a track meet and they had their way with Miami blazing down the Pepsi Center hardwood. Interestingly enough, the game statistics are deceiving as Miami actually scored 11 fast break points compared to Denver's 6. But the speedy tempo was seen more in the the shot clock as the Nuggets hoisted shots early in their 24-second spans.

With no victory in sight entering the fourth quarter, Coach Erik Spoelstra, whom was coaching his 100th game as head coach, began to reach into his bench and rest his starters for the next game. The Los Angeles Lakers will be a more formidable opponent to face and the Heat will need all the energy they can harvest. Last season, the Heat and Lakers split the series 1-1, but Miami has lost the last four match-ups in Los Angeles. The last time Miami left L.A. with a victory was back in 2004 on Christmas Day, when Shaquille O'Neal made a triumphant homecoming appearance at the Staples Center. The game ended in a 104-102 overtime win.

Michael Beasley's Progression

Miami's sophomore forward has now recorded eight straight games with at least 14 points per game (ppg) and is averaging 18.8 ppg in that span. Beasley has also improved his rebounding stats as he is averaging 8.8 boards in the last eight games, with two 12-rebound showings.

The development of this talented young athlete is essential to Miami's success today and in the future. This stretch of elevated play has proven that Beasley is gaining confidence in his game and is ready to continue his progressions. Once his performances stabilize into a consistent double-double(esque) state, the Heat will be able to improve as an organization.

This may be Wade's team, but Beasley is becoming the worthy sidekick.

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