Paint Job: Miami Must Control Inside
Seven shot attempts in the basket area -- that's all Miami surrendered to Orlando in the teams' first meeting on Oct. 29. Although Dwight Howard played only 29 minutes after falling into early foul trouble, the Heat's razor-sharp defensive schemes deserve much of the credit for confining the Magic's half-court game to the outskirts of the perimeter.
Rewatching the game nearly four weeks later is a bizarre exercise. The Heat's defense against Orlando is spinning at 78 RPM. Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and the basketball player formerly known as Joel Anthony jump out aggressively onto Jameer Nelson's shoulder on every ball screen. Those dribble-handoffs run through Dwight Howard at the top of the key. Every Magic recipient is either met by a defender on the other side or is denied altogether with the Heater playing directly on his hip.
While the Magic pass the ball around the perimeter desperately searching for a way in, the Heat tighten the pressure on the ball side of the floor, doing their best Boston Celtics imitation. On the rare occasions when Nelson or other perimeter players are able to make progress or Howard receives an entry pass off the block, Miami's help-line defense is quick and decisive with its rotations. We haven't seen that kind of effort from Miami in almost a month -- but beating the Magic on their home floor will demand it.
Heavyweight Showdown: Heat Battle Magic
Fantasy Focus: Williams In Avery's Doghouse
Special to ESPN.com
Nets coach Avery Johnson suspended Terrence Williams for Tuesday's and Wednesday's games. Johnson said he'd already fined Williams numerous times for disciplinary reasons, and a suspension was the next step. From our perspective, it's the next step toward fantasy anonymity. Williams still has plenty of talent, but that means nothing when you get on the court for only 14 minutes in seven games before being suspended for a pair of games. Don't forget about Williams, but he's so far in Avery's doghouse it's safe to cut him for another player who is actually playing in basketball games.
NBA News And Notes: CP3 vs. D-Will
• A battle of elite point guards will take place Wednesday night when Chris Paul and the Hornets tip off against Deron Williams and the Jazz. Paul and Williams, who both joined the league in 2005, have faced each other 14 times in their careers, with Utah posting 11 victories in those games. Their per-game statistics are very similar in head-to-head play: Williams 16.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 8.4 assists, 2.8 turnovers; Paul 15.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 turnovers.
• Dirk Nowitzki's 33.7 points-per-game average is the highest for any NBA player against the Thunder since their relocation. LeBron James (31.5) is the only other player averaging at least 30 ppg during that time against the Thunder.
• The Heat have been outrebounded 574-572 this season. It's a difference of only two boards, but since the 1970-71 season, only three teams have won an NBA title after being outrebounded during the regular season.
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Local Outlook: Nov. 24
ESPN.com's local sites check in pregame with the latest news and notes from their local teams:
BOSTON -- Doc Rivers has seen it from both sides. Early in his Boston incarnation, he had a team of callow kids and could never be sure which group would show up from game to game. He now has the opposite of that, sort of. It's a veteran team. It's a better team, for sure, but because veteran teams have a tendency to, er, coast, the coach also can't know for sure what group he will see on any given night.
DALLAS -- The Mavericks are 9-4 heading into their Wednesday night showdown with the Oklahoma City Thunder and remain one of the top defensive teams in the league. But in Tuesday's home win over the Detroit Pistons, we saw a repeat of the same troubling offensive bog-down that we saw in Friday's home loss to the Chicago Bulls: a bunch of guys standing around watching the Big German do his thing. And that simply can't happen.
LOS ANGELES -- The days of the Bulls serving as a "JV" team to the Lakers' "varsity" are over as far as Joakim Noah is concerned. Although the Bulls lost on Tuesday, he is convinced they can play with anyone, including the Lakers.
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Nets' Terrence Williams may feel 100 percent physically, but the second-year swingman will be inactive for the next two games, including Tuesday night against the Atlanta Hawks, for "repeatedly violating team policy," according to head coach Avery Johnson.
NEW YORK -- Raymond Felton doesn't do "geeked." Or so he would have everyone believe.
Playing against the team he helped lead to the playoffs last season, the same team that believed be wasn't worth the $7.5 million the New York Knicks were willing to pay him, Felton stepped to the free throw line with 2.1 seconds left Tuesday night and his team ahead by a single point.