Monday, March 9, 2015

Zach Scott Leads Sounders to Victory Against Rapids

The Seattle Sounders secured their third shutout of the 2012 season on April 14, defeating the Colorado Rapids 1-0 at CenturyLink Field. With the win, the Sounders move up to the third spot in the MLS Western Conference table, currently trailing first place Real Salt Lake by 5 points.

Once again, Mauro Rosales wasn't able to suit up for the Sounders (due to a sprained knee), and it certainly affected the effectiveness of their offense. The Sounders were very successful at moving the ball up the field, but they were only able to capitalize on one of their 18 shot attempts. However, their defense was sharp as ever, holding the Rapids to only four shots throughout the match.

For a moment, it looked like the Sounders were on their way to another draw, but defender Zach Scott saved the day, nodding an Alex Caskey corner into the post for the only goal of the game. For Scott, it was the first goal of his MLS career, and it couldn't have come at a better time. Freddy Montero had a solid opportunity to increase the lead later on in the game, but Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens wasn't having any of it, deflecting his shot over the bar.

"Obviously we're pleased with the 1-0 win, another shutout for our defense, which is a good thing," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid told reporters after the game. "Especially in the second half, I thought we created a number of chances. Our finishing we're still struggling to find it a little bit, so sometimes you've just got to take a game like this. But overall, I thought we were more dangerous. Overall, I thought a lot of their possession was in their deep end of the field. It was possession that didn't concern us too much and I thought we did a good job when they came forward."

The Sounders will now get a two-week break, before heading over to the Windy City. They'll face the Chicago Fire on April 28, and Rosales should be able to play by then.

David has been a fan of the Seattle Sounders for the past 3 years. Follow him on twitter @davidkingwriter and check out his blog.
 
Sources:
Joshua Mayers, "Zach Scott: 'We wanted to basically honor Steve with a win.'"

Miami Heat Look for Season Sweep Against Knicks

The Miami Heat dominated the New York Knicks in their last encounter, stopping "Linsanity" dead in its tracks. They'll look for another dominant performance against the Knicks, when the Eastern Conference rivals meet on April 15.

To make things more interesting, both teams are currently on course to meet in the first round of the 2012 postseason, and fans can expect both teams to play with playoff-level intensity.

The Heat haven't been the same ever since All-Star break, particularly on the road. Their once impenetrable defense hasn't been as sharp, and their role players have failed them on many occasions. Miami's poor play has now cost them the top spot in the NBA's Eastern Conference, and they'll probably have to settle for the second seed come playoff time - they're currently trailing the first place Chicago Bulls by three and a half games.

"We need to play well because we haven't played well after the break on the road," James told reporters about the Heat's upcoming game against the Knicks. "I don't know if it's a statement game, but we want to play better than we have on the road. It's a good place to play knowing more than likely we'll play them in the first round."

Even though the Heat have struggled in the second half of the 2011/12 NBA season, they've made a few improvements in the past few weeks. For one, they're starting to tighten up their defense, holding seven of their last eight opponents under 100 points.

Miami's role players have also been playing a little better lately, putting up a combined 68 points during their April 13 encounter against the Charlotte Bobcats. The Heat are pretty tough to handle when their role players show up for games, and it'll be interesting to see if Heat coach Erik Spoelstra can get them to perform more consistently.

"The most important thing for us is we're trying to get an optimal level of play where we're playing at a high level," Spoelstra told reporters "We're not there yet, particularly on the road."

David is a Miami Heat fan that has followed the team for 16 years. Follow him on twitter @davidkingwriter and check out his blog.
 
Sources:
Stats LLC, "Heat-Knicks Preview
David J. Neal, "Miami Heat's game against New York Knicks a possible first-round preview"

Miami Heat Secure Division Title with Win Against Knicks

The Miami Heat completed their season sweep of the New York Knicks - despite Carmelo Anthony's 42 points, winning their April 15 encounter 93-85. For the Heat, it was a much needed road-victory, given their recent struggles on the road.

As expected, the game between the two Eastern Conference rivals was tightly contested, with only a point separating the two teams by the end of the third quarter. However, Miami turned up the heat in the final quarter, stifling the Knicks with their defense.

LeBron James led the Heat against the Knicks, putting up 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists. Dwyane Wade was right behind him, finishing with 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists of his own.

"This is obviously a lot of our favorite places to play, but I think it came at a good time for us," Wade told reporters after the game. "We were struggling, as in to play a complete game on the road, and what better place to come in and focus then here, where this team has been playing well and can embarrass you if you don't play your game."

Even though the Heat have struggled a bit in their recent games, their defense seems to be improving. They did a pretty good job defensively against the Knicks, holding them to 43 percent from the field. Their perimeter defense was just as effective, limiting the Knicks to 30 percent shooting from long range.

However, Miami's role players weren't able to duplicate their April 13 performance against the Charlotte Bobcats, putting up only 20 points combined against the Knicks.

Even though Miami's defense is back where it should be, their role players continue to struggle. The Heat's weak bench cost them big against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA finals, and it looks like they might be a liability come playoff time.

The Heat's next game will be against the New Jersey Nets on April 15.

David is a Miami Heat fan that has followed the team for 16 years. Follow him on twitter @davidkingwriter and check out his blog.
 
Sources:
Associated Press, "LeBron James, Dwyane Wade power Heat past Knicks and to division title"
Player and game information from ESPN.com

LeBron James' 37 Points Carries Miami Heat to Victory Against Nets

The New Jersey Nets might not be going to the playoffs, but they certainly still have a lot of fight left in them, holding their own against the Miami Heat on April 16. However, the Heat proved to be the better team at the end of the day, walking away with the 101-98 victory.

The Nets came out firing against the Heat, scoring 34 points in the first quarter of the game. The Heat reduced New Jersey's lead to three points heading into the halftime break. But a poor third quarter performance almost cost Miami the game. Luckily for them, LeBron James stepped up big in the final quarter, leading the Heat to the three-point victory. Even the Nets' fans were impressed by LeBron's final quarter heroics, chanting "M-V-P!" as the Heat forward scored basket after basket.

"We were able to grind away and not let it go mentally, and that guy, No. 6, he was pretty good going down the stretch," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters after the game. "He was sensational. Obviously, he made every big play offensively. I believe it was 17 straight to close the game. That's what an MVP does and we needed it at both ends. But also on a night like this, you can come up with a lot of excuses to not bring that type of performance, but that's not the type of DNA he has inside of him. The Nets played well but we found a way at the end."

LeBron led the Heat with his 37 points against the Nets. Chris Bosh was right behind him, putting up 22 points and 15 rebounds. Dwyane Wade wasn't able to suit up against the Nets - due to a sprained ankle, but it really didn't matter thanks to LeBron's impressive play.

The Heat's bench put up a mediocre performance against the Nets, but everyone on the team did find a way to put a few points on the basket. Obviously, Spoelstra still has some work left to do before the playoffs start.

With the Heat's win, they move a little closer to the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings, currently trailing the first place Chicago Bulls by two and a half games. With a little luck - and one more game left against the Bulls, they just might end up stealing the top spot in the East.

David is a Miami Heat fan that has followed the team for 16 years. Follow him on twitter @davidkingwriter and check out his blog.
 
Sources:
Associated Press, "LeBron James scores Miami's final 17 points to carry Heat"