On the March 13 edition of KIA NBA Countdown, analysts Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jalen Rose and Michael Wilbon provided insights on several of the NBA’s top storylines and previewed tonight’s doubleheader: Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder at 8 p.m. ET followed by the New York Knicks at the Denver Nuggets at 10:30 p.m. KIA NBA Countdown next airs Sunday, March 17, at 3 p.m. on ABC.
Magic Johnson on the Miami Heat’s success
The Heat have been awesome on defense and on offense. Coach Spoelstra is pulling out all the stops making sure this team is focused and ready. He should probably be Coach of the Year. And then, when I think about the time of the year they are doing it. It’s the right time. They are really getting ready for playoff basketball and they sent a message to everybody. They beat the Knicks when they had to beat the Knicks. They just beat the Pacers when they had to beat the Pacers.
Jalen Rose on Dwight Howard’s return to Orlando
I like Jacque Vaughn. I think he’s going to be a great mind in this game and a coach for a long time. But when Dwight Howard returns to Orlando, they let him off the hook – 39 free throws in an 8-14 point game. You’re allowing him to play in a rhythm. What you do is push him off the post, double team him every time he catches the ball, don’t give up any layups or dunks. You take your own fans out of the game when you stop it. That’s a roll tactic not a hold tactic. And also, you give Dwight Howard a sense of confidence, getting easy points, laughing at the crowd and feeling good about himself. He never felt pressure.
Michael Wilbon on whether the Milwaukee Bucks can stop the Heat
Milwaukee may get them. They beat the Heat by 19 in Milwaukee earlier this season and went to overtime in Miami. That’s a weird matchup dynamic there.
Rose on whether the Boston Celtics will stop the Heat’s streak
With an 82 game schedule, you’re always looking for motivation. The Boston Celtics are not a top four team in the East, but they see the Miami Heat coming with a win streak with Ray Allen on their roster. Doc Rivers talked to them about having a chip on their shoulders. It’s built in for the Celtics to come out and have a great game against the Miami Heat.
Johnson on Steve Nash as key to the Los Angeles Lakers’ success
Dwight Howard and Steve with that pick and roll has now freed up Steve Nash to start playing like Steve Nash again. We didn’t see that early on. Now he’s averaging about 12 points. That’s really important for the Lakers. If the Lakers are going to get into the playoffs and then do well in the playoffs, they have to have Steve Nash playing well.
Wilbon on the Denver Nuggets’ streak
This whole Nuggets streak is intriguing – a point differential average of nearly 12 a game. They are going up and down the court with a certain force. I don’t know if Kenneth Faried is ready to be a superstar but he has made a jump from last season to this season.
Johnson on the Nuggets’ style of play
This team loves to get up and down and run. They put so much pressure on you defensively. To me, the Clippers are the best running team because they have more finishers but nobody has more guys in the fast break than the Denver Nuggets. They get all five guys in the break. And then, every guy who comes in off the bench can run, so they just put pressure on you constantly for 48 minutes.
Johnson on whether the Nuggets need a superstar
I think Andre [Iguodala] does help them because to me, he’s not a superstar but he’s a star and he can defend as well. They just have to decide in the fourth quarter, when they are playing against San Antonio and the Thunder, who can take the game over. When you’re not shooting well, you need somebody to say – hey, I have the talent and I have the confidence in my game, I can take the game over and will us to victory and to me they just don’t have that guy.
Rose on Ty Lawson
I think home court is going to be a catalyst to a long playoff run and [Ty] Lawson at the point is that player who can get them shots late off the dribble.
Johnson on the success of Nuggets coach George Karl
He’s one of the best coaches in all of basketball. What I love about him is he explains to you what he wants. Hey, let’s keep running because that’s how we’re going to win. He’s getting the best out of [JaVale] McGee. Faried – he’s getting the best out of him. He brings out the best in players and makes them better basketball players as well.
Johnson on the New York Knicks’ challenges
Amar’e [Stoudemire] was playing really good basketball. Averaging 14 points, shooting 57 percent from the field. That means you’re getting baskets inside with Amar’e. The problem with the Knicks is they started relying too much on the three point shot and teams started taking that away from them. What really made them great in that first month was their defense and I don’t know what happened to that defense that was so great.