3-on-3 preview: Cleveland revisits Miami
February, 7, 2012
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Will LeBron James and the Heat see twice as many wins as Byron Scott's team this season?
The Cavaliers face the Heat in Miami again after losing exactly two weeks ago to the day. The Cavalier are coming off a big win over the defending champs and now, they go to battle against the East conference champs.
Will the Heat win twice as many games as the Cavs before it's all said and done? Should Mike Miller jump Shane Battier on the depth chart? Are Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao the next best players after the Heat's Big Three?
In another installment of Heat Index's 3-on-3 series, our writers give their takes on the story lines before the Heat (18-6) host the (9-13) Cavaliers.
1. Fact or Fiction: The Heat will double the Cavs' final win total.
Tom Haberstroh: Fact. I love what I'm seeing from Cleveland this season, especially Kyrie Irving and Anderon Varejao, but the Cavs' record is artificially boosted by one of the easiest schedules in the league. 48 wins for Miami and 24 wins for Cleveland sounds about right to me.
Michael Wallace: Fiction. Barring a major injury to Kyrie Irving, there's absolutely no reason the Cavaliers shouldn't compete for a playoff spot this season. As of now, they're right in the mix for the eighth seed with Milwaukee. I've got the Heat going 50-16 this season, so that would mean the Cavs would be capped at no more than 25 wins. It'll be close, but I think Cleveland will avoid being lapped. I see them wining 28-30 games.
Brian Windhorst: Fact. This is a tough one, though. The Cavs have progressively gotten better as Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao have played better and batter. They're about to start a nine-game homestand that could see them rack up some victories. But the back end of the Cavs schedule is brutal. At one point they play 16 games in 23 days. It is hard to believe they'll be able to get through that successfully especially with the team looking to sell off a few pieces for draft picks if they can.
2. Fact or Fiction: M. Miller should play more than Battier going forward.
Haberstroh: Fiction. I think they should play essentially the same minute. You know, I don't think Miller will continue to shoot 54 percent from downtown and I also don't think Battier will continue to shoot 31 percent inside the arc. Things will level out and I much prefer Battier on the defensive end. The Heat have one of those "good" problems on their hands as they like to say.
Wallace: Fiction. I think coach Erik Spoelstra should go with the hot hand in crunch time between the two. Shane's shot is horrible right now. But he makes up for it defensively, and has already proved he can be a late-game defensive specialist capable of slowing the opponent's star player. This situation is what it was always supposed to be for the Heat: A luxury. Both players can give you more than their 3-point shooting.
Windhorst: Fact. It's almost dangerous to call what Battier is in a slump because that implies that's a periodic dip in production. But if you look at it, Battier hasn't been able to make a shot since the start of training camp. Miller is been playing reasonably well and been part of some productive lineups. But it will be fluid. It is hard to believe that Miller is going to be able to stay healthy for the rest of the season.
3. Fact or Fiction: Irving/Varejao are the 4th/5th best guys in the game.
Haberstroh: Fact, but did you know Irving has a better PER than Chris Bosh right now? I'm not willing to say he's better than the Heat power forward just yet, but Irving is already a top 10 point guard and rising fast. Elmers Varejao is one of the supreme glue guys in the league. If you're the Heat, you might not trade Mario Chalmers and Bosh for Irving and Varejao for this season, but you'd at least spend a moment pondering it, right?
Wallace: Fact. Kyrie being the fourth-best player is a no-brainer here. But it gets a little fuzzy with Varejao coming in at No. 5. I know Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller and even Mario Chalmers would strongly disagree with that slotting. But the reality is Varejao brings the kind of size, toughness and defensive demeanor any team would covet. If I'm drafting only players from those two rosters, he'd be my fifth overall pick. Truth is, Irving and Varejao would easily start on this Heat team.
Windhorst: Fact. Check back in a year or so and Irving might be higher than fourth. Varejao won't make the All-Star team but it's a legitimate discussion.