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Tag:New Orleans Hornets
Posted on: November 15, 2010 11:21 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2010 11:39 pm
 

Mavs zero in on Paul to give Hornets first loss

Dirk and Terry help Mavericks send Hornets to first season loss as they corral Chris Paul in second half. Posted by Matt Moore

Well, it had to happen sometime. The Hornets had managed to gun out to a franchise-best 8-0 start this season with new head coach Monty Williams leading revamped bench and wing units alongside a healthy Chris Paul. But Dirk Nowitzki and a very solid overall performance from the Mavericks proved too much and the Hornets suffered their first loss this season in Dallas 95-98 .

The Mavericks have now knocked off Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul in a week, and though Paul dropped a line of 22 points, 9 assists, and 4 rebounds, the widely regarded best-point-guard in the league had 20, 5, and 4 at halftime. In the second half, Dallas threw a combination of hard hedges off the pick and roll and constant run-outs on the drive and kick to contain Paul. Paul often wound up late in the shot clock, having to hoist off-balance fade-aways as the Mavericks used many of the same tricks they used against Rondo to keep Paul out of the paint.

On the offensive end, Jason Terry was en fuego. While the Horents actually played great defense, their focus was on trying to stop Dirk Nowitzki (they didn't, he finished with 25 on just 12 shots), and Terry managed to slip out in transition or get open off offensive rebounds. The Hornets controlled the glass, but Dallas was more patient on offense, pulling in a higher free throw rate.

Now that the Hornets have suffered their first loss, the question now will become if they can go back to their winning ways or if this streak of play was a combination of things going right. A lot went right for New Orleans tonight, with Willie Green and Peja Stojakovic playing well in a rare appearance. Their defense suffered at the hands of good ball movement and Dirk-caliber play from Dirk. But if they keep up the kind of effort they've given in the first nine games, it's hard to see the Hornets not maintaining their spot near the top of the West.

For Dallas? Look out. Once again, this is a great team, deep and talented, and they've just solved two of the best point guards in the league. You can't stop those guys, as proven by their stat lines. But by committing your defensive scheme to stop them, you can make life hard enough to get a win.


Posted on: November 14, 2010 10:20 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2010 10:22 pm
 

How do the Heat stack up with the contenders?

Comparing the best teams in the league, the Heat don't stack up so far.
Posted by Matt Moore


As we look at the teams around the NBA who genuinely look like contenders to match up with the Heat, we find most of them are those we expected. The Magic, the Celtics, and naturally, the Lakers. But two newcomers have to be considered: the Hornets and Spurs. We've already broken down for you where the Heat are strong and lacking in and of themselves through ten games. Here's a look at the performances of these contenders in relation to the Heat. All stats available from HoopData and reflect games prior to Sunday, November 14th. Category leaders are in bold.



Category Lakers Celtics Magic Hornets Spurs Heat
Win % 0.889 0.800 0.667 1.00 0.875 0.600
Off Eff 112.5 104.6 102.9 105.4 106.8 108.5
Def Eff 101.8 98.1 95.6 95.1 102.7 96.8
eFG% 51.33 51.67 51.75 51.39 52.67 51.33
TOR 12.03 14.29 15.88 13.28 15.09 13.09
Signature win Suns Heat (2x) Hawks Heat Suns Magic

Obviously that last category is subjective, i just took what seemed like the best win from what has been on their schedule. So two of those teams' signature wins are against the Heat. Not a great resume the Heat have building up, considering the Magic, the Heat's signature win, has the second lowest winning percentage of the group and their signature win is against the Hawks.

Getting past the numbers, the Lakers have looked every bit the best team in the league through the first three weeks of the season, while Boston looks very much like the second best. The Hornets' undefeated streak can't be ignored there, and as they are the only two teams with multiple category leads, hard to argue against them. Also interesting to note that the Heat do not lead in any categories.

Quite simply, when you stack the Heat up against their competition? They don't stack up at all so far.

Posted on: November 12, 2010 1:35 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2010 1:40 pm
 

Friday 5 With KB: KG the Jerk, Heat fail, and BRI


Posted by Matt Moore

1. Kevin Garnett is not exactly the most popular guy in the world right now. Garnett seems to be the kind of guy who is loved by his friends and close circle and is abrasive to everyone else. Do you have any thoughts on his evolving legacy from lovable lunatic lose to hated psychotic champion?

Ken Berger: I think your evaluation of KG is spot on. He is like the crazy uncle that everyone is wary of and constantly nervous about what he might say or do next. But he's family, so you tolerate him. You know, the old, "He's a jerk, but he's our jerk." At this point, Garnett could care less what people think about him or what his legacy is. He's perfectly content to continue yapping and thumping his chest and winning another championship. And I don't see anything wrong with that, as long as he doesn't care that he'll never be named man of the year or Mr. Congeniality. To me, the funniest aspect of this whole episode recently was Joakim Noah calling Garnett ugly. Hey, Jo, I don't think GQ is putting you on the cover any time soon.

2. Not exactly a banner week for the Heat. Scale of 1 to 5. How much should fans  (if there are any) be pushing the panic button?

KB: I'd say 3.5. On one hand, some of this could have and should have been expected, given that basketball is a team game and you can't just plug talent into the equation like in baseball and automatically win 70 percent of your games and waltz to the championship. I know that you know that in basketball, how the pieces fit together are every bit as important -- if not more so -- than the talent itself. Eventually, the talent will shine through, and LeBron and Wade will become as deadly a combination as we thought they'd be. But there are several areas of concern that need to be watched closely: The misuse of LeBron's and Wade's best attributes when they are on the floor with a point guard, meaning neither one has the ball in his hands for too many possessions. This can (and should) be solved when Mike Miller comes back. Instead of a point guard, you put Miller on the floor with LeBron and Wade acting as interchangeable wings who take turns initiating the offense. In my mind, LeBron fits this role best. Two, the lack of size is becoming a major issue. Erick Dampier, please pick up the white courtesy phone. Three, Erik Spoelstra struck a chord when he lectured the team at halftime Thursday night about ego. It has been a real wakeup call for these three free-agent darlings who came together so effortlessly. Winning in May and June is going to prove a lot more difficult than winning in July.

3. In the Post-Ups you alluded to the improving situation in New Orleans. Now that the team looks like it's ready to compete in the playoffs again (though it's still early), is it time to start looking for what can get them to the next level, and what is that?

KB: I think it's a positive sign that the Hornets are trying to get someone CP3 would consider to be a top-tier running mate. But they're a little stuck in that regard, and here's why: Peja Stojakovic and his $14.3 million expiring contract could be easily deal to a team trying to get off a lot of future money, and if one of those pieces coming back is an elite 3-point shooter, New Orleans is better in the short run. But they future money they'd have to take back in such a deal would hamper their ability to make moves next summer -- or whenever the lockout ends and under whatever new rules exist. The most valuable asset on the NBA market right now is cap flexibility heading into the uncertainty of a new CBA, especially for low-revenue markets. So the Hornets can't allow themselves to be tempted by the prospect of getting better in the short term at the expense of hampering their flexibility heading into a new deal. 

4. You also wrote in the Post-Ups that Kevin Love is garnering offers. Why is it that the Wolves are so reticent to trade him if they won't play the man?

KB: Ah, this is a question that goes straight to the heart of the most mysterious figure in the NBA, David Kahn. I'm told in recent days that Love isn't the only player who wants out of Minnesota. Corey Brewer does, too -- but Brewer isn't making any noise publicly, or even privately. Love is doing both. Right now, the Wolves like Love's talent but are disenchanted with his attitude. I think if the right deal came along, they'd move him. Because that locker room is too fragile right now to risk keeping a malcontent on board. Maybe Kahn can trade Love for a few more point guards.

5. BRI up 3 to 3.5%, record ratings across the board. Selling the NBA store for $300 million. The league is booming. Are owners really going to walk away from the most prosperous time in recent history to prove a point? Really?
KB: Yes sir-ee-bob. A hearty contingent of owners see this as a once-in-a -lifetime opportunity to change the economics of the sport in their favor. They also know the vast majority of people will side with them, because of their inherent biases against "greedy millionaire players." This is silly, of course, but it's just the way things are. There are a couple of reasons to be encouraged: 1) sources tell me numerous owners were impressed with the players' presentation of their proposal at a recent CBA meeting, realizing that the union was offering some creative ideas as how to make the business better for everyone; and 2) there's still a lot of time. The next key time-marker in this battle is All-Star weekend, when both sides concede significant progress will need to have been made. But as in all negotiations, the real progress doesn't happen until the 11th hour. Will there be a lockout? Yes, in my opinion. Are the owners and players short-sighted enough to let it wipe out an entire season, or even as much of the season as the '98-'99 lockout did? I don't think so. Both sides realize there's too much at stake.
Posted on: November 10, 2010 10:06 am
Edited on: November 10, 2010 12:07 pm
 

Game Changer 11.10.10: Fluke or Fact?

Was the Jazz win a fluke or a sign of the Heat's cooler underbelly? Did the Hornets just win with their bench? And are the Cavs leading their freaking division? All this and more in today's GameChanger .
Posted by Matt Moore


Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.  

THE BIG ONE: JAZZ PULL A FAST ONE ON THE HEAT


So the question is... was this fluke a not? Because the implications are rather significant. Let's not, for a moment, take anything away from the Utah Jazz. They were on the road, in a hostile sleepy environment, and they simply scratched, clawed, and pounded their way to a win over the most star-studded team in the NBA. Down by 20 last night, they roared back in a 72-point second half to defeat the Heat. A huge win for coach Jerry Sloan, a win the team needed, and an amazing night for Jazz fans that shows their tenacity, their heart, and their talent.

Now, then.

The Heat won the rebounding battle, 46-44. The Heat split the turnover battle, with each team losing it a dozen times, nothing too egregious. The Heat fouled only 20 times to the Jazz' 32. And until the fourth quarter, they held a significant advantage in shooting percentage, with the Jazz shooting 41% to the Heat's 47%. There were a lot of things that would have to go right in the fourth for the Jazz to force overtime.

They happened.

For starters, the Jazz shot 17 of 23 in the fourth, not Indiana numbers , but still an absurd streak. This was of course capped off by Paul Millsap. Millsap entered last night's game a career 2 of 20 3-point shooter (10%). In the final minute of the game, he drained three 3-pointers, making him perfect on the season, as they were the only 3-pointers he's taken this season. Swish. Swish. Swish. Throw on top of that the 46 point detonation he leveled with the other 37 points, including the two on the tip in to force overtime, and you have an amazing night for Millsap, and a huge outlier in terms of predictable results. The Heat suddenly found themselves dropped from an airplane and happened to land right in the middle of a tornado. That's what we're talking about here in terms of probabilities.

So was it a fluke?

I don't think so.

We see the same pattern carried out across the Heat's three losses. A scoring forward down low who's able to use his size to create points amid the barren trees of Miami (tall, sure, but not great defenders). And a point guard who can tear you up (Deron Williams tallied 14 assists last night). In Boston it was Rondo and Glen Davis; in New Orleans it was Chris Paul and Emeka Okafor. Now Millsap-Williams scratch their names onto the tree trunk of inside-out combos that have cooled the Heat. Furthermore, we see the same kind of discombobulation we've seen all season, especially in crunch time, the same reliance on sub-par players to take the biggest shots ("Eddie House for the win... clang!"), the same lackadaisical performance out of the Heat mentally, and the same defensive breakdowns in the biggest moments.

Adding to the improbability of the night was the fact that the Triad gave the kind of performance you'd want from them. Dwyane Wade had 39 and 6 rebounds, LeBron James had a triple-double with 20, 11 boards, and 14 assists, and Chris Bosh had 17 and 9. And they still lost .

The Jazz needed a few more things go their way in this one, that's for sure. The problem is the Heat handed the Jazz those things on a platter. And trying to establish exactly how to resolve those things isn't going to be easy for head coach Erik Spoelstra, who's got to be feeling a little hot this morning either way.

Great win for the Jazz, tough loss for the Heat.

GO-GO-GADGET LINES OF THE NIGHT:


Paul Millsap: Yeah, we'll go ahead and notch him down with 46 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block.

LaMarcus Aldridge: 19 points, 17 rebounds, and Aldridge seems more and more like he's taken a big step into becoming a legit big.

Kevin Love: 23 points, 24 rebounds. Amazing what happens when a good player gets playing time, isn't it?

Dwyane Wade: 39 points, 6 rebounds. Hard to argue that Wade didn't do his part last night.

LeBron James: 20 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists. His first triple-double as a member of the Heat. And again, they lost. So weird.

Al Farouq Aminu: 20 points, 8 rebounds. Look at the rookie make progress!

WHAT YOU MISSED:


Brandon Roy had his knee drained .

Our Power Rankings are out , and we went 3-Up, 3-Down .

Oh, and the Pacers went freaking En Fuego .

KB lays out how the Bret Bearup situation affects Melo .

HORNETS KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON (WINNING)


This time they didn't even need Chris Paul to be amazing. The Hornets had every reason for a let-down game after their last week and hot start. Hey, they've got to lose sometime, don't they?

Don't they?

The Clippers are a bad team, but again played well last night, enough to hang until the fourth, with Al Farouq Aminu emerging from the shadows looking like an actual NBA player. But this time it wasn't the starting superstars that did it for the Hornets. It was the bench mob. Jerryd Bayless ran the show, Willie Green filled it up (19 points on 7-10 shooting), and that was enough for the Hornets to pull away and not need Chris Paul to press his knee anymore. The Hornets just keep finding ways to get it done. The Hornets are running a weird modified break, where they force the issue, pulling teams inside, then using smart passing around the perimeter to get the job done with open jumpers. It may not be sustainable, but by God, it's working right now.

YOUR DAILY SIGN OF THE IMPENDING APOCALYPSE

The Cleveland Cavaliers lead the Central division at 4-3.

WHIMSY


"Hold me... "




HERO OF THE DAY


Uh, yeah, I think we'll go with MANSAP.



ONE FINAL THOUGHT

The Minnesota Timberwolves played a great game last night. It'll get glossed over in the headlines and be forgotten within about, oh, four hours, but they really did. Kevin Love was just tremendous on the glass and they had some good things going. They just couldn't get the last burst to get past the Lakers, who had one of their "Do we really have to care nights?" And the answer was no. But still, good stuff from the Wolves who responded to their beat downs lately with a respectable performance. And yet another loss.

Follow F&R on Twitter at @CBSSportsNBA and check out our RSS feed . This has been your daily edition of the Game Changer.

Posted on: November 9, 2010 8:17 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2010 2:30 pm
 

Power Rankings 3-Up, 3-Down: Week 2

The Mavericks, Hornets, and Cavs rise, while the Heat, Blazers, and Timberwolves tumble in our power rankings.
Posted by Matt Moore
 



Our Power Rankings for Week 2 are out. Here at F&R, we'll give the the direct line to who was notable in the rankings from week to week. Here's three who are up and three who are down in week 2.

3-Up


Dallas Mavericks (8): Mavericks rise from 14 to 8 this week and have big victories over the Nuggets (split on a home-and-home) and the Celtics. That's a tasty platter. And for once, they're getting it done with defense. Dallas boasts the fifth best defense in terms of defensive efficiency. Combine that with a legit superstar in Dirk Nowitzki who's carrying 25.8 points per game for Dallas along with 9 rebounds. Dirk's certainly motivated. Offense needs a step up (and a step down in turnovers), but they're getting it done.

New Orleans Hornets (3): KB already told you how they're such a surprise this season, and they rightly rise in the rankings from 5 to 3. Chris Paul is awesome, we already knew that. Okafor's being a man's man, we already knew that, but don't sleep on David West. West has been consistently there for the Hornets, through last year with Paul's injury and Okafor's adjustment, and this season all he's doing is averaging 18 per game shooting 55% from the field, 6.5 boards, and 1 block per game. He's reliable, he's consistent, he's efficient, and he's just as much a part of the Hornets' success as the returning star and resurgent big. Tough week coming up for the Hornets with Portland and Dallas. We'll see if they're still undefeated last week. If they are, going to be hard to keep them out of the second overall spot (LA is still  LA).

Cleveland Cavaliers (20): Eight slot bump for the Cavs this week, who, if they keep this up will be your sentimental favorite in the playoffs come April (in what could be a first-round series with Miami - yikes). The Cavs are just working. The odd thing about it? For years the Cavs have been a tremendous defensive team that couldn't get the buckets. Now it's completely flipped. Their offense is filling it up, but they're letting their opponents get to buckets pretty easy. The weird part is it isn't their at-rim defense, it's their midrange defense that's lacking. Meanwhile, though, J.J. Hickson-Gibson is your new hotness. Bizarre what a new coach can do for you. This team isn't just hanging, they're playing pretty decently, and Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison are largely irrelevant. Which means they could trade both those guys to get younger pieces and still compete.

3-Down

Miami Heat (4): A drop with a loss to the Hornets that they could have won, had they not kept handing off the ball to James Jones and Eddie House who were frozen. With Chris Bosh struggling to find his place , and both of the other stars deferring way too much, the Heat have some problems. Huge week with a rematch versus Boston on Thursday at home. Could this team have 3 losses by the middle of November?  Not exactly Most Dominant Ever so far.

Portland Trail Blazers (9): A minor drop but this team is on kind of a ledge. They get outworked by the Thunder and then obliterated by the Lakers with an unimpressive push against the Raps in-between. It's hard to believe Oden is the difference in this team, and with Brandon Roy talking like he's 35 , and with OKC and New Orleans in the next week, this team will either rise or tumble under the pressure.

Minnesota Timberwolves (29): You know the road kill that makes it all the way to the lane divider? Where it manages to make some progress before having its life ended in a violent and brief encounter with a motor vehicle? That's the Wolves. The past two years they've managed to get an early win, before melting into nothingness. The Wolves were absolutely annihilated by both Miami and Orlando and look absolutely lost on both ends. Michael Beasley cares and is playing well, but in reality, there's just not a lot here for them to develop. The coaching is bad, the team is young, but it's also bad, and the overall construction of the team is bad. It's not surprising, but it's still a downward move from the first week where they just looked pretty bad versus pretty terrible.





Posted on: November 5, 2010 11:10 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2010 1:47 am
 

At the Buzzer: CP3 bests the Miami 3 in Big Easy

Hornets topple Heat as CP3 shines alongside Okafor. Posted by Matt Moore

Chris Paul overcame a furious comeback from the Miami Heat, dishing to a wide-open Trevor Ariza for the game-clinching three-pointer while David West nailed the key free throws to hold on for a 96-93 win in New Orleans to push the Hornets to 6-0.

Notes and miscellanea:

  • First off, the Heat, for reasons beyond comprehension, continue to work with their stars to create wide-open shots for teammates who are not capable of hitting them to the volume they are being asked to. Worse, they continue to force the issue even when said teammates are obviously colder than a polar bear's toenails. James Jones and Eddie House were a combined 2 of 13 from 3-point land, and yet House the shooter they went to, down 3 with seven seconds remaining. Not Wade, Not James. 0-fer Eddie House. 
  • But if the Heat want to really examine why they lost their second game in the first two weeks of the season, they have to examine the two areas everyone pointed to coming in. The Hornets abused them both at the point guard and center positions. Carlos Arroyo tried for about a half to guard Chris Paul before Erik Spoelstra was forced to turn to Wade to defend CP3, who did a much better job. Well, I mean, held him to only 19 assists and 13 points.
  • Meanwhile, Okafor was dominant, with 26 points on 12 of 13 shooting and 13 boards. Best of all, for the first time that I've seen, Okafor really looked to understand the kind of movement he needed to have with CP3. He even had some of those alley-oops Tyson Chandler used to catch back in the Hornets run of 2008. He had the mid-range going, the baby hook, the swing-up fadeaway, the whole repertoire. And by whole repertoire, I mean a lot of shots he's never shown reliably before this year. Devastating inside-out attack.
  • For Ariza to nail the corner three to finish the game was a shock because he didn't look good for much of the game, opting for pull-up threes in transition and other Ariza-shots. But he hit the one he needed to.
  • The Hornets broke out in transition ridiculously fast. With Paul getting 5 steals, they managed to burst out and all the Hornets would rush out. The Heat on the other hand seemed to be trying to glide down court, with little to no intensity. 
  • Jason Smith was huge for the Hornets, as he continuously burned the Heat who let him have the 18 foot jumper.
  • Wade had 28, 10, and 7, but also had 7 turnovers. His matchup with CP3 late was pretty epic.
  • The Heat eventuall switched to a shallow perimeter trap on Paul, which is the best way to go. A high trap he'll split and in space he's killer. Unfortunately, the Hornets switched to a double-screen which freed him to do damage down the stretch.
  • The game nearly came down to a technical foul called on Paul after throwing his fist following an offensive foul. Paul even tried to contain himself afterwards to not get busted, to no avail. The officials are still not kidding about the tech rules. 
  • Chris Bosh had a rebound tonight. A single board. And was useless in the post. He was great from mid-range and on tip-ins, but Bosh is simply not the kind of low-post big you'd want him to be.
  • The Heat defense, which had been so good, gave up a 107.9 efficiency rating, and 49% field goal percentage. That's not going to get it done.
  • Conversely, it may be time to start accepting that the Hornets are for real. The trifecta of firepower they brought in (Paul-West-Okafor) is firing on all cylinders, their shooters are hitting from the outside, and true to Monty Williams' word, they're out and running in transition. It's still early, but the Hornets very much look for real.

Finally, these images from our GameTracker pretty much put it in perspective.








Note the numbers, for Okafor. That big square down in the paint? That stands for 9 shots, 8 makes. Manly.

Posted on: November 4, 2010 2:36 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:27 pm
 

LeBron James misses practice due to non-injury

Miami Heat forward LeBron James missed practice on Thursday due a shin bruise. Posted by Ben Golliver LeBron James and the Miami Heat have been kicking the living tar out of the NBA -- going 4-0 in the last eight days -- so it's only natural James has come down with what ESPN.com is calling a "deep right shin bruise."  The bruise kept James from practicing on Thursday, however Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is not terming James' bruise an "injury," according to the Sun-Sentinel. Rather, the decision to hold James out was precautionary, as the Heat play an away-and-home back-to-back on Friday and Saturday against the New Orleans Hornets and the New Jersey Nets.  While the Heat already destroyed the Nets 101-78 last Sunday, the Hornets game is shaping up to must-see TV. Under new head coach Monty Williams, the Hornets are off to a scorching, undefeated (4-0) start. James's close friend, all star point guard Chris Paul, has returned to form after dealing with injuries last year, averaging 21.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 9.0 assists and 1.8 steals to start the season.  The Hornets have knocked off at least three (and possibly four) playoff teams, defeating the Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, but they haven't seen anything like the Heat, who have accumulated an ungodly 22.8 point margin of victory during their current four-game winning streak. James is expected to play Friday, non-injured shin bruise and all.
Posted on: November 1, 2010 4:23 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2010 4:25 pm
 

What we've learned after a week of the NBA season

Posted by Royce Young

In a sport where the regular season is six months long with 82 games packed in between, it's hard to really draw any meaningful conclusions from the opening week of the season. Some fans are panicking, some are filled with unbridled optimism and some are feeling more of the same after spending September convincing themselves, "No, I really think Thaddeus Young can be an All-Star and if so, who knows?"

So despite the fact that roughly only three percent of the season has been played, let's look at five, of what could be 500, things we've learned this far.

The Hornets might be kind of good. Chris Paul, remember that guy? He's pretty good. And his team, the Hornets? They might be too.

They're 3-0, with one of those wins coming on the road against the Spurs. They beat San Antonio, Milwaukee and Denver, three quality opponents that all were in the playoffs last season. They've yet to allow 100 points and are doing an outstanding job of sharing the ball and getting scoring from multiple spots.

With Paul back running the show and new additions Trevor Ariza and Marco Belinelli doing their parts to fill in some scoring, this team could be potentially dangerous. There's not a ton of depth there so if Paul or someone else goes out for an extended period, times get get tougher, but as of now, the 3-0 Hornets look fairly legit.

What makes the Heat scary isn't what you think it is. Teaming LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together likely makes opposing coaches think, "How in the bleep are we going to stop those guys?"

And while that's still true, the real question might should be, 'How in the bleep are we going to score on those guys?"

Nothing has been more impressive about the Heat thus far than their defense. Toss out any cliche NBA word and it works to describe it. Stifling. Swarming. Stingy. Scoring on the Heat right now is harder than scoring on San Francisco Giants. They can guard every position and their apparent weakness hasn't been exposed at all, even against the league's best big man in Dwight Howard.

The Heat lead the league in defensive efficiency, giving up just 86.6 points per 100 hundred possessions. That's outstanding.

Miami will be tough to beat throughout because of the matchup issues it creates, but what could make them a true title contender is the fact they don't let you score.

The Clippers are probably the Clippers again . In the opener against the Blazers, for three quarters there was legitimate reason for excitement in Clipperland. Blake Griffin looked fantastic, Eric Gordon was scoring and the team has some actual energy and excitement about it.

But as often happens with Clipper seasons, it could be over after that first game. There was some buzz surrounding this team as a potential dark horse in the West, but Sunday's game against the Mavericks really pointed out some serious issues.

The Clippers had no idea what to do offensively. There was no scheme or plan. It was all pointing, talking and bumping into each other. Whoever was running point was basically trying to draw a play from the top of the key as the 24 second clock ticked away. Griffin appeared to be a little frustrated, specifically in the fact that nobody seemed to be playing as hard as him.

It's early and the Clippers have enough talent win some games, but the first impression has been more of the same.

For some reason, Kurt Rambis just doesn't like Kevin Love . After three games, Kevin Love is fifth in the NBA with 13.0 rebounds per game. He's averaging 14 points per game. But here's the problem: He's averaging just 25.3 minutes per game.

Extend Love's current stats out to a per 40 minute average and he's putting up 22.1 ppg and 20.5 rpg. And yet, he continues to get bench minutes in what's now, a starter's role.

It's not like the Wolves are winning and Love is just fitting in. Right now, Minnesota is 1-2 and has struggled scoring (something Love does well). They are however the best rebounding team in the league with a plus-12.7 differential. Imagine how good they'd be if their best rebounder saw over 30 minutes a game?

The Kevin Love situation is honestly one of the most fascinating storylines in the league this season to me. He's Minnesota's best player, best scorer and best rebounder, yet he doesn't get as many minutes as Wayne Ellington, Michael Beasley or Luke Ridnour.

Now in Rambis' defense, nobody on the team averages more than 30 minutes per game and most everyone hovers under 25 minutes per. So maybe it's an institutional thing. But then again, maybe that's a good explanation as to why they haven't been successful thus far. Common sense says play your best players the most minutes. But the Wolves are just preaching transparency and honesty, not common sense.

Nobody knows if Houston is good or just average yet. In the Rockets' opening game against the Lakers, they held a lead for the majority of the night before the defending champs turned it on and won behind late heroics from Shannon Brown. But most agreed - the Rockets will be good.

Then they lost their next two games to the Warriors and the Nuggets which left some scratching their heads. So are the Rockets good, average or possibly bad?

I think you can certainly take out bad because this Houston club has players and will win. But is it a top four team in the West? Maybe not. Really, are they a playoff team? That's potentially up in the air as the last two games really showcased some major defensive problems Houston has right now.

This upcoming set of games could put the Rockets in a big hole early if they don't get their act together though. After playing the Hornets at home, Houston goes on the road for six of their next eight.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com