HEAT 76, Hornets 90 Recap
The Miami HEAT lost Wednesday night, 90-76, to the New Orleans Hornets, and its a result that doesnt matter one bit. It wouldnt matter had LeBron James and Dwyane Wade played, nor would it have mattered if the score were flip flopped.
What does matter, and what might matter from now until June, is what happened in the third quarter.
First, a little background. Its not an exact science, but the third quarter can very often be the most crucial quarter in an NBA game. The first quarter is unpredictable, as teams often stick to their usual early offenses and go through a feeling out process, sometimes coming out too high or too low. The second quarter belongs to the bench units and, again, players are getting on the court for the first time. The fourth is its own animal. It ultimately decides the game, but the table setter is that first starter rotation in the third and the burst offered by the bench in its second shift.
No matter what happened in the first half, a third quarter team is regrouped and adjusted, and its there that collective talent wins out with the game having progressed far enough to nullify the affect of fluke, outlier-type influences. Basically, you own the third, you own the game, and over the years, the best teams rise to the top when it comes to average third-quarter scoring margins.
Two years ago, the best third quarter teams were the Lakers and Celtics, outscoring opponents by 3.1 and 2.4 points, respectively, each team routinely blowing opponents out after halftime. Last year, at +1.7, the best were Orlando and Oklahoma City, with the Lakers again just behind.
What does all this mean for Miami? Well, with a starting lineup of Chris Bosh, Mike Miller, Joel Anthony, Kenny Hasbrouck and Patrick Beverley, the HEAT came back from a 45-29 halftime deficit to take a 65-64 lead heading into the fourth.
Thats 36 points in the third 20 alone from Bosh, in All-Star form and, just as importantly, just 19 from the Hornets, playing their regular season starters minus David West.
Of course, this wouldnt mean much if it wasnt becoming a trend, but it is. Excluding last Saturdays loss to San Antonio when neither Bosh nor James played in the second half, the HEAT are, through four games, outscoring opponents by an average margin of 10.75 points in the third quarter, including three instances where the opponent scored 20 or fewer in the period.
Again, the best average margin last season was +1.7.
Extreme numbers such as these always regress, but whats important is that they hint at how this team plays out of the break. And that the level of play is coming from the top.
Patrick Beverley is one of a few players fighting for the final spots on the roster, and he showed it against the Hornets.
Beverley took an elbow from Chris Paul in the first quarter, a blow that took him out of the game and required four stitches. Originally, the report was that Beverley would not be returning for the rest of the night. But sure enough, when the third quarter rolled around, Beverley was out there. He finished with nine points, five rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes.
Entering Wednesday, Joel Anthony had not taken a single shot in four preseason appearances. So, naturally, when Miami was embarking on its dominating third-quarter voyage, Anthony found his way into the scoring column.
While not known for his post scoring, Anthony calmly dribbled right-to-left across the lane, backed down his defender before spinning over his right shoulder for a smooth layup off the glass. A few plays later, Anthony again spun over his right shoulder, this time for a short turnaround jumper that would miss, but again looked very smooth.
Shoot till you miss
Shooting 35 percent from the three point line before the game, James Jones hit 5-of-11 from behind the arc. Mike Miller joined in with a highly efficient 2-of-3 from deep.