LeBron James is in D.C. tonight to take on the Washington Wizards. He’s bringing some other guys with him, the Miami Heat, and they are favored by 13 points. The key for the Wizards is really if they choose to lose honorably or dishonorably. That’s what it boils down to (and containment, surely Randy Wittman is thinking, as he did versus the Knicks). Not saying the Wizards can’t win — there’s always an ‘any given night’ thing in the NBA – but it’s probably advisable that on this Friday night, Washington cleans the wound, bites down on a towel, and hopes the doctor extracts the bullet as soon as possible. For today’s 3-on-3 we have Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) of The Heat Index/ESPN.com, along with TAI’s Markus Allen (@mayminded) and John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend). Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) Miami has already scored at least 50 points in the paint in nine games this season — a mark they hit 11 times all of last season. Washington has given up 50 or more points in the paint in six games this season. Against a likely frontline of JaVale McGee, Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton, will the Heat ride roughshod over the Wizards defense to score at least 50 in the painted area? How much fight will the home team have?
HABERSTROH: The Heat will have a much easier time piercing the paint than they did on Wednesday against Dwight Howard, that’s for sure. McGee might block shots, but he’s nowhere near the type of presence as Howard. There are two kinds of points in the paint: points scored in the halfcourt and points scored on the break. The Heat have struggled recently generating the former. Something tells me the Wizards might be waking up a sleeping giant.
ALLEN: Given their record, the Wizards are not that bad in points allowed in the paint, coming in at 40.2 (20th in the league). JaVale McGee had two games last year against the Heat in which he had four blocks in each, one of those performances coming in a close game that Washington lost 94-95. If JaVale stays out of foul trouble, the Wizards can definitely hold them to under 50 points in the paint; if he gets into early foul trouble, due to contact from LeBron or D-Wade driving, then Kevin Seraphin will certainly not be able to hold it down.
TOWNSEND: The Heat will score 50 points in the painted area, and if they don’t, they will have come close. Miami’s biggest scorers this season are LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and (somewhat surprisingly) Mario Chalmers, who is listed as questionable versus Washington. Chalmers has scored more than 10 points 17 times this season and is shooting 56.7 percent from 3-point range over his last five games. Without his touch from the outside, the Heat will have to mix it up inside the arc; I’m not sure the Wizards have the brawn or the brains to stop the Superfriends.
#2) As Wizards, Nick Young averaged 27.0 points per game in three games versus the Heat last season, Jordan Crawford averaged 20.5 points per game in two games against Miami (39 points came in 46 minutes in a Mar. 30 meeting in D.C., 2 points came in 7.5 minutes during a Feb. 25 game in Florida). Which player will have a better game and why?
HABERSTROH: Nick Young is a far more talented shooter from downtown so the Heat should expect a stronger outing from him. (Sidenote: Jordan Crawford should give his 3-point game the D-Wade Treatment.) The Heat’s three-point defense has been atrocious this season, which is somewhat a product of its own design. Expect Young to see some daylight — you know he’s going to use it. That Crawford game screams outlier to me.
ALLEN: I can see Jordan Crawford coming off the bench and scoring more efficiently than Nick Young, but Young will have more points. Nick Young’s 3-pointer is the key, and he must get it going early. In the loss to the Knicks he went 0-5 from long range, ending with just seven points, and in the loss to the Clippers he went 1-5 from three, leading to 14 points. If Young’s 3-pointer is falling, expect him to continue to pour it on (as long as he’s set up, not freestyling on his own). Otherwise, Crawford will come in and outperform him.
TOWNSEND: I kind of like Jordan Crawford off the bench. Nick Young will do as Nick Young always does: try to get buckets. Although he’s been shooting the rock better as of late, Young (and his weak handles) will also be matched up against Dwyane Wade, a disruptive on-ball defender who looks to have made a full recovery from an ankle injury. Crawford, going up against the likes of Mike “It Is What It Is” Miller, should be able to use his quickness and point guard skills to find openings and setup teammates.
#3) A win Friday night would mark the Heat’s sixth consecutive victory over the Wizards in D.C. — Miami has also won 12 of their last 13 contests against the Washington. Additionally, a win would give Miami a 20-7 record, tying their best 27-game start in franchise history. Can the Wiz stop the Heat from changing the record books at their expense?
HABERSTROH: I don’t see it. The Heat are a league-best 15-3 in games with rest and that’s not a good sign for the Wizards. The Heat have three All-Stars; the Wizards have an almost fossilized Rashard Lewis.
ALLEN: The Wizards should have some fight and stand a chance against a Heat team that has had a couple close games against the worst teams in the league. The Heat have had victories of six points or less against the Bobcats, Raptors, Pistons and Cavaliers this season. In a losing season like this one, a win against the Heat can help soothe the pain of this horrible campaign. Players like John Wall, and Nick Young want to take this opportunity to showcase their talents against stars such as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and that itself is plenty of motivation. The Wizards had a morale boosting win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the Heat are coming off a loss to Orlando, and certainly don’t want to make it two in a row, going into the game Sunday against the Hawks.
TOWNSEND: The Biscayne Bullies can be beat; the Magic bested the Heat 102-89 this past Wednesday, but did so by making 17 3-pointers and dominating the boards (48-38), helped by Dwight Howard’s 24 rebounds. The Wizards are a better rebounding team than advertised, but refuse to turn down questionable jump shots — they don’t mean to be rude, dude — which makes me think the Heat will make history tonight. They’re too fast, too physical, and just too damn smart to be upset by the Washington Wizards.