Anyway, the Heat are rounding into shape under new coach Pat Riley. Antoine Walker has moved into the reserve SF role nicely, JW and Payton make a nice PG combination, and Shaq appears to be finding his legs. Combine Shaq’s improving ankle and Seattle’s dearth of big men, and we could be looking at a big night from the big fella.
It’s still not known whether Sugar Ray will be in the starting lineup, but let’s assume he’s not, meaning The Omen gets his fourth start of the season. Ordinarily, this would be a disaster, but even more of disaster would be trying to watch Ray Allen guard Dwayne Wade. Quite frankly, I think I’ll take Wilkins’ D and marginal O over Sugar Ray’s marginal D and superstar O in this case.
Last year, much was made of the Sonics’ statistical staff noticing that Wade favored going in a particular direction when he had the ball, enabling the Supes to hold him to 39% shooting in their two matchups (both of which the Sonics won). Can the same statistical insight benefit Seattle again? Somehow, I think DW will have figured a way to get off.
Of course, the big question – as mentioned at sonicscentral.com – is how many fouls the Frenchie/Swifty combo will rack up guarding the Big Diesel? Can we be approaching the rare double-6? Will there be a Potato sighting? Is the question mark button still work on my keyboard after this paragraph?
Bottom Line: Heat 101 – Sonics 90
Bonus Prediction: Gary Payton's Line: 15 points, 7 assists
(Update: Ray Allen is out for 3 games, while Keyon "The Menance" Dooling was tagged with a 5-game suspension. You can read the Times' version here.)