Miami Heat @ New Orleans Hornets
8:00 PM ET / 7:00 PM Central, November 5, 2010
New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, LA
LeBron James has a deep right shin bruise that kept him out of practice on Thursday, but that's not going to stop him from taking the floor on Friday as two of the hottest teams in the NBA collide at the New Orleans Arena.
Many expected the Miami Heat (4-1) to be where they are right now with their new "big three," even though it wasn't thought they would lose their first game of the season. Since then they've been going lights out and taking down everyone in their path and handily.
It's doubtful that anyone expected the New Orleans Hornets (4-0) to be one of the NBA's final unbeatens (Atlanta and LA Lakers), but they are and they're doing it with hard-nosed defense and a deep bench.
Chris Paul has led the Hornets to this point in the season and leads the team in both scoring (21.3 ppg) and assists (9.0 apg) while throwing in an additional 6.3 rebounds per contest. This is the third 4-0 start for New Orleans in the past five seasons and matches a franchise best.
Coming off a 107-99 victory over Houston on Wednesday, this team showed that they have a lot of explosive firepower in Paul, Marco Belinelli, David West, Marcus Thornton and a host of others. But it's their defense which has really been the focal point and has kept them undefeated.
"We're a defensive team, we're still trying to find our identity," said Paul on Wednesday. "We're no where near where we want to be, but we know that every night we step on the court...if we defend, we gives ourselves the opportunity to win."
So far this team has played well above expectations, but if Paul thinks they're not even close to where they want to be, then that's scary. Rookie head coach Monty Williams wants his team to keep a level head about their early season success.
"It's good to start 4-0, but with 78 more games to go, we're not going to be a team that allows our record to dictate how we play," said Williams.
The Miami Heat have been dominating their opponents ever since an opening game loss to the Boston Celtics, and it's no mistaking that the new combination of James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh are a huge reason why. Bosh, though, still thinks they can get better.
"I think we have to get used to teams missing so much. We're holding teams to a low (field goal) percentage, and that's a lot of misses," said the new Heat member Bosh. "We're going to have to box out a little better. We have been winning by 20 points but it might increase if we give them one shot. If we clean up, I think we'll be an even better defensive team."
Even though Bosh's numbers are down this year as opposed to his last season in Toronto, he doesn't mind as long as they are winning. And winning they are as they'll look for their fifth consecutive win on Friday night in New Orleans.
As far as James' injury goes, it was enough to keep him out of practice but coach Erik Spolestra believes it will be fine for him to start in the game. James knows he's not totally healthy though.
"Right now every time you kind of flex your foot, it kind of flares up," James said. "We're doing everything possible to get it back to 100 percent."
Miami Heat: Carlos Arroyo, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony
New Orleans Hornets: Chris Paul, Marco Belinelli, David West, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor
Read more from Danny Cox at Examiner.com.