Thursday, January 2, 2014
3-on-3: Warriors vs. Heat
The Warriors, who have emerged as a contender in the West, are in town to take on Ray Allen and the Heat.
1. The Heat's top priority in 2014 should be ...
Tom Haberstroh: Winning the championship. And that means putting health above all else. Although the Pacers are gunning for that No. 1 seed for home-court advantage, the Heat shouldn't feel compelled to go all-out. Most conference finals never get to a Game 7. Better to rest Dwyane Wade and float into the No. 2 seed.
Michael Wallace: Three-peat. Winning a championship should be first and foremost on the Heat's to-do list. Of course, there's that other small issue of keeping LeBron James in tow as he considers whether to opt out of his contract at the end of the season to either test free agency outright or to sign a long-term extension with Miami. But the Heat, as a team, have no control over that right now. What they can control is maximizing the moments from now through the Finals in June.
Brian Windhorst: Health, particularly Dwyane Wade's. I will continue to reinforce my feeling that this is the most important facet of the season, ahead of achieving the top seed and developing the Greg Oden experiment. Playing a Game 7 on the road would be tough, but if the Heat have to do it without Wade because of knee problems, I simply don't like their chances.
2. Fact or Fiction: Stephen Curry is the best point guard in the West.
Haberstroh: Fiction. I'll take Chris Paul even though Curry's assists have skyrocketed this season. Paul is the better defender and still keeps his turnovers to a minimum, unlike Curry. The PER gap -- 27.4 for Paul and 23.0 for Curry -- is just too much to overlook. Curry's No. 2 in my book, though.
Wallace: Fiction. But Curry makes a much tougher argument than I initially thought on the surface. Chris Paul still gets the nod as the best point guard in the West. But when you size up their production this season, Curry is only slightly behind at this stage. Counting points and assists, Paul accounts for an estimated 44 points per game; Curry is right at 43. Paul is a better defender because of his ability to disrupt passing lanes, but Curry's overall package has him firmly at the No. 2 spot.
Windhorst: Fiction. Let me say it this way: Fiction! Curry is the best shooter in the West, probably one of the best pure shooters of all time. But Chris Paul is the best point guard in the game as long as LeBron continues to refute that he often essentially plays point guard.
3. Over/Under 11.5: Heat's January win total (won 12 last month).
Haberstroh: Over. Of their 14 games, the Heat have just four games against teams above .500, and one of them is against the Horford-less Hawks. The other three are at home against OKC, San Antonio and Golden State. My fake crystal ball sees a 12-2 January record.
Wallace: Under. Slightly under. The three back-to-back sets (Knicks-Nets, 76ers-Bobcats, Hawks-Celtics) will be tougher than they appear. In addition, the Heat are in a stretch where they will have played 11 of 14 on the road by Jan. 21. And the month ends with home games against San Antonio and Oklahoma City. It will be a tremendous challenge to match December's 11-win total, but an 11-3 month puts them right beneath the "under" and, overall, there's really no shame in that.
Windhorst: Under. They have 14 games this month and more importantly, they have four back-to-backs. That means at least four games without Wade. They also have a six-game Eastern road trip. They have had one home loss per month, so I predict they'll drop one at home, especially with several strong West teams coming in. They're 4-4 when Wade sits the entire game, so figure that in. Unless there's any drama, I see a 10-4 or 11-3 month.