The stars for Miami have yet to come out for the Heat. Dwayne Wade, who missed the first seven games of the season recovering from injury, and Shaq are only combining for an average of 37 points with O’Neal having, arguably, his worst season of his long career. However, Shaq is still a force to be reckoned with and the Nuggets are going to have to neutralize his impact early if they do not want to be in a dog fight late in the game. Too many early lay-ups for O’Neal will surely boost his confidence and a confident Shaq can be a nightmare for the Nuggets who have not been successful in years past against the Diesel.
It is also very important that the Nuggets continue to play as team if they want to continue to win. Almost every time that the Nuggets can record more than 20+ assists their chances and frequency of victory goes up dramatically. And against a team like the Heat, who struggle offensively, limiting them to one shot and then running the break is the perfect way to get the ball, and the assists, moving quickly. There is inherently going to be a fair share of half-court sets for Carmelo and AI to work their respective individual games, but when the opportunity presents itself for the Nuggets to run it is guys like Linas, J.R., and Eduardo Najera that have to get some touches and finishes around the rim.
Bottom line is the Nuggets need to collectively play defense first and the offensive explosiveness will follow. One shot and out with the Heat being limited to jump shots late in the shot clock will certainly ensure victory for the Nuggets, but if Miami gets too many second chance opportunities this game will be far more difficult for the Nuggets to emerge victorious.
My final line is Nuggets by seven. Expect AI to lead the Nuggets offensively because Jason Williams is not much of a defensive stopper. Carmelo will have to operate with Udonis Haslem, a tough defensive player, in his face, but as we all know… When the ’Melo man gets it going there isn’t really anyone in the league that can stop him!