1. Do wins and losses in these matchups have any real influence over whether or not LeBron James will ever return to Cleveland?
Wes Goldberg, AllUCanHeat EIC: I highly doubt it. NBA fans will circle these games on their calendars as must-tune-in TV drama. Even in his fourth year with the Heat, LeBron playing Cleveland is still filled with drama. Seriously, when has this ever happened before? Do we care when Carmelo Anthony plays Denver? How about when Chris Paul plays New Orleans? The hype around these games are insane. However, I see no way that a win or a loss in a game can influence LeBron’s decision. Cleveland fans can wear all the “Come Home, LeBron” shirts they want. All signs point to LeBron resigning with Miami, even if he does opt out. But even if those signs pointed elsewhere, we should give LeBron –one of the smartest, more big-picture guys in the NBA– more credit than that. Are these games fun? Yes, LeBron certainly gets up a bit more for these matches. But fun is about it.
Trevor Magnotti, Staff Writer: Nope. I’m sure LeBron is really worried about how the Cavs do against him coming off a back-to-back in December. If he’s basing his decision on things like that, he needs his head checked.
Marlowe Alter, Staff Writer: I doubt wins and losses are significant to James, but if Cleveland laid down and took a beating, or conversely, pushed Miami to the brink every meeting, I think James would remember that during the summer. Wouldn’t you be a bit reluctant to join a team that you whopped up on four times each season? I know I’d rather join the up-and-coming team whose young players were fearless and played their hearts out against me. In the big picture, I don’t think it carries much weight, but naturally he’ll remember if any of the young Cavaliers impressed him in their battles during previous years.
2. Chris Bosh and Andrew Bynum were a combined 5 of 18 from the field in the first Heat-Cavaliers matchup. Which man will have a better game this time around?
WG: Chris Bosh. Forget stats and information, I would never bet on Andrew Bynum outplaying anyone. Okay, I remembered my stats and information: in the month of December, Bosh is averaging 13.7 points per game on 47 percent shooting and 6.3 rebounds per game. Bynum is averaging 13.8 on 50 percent shooting and 8.5 rebounds per game. With a slight edge, Bynum is having a better month. That said, I’m taking Bosh to exploit one of the worst defenses in the NBA. I’ll put my money on Bosh.
TM: Bosh is a solid post defender and distance shooter, making him a pain to account for on both ends. He’s been a terror from outside this season, and he’s also quick enough to handle playing on the perimeter, making him a challenge for even Anderson Varejao and Earl Clark to beat offensively. That said, Bosh’s rebounding is a concern and could put the Heat at a weakness. This is where the Heat struggled in the first game without Udonis Haslem. If Bynum does outplay Bosh, it needs to be on the boards. Other than that, however, I think Bosh is going to be a headache for the Cavs to account for all night.
MA: I’m uncomfortable counting on Bynum to impact this game or even play significant minutes. Miami has struggled in the past against dominant big men (see Roy Hibbert), but Bynum isn’t himself and has been wildly inconsistent in his 19 minutes per game. Bosh is still the third-wheel in South Beach, but he’s a nice complement to James and Wade as a versatile big who can space the floor and rebound. His counting numbers are down because he’s playing less than 30 minutes a night, which should keep him fresh for the playoff run. I’m taking Bosh simply for the fact that Bynum will be playing on those battered knees for a second straight night, and I can’t count on receiving any production from him.
3. Can Andrew Bynum have a similar impact on this game as Roy Hibbert did in this week’s Pacers-Heat game?
WG: No. Other than size, Bynum and Hibbert don’t have much in common. Hibbert is a much better defender and rebounder. The impact Hibbert has on the Heat is that he prevents LeBron James and Dwyane Wade from posting up, driving and cutting in the paint. Bynum does not do that. Hibbert is also helped out by terrific on-ball defenders on the perimeter — something Bynum cannot take advantage of. It takes a lot for James and the Heat to alter their method of scoring, and Bynum won’t do it.
TM: Yeah, this isn’t really a fair comparison. For one, Hibbert challenges shots in a way post-knee issues Bynum can only dream of. Hibbert’s big AND athletic, and that’s a challenge to battle every time down the court. Bynum needs good positioning in order to affect shots, and he can’t always get that, especially getting beat off the dribble. In order for Bynum to impact the game, as I said previously, it’s going to have to come on the boards. If he has something like 14 rebounds and hits a few offensive putbacks, that will be more of a help than he ever will be defensively against Miami.
MA: Offensively he can have a great impact, but he’s not nearly the same player Hibbert is on the defensive end. Not even Bynum himself knows how his knees will react daily, and like I said above, I’m especially skeptical on the second night of a back-to-back. The Heat lack a true big-bodied center, and Bynum certainly could take advantage. When he’s feeling good, he’s an exceptional offensive player, possessing an excellent low-post game full of powerful drop steps and short hooks with either hand. He’s shown flashes of his old self in limited action and had two of his best performances of the season last week. However, he’s been a non-factor in the past two games, unable to string together more than a few quality performances. Defensively, he can guard anyone in the post by himself, but his help-defense isn’t in the same league as Hibbert’s (to be fair, Hibbert might be the best defensive player in the league because he changes the opponents’ entire way of thinking). Any contribution from Bynum is a plus at this point.