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Miami Heat vs. Washington Wizards: Regular Season Game 5 Open Thread

The Essentials:

Heat (3-1) vs. Wizards (2-2)
7:00 p.m.
Verizon Center
Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Notable very early Heat numbers this season

5th in expected winning percentage (.750)
19th in pace (95.1 possessions per game)
11th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (105.1)
7th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (95.3)

Notable Heat numbers last season

14th in expected winning percentage (.509)
22nd in pace (89.9 possessions per game)
20th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (107.8)
11th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (107.6)

Pre-game links

Peninsula is Mightier, SB Nation's Heat Blog
Hot Hot Hoops, a Miami Heat blog
Peninsula is Mightier game preview
Ira Winderman's blog for the Miami Sun-Sentinel
Michael Lee: The Other Side: Heat
GameDay Miami

Tonight's Projected Starters
Heat vs. Wizards
Mario Chalmers
PG Gilbert Arenas
Dwyane Wade
SG Mike Miller
Quentin Richardson
SF Caron Butler
Michael Beasley
PF Fabricio Oberto
Jermaine O'Neal
C Brendan Haywood

No time to dwell on our loss to Cleveland yesterday, because Miami comes into town for a nationally-televised tilt tonight. The Heat are 3-1, though it should be mentioned that those three wins are against New York, Indiana and Chicago. They were winning for most of the game against Phoenix last night at home, but lost the game in the fourth quarter. I'd venture to say that tonight is their biggest test this year.

Obviously, Miami starts and ends with Dwyane Wade. I imagine Caron Butler will get the assignment guarding Wade, but Wade's a far different animal than LeBron James. Wade isn't as physically imposing as LeBron, but he's jet-quick and is an expert at using picks and going in the most direct line to the hoop. I honestly see little other way to defend him other than to drop off him and hope he isn't hitting his jumper.

Other than Wade, Jermaine O'Neal's got off to a strong start this year, though New York and Indiana in particular offer little resistance. He's not a particularly efficient scorer, but has a variety of moves even at this age. It's on Brendan Haywood tonight to really swallow up him. On paper, Haywood should hold O'Neal down, but Haywood has to stay focused and know that he probably won't (and shouldn't receive much help).

The X-factor for Miami is Michael Beasley, who is now playing power forward to start games. That's going to be a tough cover for Fabricio Oberto, because you know Oberto won't want to guard him all the way out on the perimeter. This is one of those nights where I'd prefer to see Andray Blatche play most of the time on Beasley, leaving Oberto to handle Udonis Haslem off the bench. Haslem might have been able to push Blatche around, but he won't be able to do the same for Oberto. This might even be one of those nights where you dust Dominic McGuire from the scrap heap to mess with Beasley's rhythm.

It'll be an interesting one, that's for sure. Miami is right there with us in the Southeast Division, so beating them at home is pretty important.

(Note: I'm not at tonight's game - conflict came up at the last minute. Normally, I would be, but not tonight. Kyle's there though).