MIAMI -- LeBron James used it as opportunity to once again showcase his knowledge of NBA basketball from years past.
For the past three seasons, the assumed blueprint for stopping the Miami Heat has been trying outmuscle them in the frontcourt. Bruise them, they say. Batter them, they think.
Each time, James thinks back to another team that had same label. And just like the Heat, the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s were pretty successful at dealing with their supposed shortcomings. The finesse versus power debate resurfaces when the Heat play the Memphis Grizzlies Friday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
"No matter how good a team is, you have to say something that could derail a team," James said. "They said that about the Bulls in the 90s -- you've got to beat them up inside. No one ever beat them up inside. If they tried, it didn't matter."
The Heat take a similar approach whenever they face a team such as the Grizzlies. Memphis used size to its advantage in an 18-point victory Nov. 11, but the Heat in recent weeks have proven they can stack up better against brawny teams.
During the 12-game winning streak, they have wins against the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers and Chicago Bulls. All those teams supposedly have an edge in the frontcourt against the Heat.
"Everyone feels like that's the way to beat us, to have two bigs try to beat us up and you'll win," James said. "I don't know if that's the answer, but we'll be there, we're ready for whatever game plan teams have against us."
The Grizzlies fit the model, with center Marc Gasol and forward Zach Randolph. They combined for 20 points and 22 rebounds in the first meeting of the teams despite an off scoring night for Gasol.
"They just pound it and pound it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "The size, No. 1, and No. 2, the skill. They're not just coming at you with hard physicality. There's a thought process behind it. They're skilled, both very good passers and they've developed a nice chemistry playing off each other the last few years. They're unique. You don't typically play teams that can really take it at you with two bigs on any given possession."
Spoelstra said Friday will test to see if the Heat have improved since that game in November. The addition of forward/center Chris Andersen has made them better-equipped to handle power teams, providing valuable minutes off the bench.
"You don't get tested night in, night out like we will (Friday) night," Spoelstra said. "You do it against Chicago, you did it against Indiana. We'll get tested and they'll feel that presence from the very first possession, so we'll find out."
Miami is a combined 1-2 against the Indiana Pacers and Bulls, the frontcourt-heavy teams in the Eastern Conference. Center Chris Bosh said the Heat will always deal with being considered a "soft" team, but realizes opponents also have to adjust.
"It's always going to be the perception against us," Bosh said. "...You still have to do it. Just like with us (Friday), we know that we're going to say, 'We have to keep them off the boards.' It's easier said than done. But beating us on defense is easier than done, too."
Guard Dwyane Wade said a 19-point victory against Chicago Feb. 21 was encouraging. The Bulls, however, were playing short-handed without guard Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose, who has been out all season with a knee surgery.
"We just played a team recently in Chicago that beat us up," Wade said. "I thought we handled it very well on the road. We're mature. We learn from our mistakes. We understand we're not going to beat a team like Memphis if they pound us on the glass, if we're not helping each other out on the defensive end. We can't let our bigs go one-on-one. We've got to play team defense.
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