by Sean Begin
At the end of the season, it’ll just be two points among thousands, the first points of a long college basketball season. But for freshman Lauren Hill, the two points she scored to open her team’s season are so much more than that.
For Hill, who entered her first year at Division III Mount St. Joseph, the layup she scored is a dream she’s had for years, and one that almost never happened.
In September, just after the semester had started, Hill was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an inoperable and rare form of brain cancer, and given only a few months to live by her doctors.
The diagnosis led to an online social media campaign to give Hill a chance to play in at least one collegiate game. So Mount St. Joseph, their opponent’s, Hiram College and the NCAA agreed to move the opening game up a couple weeks to give Hill her a shot to play.
Support and interest for the game was so overwhelming that it was moved to and sold out Xavier’s 10,000 seat Cintas Center.
And on Sunday afternoon, she knocked down an easy layup with her left hand to open the game, before being met by teammates, coaches, family and friends at mid-court. Hill drained another layup at the end of the game with her natural right hand, an even greater feat given the fact that her entire right side has been weakened by her disease.
“I never thought I would play on a college court, put my feet on the floor and feel the vibration of the crowd. This game has been amazing, and everything that happened today was amazing. This is a really good day,” said Hill after the game.
Hill’s fight has inspired many, including perhaps the greatest basketball player in the world right now, LeBron James, who used his Instagram account to tell Hill “Thank you for inspiring me and I’ll try my best to match you!”
In an industry that so often sees so many problems, from domestic violence to drunk driving to cheating, stories like this are always a reminder that a sport can mean so much more. It’s more than just a group of people sharing a common rooting interest. It’s more than a team getting a win to open it’s season.
I’m sure if you asked any player from Hiram College if they’re sad they lost to Mount St. Joseph’s, not one would say yes; not when Hill played; not when Hill scored in the face of impending death; not when Hill understands that what’s most important isn’t the game itself but the support the game provides — for her and for people suffering from cancer like her.
“To reach and touch this many people is amazing. Not many people knew about DIPG before me, and know that they do, we can get research going to cure this cancer,” she said. “I won’t be around to see that, but it’s going to help so many people. That’s why the support can’t end with this game.”
by Sean Begin
If you asked head basketball coach Howie Dickenman how he felt at the end of last season, disappointment might be the word that comes to mind.
But headed into the 2014-15 season, the Central Connecticut basketball team has the highest expectations: Northeast Conference championship or bust.
“This is the most experienced team I’ve had since we went to the tournament in ’07,” said Dickenman from his office before leading his team onto the court for it’s 15th practice of the season. “It’s a veteran team.”
And while Dickenman says he doesn’t put much stock into polls, he does acknowledge that the experience his players possess was enough to be named second in the NEC coaches preseason poll.
“I would say it’s a show of respect,” he said. “When they look at our team and they see all of the veterans I think it’s almost natural that we’re going to be somewhere near the top.”
Yet before they’ve even had a chance to tipoff, the team is facing the prospect of being without their best player.
Early last week, senior guard and one of CCSU’s offensive threats, Kyle Vinales, was suspended indefinitely from the team following his arrest for an altercation with his girlfriend. She later retracted her statements when speaking to both the New Britain Herald and NBC Connecticut about the incident.
While her statements may see any charges against Vinales drop, he remains away from the team for the time being. And if the CCSU athletics department follows the same path other NCAA schools have taken, they might not make a decision until after Vinales’ Dec. 5 court date.
Dickenman called Vinales “the hardest working player that I’ve ever been around on offense,” and is one of the primary scorers for the team, capable of draining the three as well as driving to the basket and drawing fouls.
Vinales’ absence will be noticeable, but the team has dealt with it before. Last season he missed the first ten games of conference play with a broken finger. Senior guard Malcolm McMillan filled in well for Vinales and should be able to do so again.
McMillan will, for now, lead a starting lineup that includes sophomore guards Matt Mobley and Khalen Cumberlander – who both saw significant playing time in their freshman seasons last year – as well as senior forward Faronte Drakeford and junior forward Brandon Peel.
According to Dickenman, the focus for the starting five and the rest of the team in practice so far this season has been defense, spending about 70 percent of the time in the gym on it, as well as rebounding, something the team struggled with last year.
“We’ve been out-rebounded by an average of three a game. That’s probably three more scoring opportunities for the opponents,” said Dickenman. “We can’t afford to give them extra field goal attempts.”
To that end, Dickenman has new transfer student who may help secure rebounds for the team.
Junior forward Corey Barrett comes in from Coppin State stands at 6-feet-9-inches tall but with a lot left to learn about the game.
“Corey hasn’t played a lot of basketball but he’s learning. There’s a lot of things he’s being taught and he’s been very receptive to the instruction that we’re putting forth to him,” said Dickenman.
That doesn’t mean Barrett won’t see the hardwood, though.
“He will get some playing time because he has a chance to be a pretty good rebounder. And he’s decent offensively,” Dickenman added.
Three freshmen joined the team over the summer as well. Forward Mustafa Jones and guards Kevin Seymour and Shakaris Laney all have a chance to see playing time this season provided they show the intensity that Dickenman has been preaching all offseason.
“If we’re not intense and we’re not going to play defense as hard as we can than we will be mediocre,” said Dickenman. “If we come with a bit of a defensive attitude than I think we have have a chance to be a very good team.”
Of the three freshmen, Seymour may now be most likely to see the court. As the primary backup to McMillan at the point guard position, a potential injury to McMillan could see Seymour entering the game.
Laney offers the team a potentially lethal three-pointer, although Dickenman wants to see Laney work harder in practice, something he thinks will happen with time. Jones is a left-hander who needs to put some weight on, which, according to Dickenman, “we’re trying like the dickens to [do].”
In addition to the new players, Dickenman brought in an entirely new coaching staff who’s brains he picked before the offseason began to build new drills and offensive plays for the team.
“Very pleased with the energy and the enthusiasm and the effort that they brought here,” said Dickenman. “We have some new defensive drills I might add. We’ve introduced some new [offensive] ones [too] this year that I think will be successful.”
Greg Collucci comes to Central from American, where he led the team to a Patriot League championship last year in his only season with the team. Tobe Carberry led the University of New Haven to two straight 20-win campaigns the past two seasons before arriving in New Britain.
Dickenman also brought back Obie Nwadike, who was a member of the 2007 team that was the last to win an NEC championship and go to the NCAA tournament. Nwadike had previously spent last season on the coaching staff of NEC opponent Wagner.
“He is as much energized as any assistant I’ve had and I’ve had a number of them,” said Dickenman of Nwadike’s return to New Britain.
Dickenman believes his team has a chance to succeed in a conference that has a lot of parity, thanks in part to the improvement from the players in the starting lineup. Both Mobley and Cumberlander have been spending more time working on driving to the basket and drawing fouls. Drakeford and Peel have seen an improvement to their jump shooting, so much so that Dickenman might let them loose from three this season.
But in order for their to be any success, it comes down to playing with intensity and a good defense.
“If we can do that then I anticipate a very good year. But that’s the key,” said Dickenman. “We play with intensity in practice. Now the question is can we bring those habits into a game.”
The team opens up their season Nov. 14 at the Connecticut 6 Classic at Quinnipiac University, when they take on Fairfield.
by Sean Begin
Central Connecticut’s top basketball player, Kyle Vinales, was suspended indefinitely following his arrest on Oct. 25 in an incident involving his girlfriend and is “not currently participating in men’s basketball activities,” according to an athletic department spokesman.
Vinales was arrested for one count of third-degree assault and one count of disorderly conduct after his girlfriend called police and said he had hit her after an argument in her car.
Four days after his arrest and subsequent suspension, Vinales’ girlfriend, Mariam Mena, retracted her claims, speaking to both the New Britain Herald and NBC Connecticut.
“The only time any of his limbs or anything touched me was when I was hitting him. He put his hands up only to get me to stop hitting his face,” Mena told the Herald last Wednesday.
Mena originally claimed that Vinales had hit her during an argument in her car after she tried to stop him from playing music on his cell phone.
The report police filed have Vinales saying he “took the palm of his hand into her face and shoved her face up against the driver side window of the vehicle.”
The report also claimed the Mena had a “swollen bump and fresh scratch on her forehead.” Mena claimed afterwards that they were injuries she sustained in a car accident soon after the incident with Vinales.
“I was frantic. I didn’t mean to hit the car. The girl was more worried about me than anything because I was crying,” said Mena to the Herald.
Head coach Howie Dickenman, a member of the group Men Make a Difference, Men Against Domestic Violence, was quick to suspend Vinales after the incident, before Mena retracted her accusation.
Vinales is set to appear before New Britain Superior Court on Dec. 5 for the incident.
by Sean Begin
When Obie Nwadike took the phone call that would bring him home, he was still dressed in the green and white of the Wagner Seahawks.
Nwadike was on Grymes Hill in Staten Island, working to get the Wagner men’s basketball team ready for another year, fresh off helping them to a 19-12 finish and second place in the Northeast Conference.
That didn’t change Nwadike’s decision, though, when Central Connecticut’s head coach, Howie Dickenman, called and offered him a spot as an assistant coach.
“It was absolutely a no-brainer,” says the 29-year-old from Jersey City, New Jersey on his decision to return to his college alma mater.
Nwadike sits behind the desk in the office that he seems to still be settling into, dressed in a blue, long-sleeve Blue Devils shirt and workout pants.
“To come back here, I mean, what better place to coach, hopefully have success and teach guys at a place I’m very comfortable with. Probably the best four years of my life happened at Central Connecticut State,” Nwadike said.
Nwadike was a starting forward on the 2006-07 team that stormed through the NEC with a 16-2 record en route to Central’s third March Madness appearance ever.
After he graduated, Nwadike played in Europe for four years before returning to his high school alma mater to serve as an assistant coach there. Last season, his first with Wagner, saw him return to the court at Detrick Gym for the first time since graduation.
“Everyone understood the magnitude of the situation. I was here to coach a game and win a game,” Nwadike said of his return, and of facing his former coach. “But knowing what this place meant to me, it was a little awkward.”
Now Nwadike is working with Dickenman instead of against him, preparing the men’s team for another long season, a men’s team that Dickenman called his most experienced since Nwadike’s took the floor eight years ago.
“This season is going to be a marathon, not a sprint,” Nwadike said. “For me the biggest thing I’ve preached to these guys is camaraderie, togetherness, enjoying the process, understanding the process, believing in what we’re trying to do.”
Part of that message is written in dry-erase marker on a white board across from his desk: “The pressure is not on us to perform, the pressure is on us to prepare.”
“It’s something that I got from a coach I played for in Europe. That one stuck with me,” said Nwadike. “I played for a lot of tough coaches but the one thing I always remember was being prepared.”
For Nwadike, it was preparedness that allowed him and the team’s he played on to find success, from his AAU travel teams in New Jersey to St. Anthony’s (his high school) to here in New Britain.
“Performing should be the easy part,” he said. “It’ll still be a challenge but going into games we should feel comfortable because we’ve prepared. If you go in prepared it makes it easier to perform.”
Nwadike was the first assistant coach hired by Dickenman during the offseason when Dickenman – who, like Nwadike, coaches at his alma mater – replaced his entire staff.
And while Nwadike worked with Malcolm McMillan and the other guards when he first got here in the summer, he takes pride in the work he’s done with the forwards on the team.
“My love is with the bigs because that’s what I was,” Nwadike said. “As important as a point guard is, a shooting guard is, a wing forward is, rebounding that basketball, controlling the paint, wins games, wins championships.”
Nwadike knows that last fact from experience. It was defense and rebounding that Nwadike credits for his team’s run through the NEC in 2007, something he knows Central will need to improve upon as it looks to repeat that feat this season.
Last year, Central was outrebounded in nearly every contest and gave up over 77 points a game, third-worst in the conference behind LIU-Brooklyn and Mount St. Mary’s.
And so it’s defense and rebounding that Nwadike, Dickenman and the rest of the coaching staff have been preaching in every practice all offseason.
“I know with our bigs we’ve got the talent,” Nwadike remarked before acknowledging, “we’re not rebounding as well as I’d like yet but I do see us making strides and getting better.”
It’s something that will come by studying the game film of every opponent and player they’re set to face, part of the preparation he’s been pushing on the players.
“With our guys it’s about understanding the opponent, understanding what you can do and understanding what they’re trying to do defensively and what we can do offensively,” explained Nwadike.
On Friday, Nwadike sat on the Central bench once again, at the CT6 Classic hosted at Quinnipiac University, as the Blue Devils prepared to face Fairfield to open the season. And like he has before every game, as both a player and even more so as a coach, he felt nervous.
“As a player I always felt I could do something about [the game] physically. If I had a bad first half I can do something about it,” he explained. “I can make a play, I can get a rebound, I can defend my man as tough as I could.”
“With coaching,” he adds, “all you can really do is see, visualize, point, tell and help. It’s tough because sometimes you see something but you can’t physically go out there and do it. So you hope the kid is understanding.”
Despite the nervousness he feels before each game and the challenges facing him, Dickenman and the rest of the team heading into the season, Nwadike is just glad to be back where he belongs.
“This is where I learned so much about basketball. I went here a young boy and I left here a man,” Nwadike said. “This place had a great impact on me. Not only on the basketball court. This place really felt like home.”
by Sean Begin
Despite coming out on the losing end, the opening game Friday night of the 2-14-15 basketball season was not a disappointment for Howie Dickenman.
“I’m really pleased with our effort. I thought we battled for 40 minutes,” said Dickenman following Central Connecticut’s 71-63 loss to Fairfield University Friday night. “Not the result we wanted but proud of the energy, proud of the enthusiasm.”
Friday’s game was the opening contest of the annual CT6 Classic held every year between Central, Fairfield, Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart, Hartford and Yale. Last year Central fell to Yale in the opener.
Dickenman had been stressing rebounding and defense all preseason long and despite being outrebounded 41-35, they allowed fewer points against Fairfield than they were averaging last season.
“I thought we battled. I thought out defense in the second half was a little better in the zone than it was in the man-to-man,” said Dickenman. “We were much more aggressive.”
Part of the aggressive came from sophomore guard Matt Mobley, who spent most of the game driving to the basket and drawing fouls from Fairfield. Mobley visited the free throw line 12 times on Friday, hitting 11 of his attempts.
“That was the plan. I tried to stay aggressive,” Mobley said after the game. “Coach told me to attack the basket, so I did, knocked down some free throws and that helped my game.”
Mobley was 8-for-17 from the floor including 3-for-6 from three-point range, totaling 30 points to lead the Blue Devils. Adding three rebounds and an assist along the way.
“He had a good loosey-goosey practice yesterday and I think it carried over,” said Dickenman of his young player’s performance.
Dickenman stressed driving to the basket for Mobley and fellow sophomore guard Khalen Cumberlander this season to take advantage of their free throw shooting.
The early success bodes well for Mobley’s confidence heading forward.
“Yeah, definitely, it gives me a lot more confidence now,” said Mobley. “Just kind of help me get going into the season, hopefully I can play like this for the rest of the season.”
While Mobley shot well for the night, others struggled to find their rhythm. Senior guard Malcolm McMillan hit just one shot on the night, a three-pointer late in the second half that closed Fairfield’s lead at the time to two-points.
“Malcolm had a tough night. But he handled the ball pretty well,” said Dickenman. “Brandon Peel wasn’t himself. He seemed very tentative. I’m not sure why but we’ll get him going. I’d like to see him get 11-12 shots.”
Peel, a junior forward, looks to be an important key not only defensively and on the boards, but on the offense as well.
He shot just 2-for-6 Friday but brought in nine rebounds, tied for the team high with senior Faronte Drakeford, who was the only Blue Devil besides Mobley to break double digits scoring.
Central had several stretches in the game that kept them close or gave them an edge. They opened with a 8-0 run that forced Fairfield to call a timeout and switch to a full-court press defense in an attempt to break Central’s hot streak. It worked.
Then down by as much as 13 in the second, Central stormed back to pull within two before Fairfield pulled away for the win.
“I think that might be a trademark of our team, never quitting,” said Dickenman. “We came up a little short [tonight] but we didn’t let it get away from us.”
Central lost to Maryland Monday night and next return to the court when they play Towson Friday evening.
by Sean Begin
The win last Tuesday night for the women’s basketball team wasn’t as easy to finish as it was to start.
Despite jumping out to an early 14-1 lead over Vermont, the Blue Devils needed overtime and a last-second shot by senior center Amanda Harrington to secure the 77-75 victory, the team’s second overtime win this season.
“I missed the first one but my only thought was get the rebound and get it back in; I have to get it,” said Harrington after the game of what was going through her head.
After Vermont’s Kayla Burchill hit a three-pointer to tie the game 75 with 10 seconds left to play in overtime, Piper called a timeout to set up a play for her team. Harrington was fed the ball on an inbounds pass and swung around for the layup.
The ball bounced off the iron right back at Harrington, who recovered her miss and put it through on her second attempt to give Central (3-2) the win.
“The Vermont kids played so hard and made some really, really big plays when they needed to make big plays and that’s just so tough for them,” said head coach Beryl Piper. “But our kid we’re able to get it done and make the plays that they needed to make.”
Central opened the game with four different players recording a basket before junior forward Nicole Ferguson hit back-to-back threes to push the early Blue Devil lead to 14-1. But the Catamounts (0-4) battled back and scored the final six points to go into the locker room at halftime down only 31-27.
In the second half, Central had as big as a 10-point lead with less than ten minutes to play. But an eight-point run by Vermont pulled them within two with just under seven to go, until they finally took the lead with 2:39 on a free throw, eventually tying the game the same way to send it to overtime.
“We needed to make plays in the end and try not to foul because we made some boneheaded fouls in the game,” said Piper. “And we were able to do that. We had a group of kids on the floor in the end that were able to get it done for us.”
Central faced foul trouble early and often, with five players recording two fouls in the first half. Both junior forward Tejahne Malone and junior guard Kayla Miller fouled out in the game. Harrington, who had been forced to the bench after her fourth foul, re-entered soon after, when Malone fouled out.
Harrington played the rest of the second half and all of overtime with four fouls, maintaining steady defense in the paint and not drawing any fouls.
“[I tired] not to let the person get the ball initially so I wouldn’t have to worry about the foul. And then just help over without swinging, staying straight up, just trying not to foul out,” said Harrington.
Central was helped in the game by big performances from Ferguson and redshirt-freshman guard Lauren Wolosik, who led the team with 17 points. Ferguson took only six shots Tuesday night but hit four of them, all from three-point range, including one early in overtime with a Vermont player in her face.
Wolosik, who is coming off of ACL surgery, struggled to find her shot in the first four games of the season, going just 3-for-26 from the floor. But on Tuesday she hit seven of her 14 shots, including a three and two free throws.
“She’s been busting her butt,” said Harrington of Wolosik. “She’s been working as hard as she could every day to make sure she doesn’t fall behind because of the knee, so it’s good for us to have her back.”
“She’s done so many other things well for us except for scoring, so it was just kind of her getting back into rhythm,” added Piper. “It was really great for her to have a great game tonight.”
Central was helped by their depth in the game against Vermont. After losing 47 percent of their offense when their seniors graduated, there’s no clear-cut scorer for the Blue Devils.
“It’s not like we have one or two go-to players, everyones a contributor to the team and that’s what we go off of,” said Harrington. “If we can get everybody to play and play well, we’ll be fine.”
“It’s nice to go to the bench and kids are going to be able to make the plays when we have to. And I think the more minutes those kids can get the better we’re going to be,” said Piper. “So it was really nice to be able to weather the storm with all our kids in foul trouble. But we have to stop fouling. We foul way too much.”
The Blue Devils next take the court in Detrick Gym tonight at 7 p.m when they face the University of Maine.
by Sean Begin and Navindra Persaud
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling cast a dark shadow upon his team with racially charged remarks that he allegedly made, as first reported by TMZ.
“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” said the man alleged to be Sterling in the audio clip.
The comments were recorded by Sterling’s then-girlfriend and mistress, V. Stiviano, who is currently being sued for almost $2 million by Sterling’s wife for embezzlement.
Sterling also referred to NBA legend and former Los Angeles guard Magic Johnson in his comments. It was a photo of Johnson and Stiviano on her Instagram that sparked Sterling’s comments.
“Don’t put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”
In response to these remarks Johnson responded on Twitter saying “I feel sorry for my friends Coach Doc Rivers and Chris Paul that they have to work for a man that feels that way about African-Americans.”
Johnson has said he and his wife will no longer be attending Clippers games in the future while Sterling remains owner.
These comments have naturally caused outrage amongst people involved with the NBA on every level, from owners and executives to players and the media who cover the sport.
The irony in this all is that Sterling is the owner of the Clippers whose entire success has been thanks to the players and coaches on the team, who are predominantly black. The NBA itself is an African-American dominant league, with over 70 percent of its players identifying as black.
If indeed the investigation proves that Sterling did make these comments (his side claims they are not him), he does not deserve to have a place in the league let alone own a team.
LeBron James, who is arguably the face of the NBA the same way Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan before him, spoke on the matter after his teams win over the Bobcats.
“I’ve wavered back and forth if I would actually sit out, if our owner came out and said the things that he said. I would really have to sit down with my teammates, talk to my family, because at the end of the day, our family and our teammates are way more important than that. But there’s no room for Donald Sterling in our league. There’s no room for him.”
It is easy to understand the frustration that Clippers players and others around the league have and the mental battle that they face having to decide whether they should play for an owner who would allegedly make such callous statements.
It was refreshing to hear that the Clippers continued to participate in Sunday’s game despite the remarks allegedly made by Sterling. Their silent protest came during the pregame shoot around, when they left their warm-ups at center court and wore regular red t-shirts. The Clippers fell to the Warriors 118-97, evening the series at two games each.
The entire scenario seemed to weigh heavy on the players during the game. There seemed to be a dark cloud hanging over the team. As the starters sat on the bench for the remainder of the day there was a look of utter despair.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a public statement calling the audio recordings disturbing and stating that the NBA will work to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible. Silver said that he would not discuss any moves towards punishment because all members of the NBA do in fact have a due process to state their side of the story.
Silver is just three months on the job, after taking over for David Stern, who served as commissioner for 30 years before retiring in January. This incident is an immediate test of his ability to exert control over the 30 owners who voted him in as commissioner.
What needs to be answered his why the league failed to acknowledge or sanction Sterling for his prior racist and actions and comments. The uproar now is justified but could have easily been avoided had owners made a stand previously. But since the Clippers for years were the laughing stock of the NBA, his actions were pushed aside and ignored.
Well, that cannot and will not be ignored any longer.
Even Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats and notorious fence rider, condemned the comments Sterling made. The owners will have no choice but to try and force Sterling from his ownership. His comments are, after all, bad for business. And, for better or worse, money does talk. As of Monday evening, more than half a dozen companies had withdrawn their corporate sponsorship with the Clippers.
Its clear Sterling has no place in the league anymore. What’s clearer is Sterling shouldn’t have had a place in the league for years though. But when you consider the people who also own NBA teams – guys like Cavalier’s owner Dan Gilbert who made millions in mortgages while the economy collapsed or Magic owner Richard DeVos who has dumped millions of dollars into anti-gay marriage initiatives – you see a fraternity that has hidden on of their members.
While the words and attitudes expressed by Sterling are horrible and contemptible, it is not the first time his racism has surfaced nor is this nearly the most racist thing Sterling has done.
Sterling was sued by the federal government for housing discrimination back in 2003 with documents of his testimony surfacing in 2006. In those documents, Sterling said black people attract vermin and had no place living in his housing. He settled out of court, reportedly in the largest settlement in history over discrimination.
So while what Sterling said is reprehensible, this outrage should have surfaced over a decade ago. Housing discrimination can lead to incredible levels of violence: see Chicago in 2014, where people die every day over land and territory with little education or opportunity.
It’s time for Sterling to go, but its time for everyone to look at the larger problems, for once, and try and solve them, rather than lose their cool over some unsurprising comments made by an 81-year-old man.
By Navindra Persaud
The Miami Heat managed to hold off a fighting Charlotte Bobcats in the first round of the NBA Playoffs Sunday, defeating them 99-88. The Bobcats, however, showed clear signs that the have the ability to take control in opening minutes, which could be threatening to the reigning NBA Champions.
Not only were the Miami Heat outrebounded but they also may have gotten a little help on the officiating end as the Bobcats had 12 free throw attempts while the Heat had 26, most of which came from, you guessed it, Heat guard Lebron James.
Charlotte, who have now fallen to the Heat a total of 17 times in a row, managed to out rebound the heat 44-38 in the game despite an injury sustained by their center Al Jefferson. Most of Miami’s rebounds came from center Chris Anderson and James who combined for 19 of Miami’s 38 boards.
Jefferson did return to the game and put together some quality minutes. He is quite capable of generating points in the paint and being a he defensive presence as well. He averaged 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds this season and managed to score 18 points and grab 10 rebounds through 35 minutes, the majority of which were played with a plantar fasciitis injury.
The Bobcats also got help on the offensive end from guard Kemba Walker who provided 20 points, dished six assists and grabbed five rebounds. Walker provided not only offense but also a spark on the Bobcats that they seemed to ride as the game went on. Guard Gary Neal also provided 17 points and forward Josh McRoberts added 15 points and seven rebounds.
“We did some really good things today,” Walker said in an Associated Press interview. “We just have to keep executing throughout the game. We can’t get rattled.”
Clearly the Bobcats offense was clicking. However, the fact that the Heat got to the free throw line much more often is the major factor in their win over Charlotte. They were allotted more trips to the line providing an advantage to earn easy points. Perhaps this could be prevented if the Bobcats didn’t turn the ball over 13 times versus the Heats seven total.
The numbers are simple and the Bobcats should know exactly what adjustments they need to make. Jefferson told the Associated Press he does not plan on sitting out and should hopefully be able to fight through his injury to help the Bobcats win.
They will also need to find a way to neutralize Miami guard Dwayne Wade who, despite only playing 28 games out of precaution by the Heat, came back absolutely strong, finishing with 23 points and going 10-of-16 from the field and adding five assists.
Wades ability to penetrate the defense and get inside the paint for high percentage shots has always been key to the Miami Heat’s success prior to the arrival of James but when they both take the court the Bobcats need to figure out how to stop both from scoring rather than just concentrating on one of them.
Jefferson took care of Miami center Chris Bosh in the paint, holding Bosh to just four rebounds in the entire game. Bosh’s offense was also limited but he managed to score 13 points.
The pieces are there for the Bobcats and after a few minor adjustments fans should be prepared for a fight from Charlotte, who are making the playoffs for just the second time of the 10 years the franchise has been in the league.
by Navindra Persaud
When the Miami Heat defeated the Indiana Pacers last Friday, it showed quite a bit of weakness in the Pacers offense. As things stand, the Pacers are in the number two spot in the Eastern Conference but they will need to figure out a way to get past the offensive slump that they have been in lately.
There has been very little effective ball movement from the Pacers on the offensive end, and they are very fortunate to at least have the number two seed. They may survive the first round of the NBA playoffs, but may not make it out of the second round if they have to face the Chicago Bulls, who have really put together a stellar season, given the circumstances following Derrick Rose’s season ending injury and other ailing players.
Brian Windhorst said it best in his article for ESPN last Saturday: “All of it comes down to their struggle to execute such basic concepts like throwing entry passes, standing in the best spot or setting a screen that actually screens someone. There’s sloppiness and poor execution everywhere.”
It is hard to pinpoint whether the problem is with Frank Vogel’s coaching or simply just the players failing to understand, but he looked visibly upset with the way his offense was performing. Vogel stated in a post game interview for ESPN that he was still confident in the team and still believes that the team is in good shape.
Indiana guard Paul George, who finished the game against the Heat with 22 points, five rebounds and five assists in the loss also said that the team needs to be able to “prepare well.” He relied on the excuse that in the playoffs the team understands that it’s a clean slate and that they will be able to start fresh. Though this may be the case, the Pacers should worry about their offensive problems now in order to make a statement in the closing games of the regular season.
The Miami Heat have managed to show that they don’t plan on cruising out the remainder of the season and that is something the Pacers should strongly try to mimic. It would be in their best interest to start putting the fear in other teams in the Eastern Conference.
In the last 13 games that the Pacers have played they have only scored above 90 points four times. They managed to get through the season and just finding their offense at times, but streaky will not be enough to get them through the playoffs and into championship contention.
Fans also have to take into consideration that the Pacers struggled even with Miami guard Dwayne Wade sitting out of the game. With Miami’s full roster, the Pacers have to worry about Wade as another offensive threat that they will either need to match or eliminate by playing excellent on the defensive end.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chicago Bulls posed more of a threat to Miami than the Indiana Pacers do at this point because of their effective defense. While Indiana’s defense is decent, it is clearly not enough to offset a smooth offensive team like the Bulls have managed to be this season.
Paul George is a great scorer but he can not bear the load on his own, and so far this season starting point guard, George Hill, has only managed to average 10.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists. To have a point guard struggling as Hill wasn’t able to score against the Heat.
The Pacers are being a little bit too passive and they do not look like a team who is hungry enough to win the NBA championship. They need to whip themselves into shape as the regular season comes to a close.