I’m not sure if anyone is currently aware, but the Miami Heat play basketball. They’re an NBA franchise â€“ a pretty good one â€“ that is still playing regular-season games. Those games are played against other NBA basketball teams. Many times, they win those games. I just wanted to double-check that we all still knew that this was going on. It’s happening, I swear.
And so it went that somehow the most scrutinized, publicized and wrongfully deified team in the history of sports media started to fly just a little bit under the radar. And while nobody seemed to be watching (for the first time ever), these Miami Heat beat the Lakers again. And then ran down Memphis. And then took it to the Spurs, Nugs and Rockets respectively. While news spread of Knick meltdowns and Boston’s new pillow-soft interior, the Heat continued to tour the land with their three stars, like Nirvana circa 1993. Maybe not the best band of the era, but definitely the most identifiable.
And yes, we do generally dislike them. But in the last 50 games or so, we’ve been forced to move from “don’t like” (as in “I just don’t like their front line”) to dislike (as in “I dislike the Big Three”). Their weaknesses are clear: that bench and the paint. But their strengths are even clearer: the talents of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh taken famously to South Beach.
That’s why, for my Eastern Conference episode of “Who Do You Not Want to Play in the Playoffs (That Nobody Is Really Talking About)” I’m taking the Heat. Even though it’s giving me an ulcer.
What I like about them:
1. Starlight, Star Bright: LeBron and D-Wade have proven they can personally win playoff games â€“ but Bosh may be a different story. I guess it’s a better time than ever that he be playing his best ball of the season, giving them 20 and nine and shooting over 50% for the months of March and April. If he can be the versatile, post-extended scorer that he’s always been (and not meet his jumper on Myspace and fall in love with it), they could be getting anywhere from 70-90 points, 20-30 rebounds, and 15-20 dimes a game from Three’s Company. That’s insane.
And doesn’t it feel like the stars are the guys who end up winning playoff games? We love that upstart-underdog storyline so much that we almost forget that in most cases, it’s the team with the best player that ends up taking the series. It’s why teams go out and get these guys in the first place, despite having to spend the whole year dealing with them doing and saying things that just don’t make any sense (like how I’ve been telling people the new Russell Brand movie “Arthur” looks funny).
When it comes down to it, stars win series…and right now, the Heat have the most stars.
2. It’s Their Defense: They’re long, they’re athletic, and when they truly bring it on the defensive end, they will shut you down. If they can force turnovers, you’re then talking about stifling defense combined with the best team, maybe ever, in transition. Do I feel like they might get a little too excited with themselves after a sick fast-break throwdown (it still only counts for two, holmes)? Absolutely. Do I want to discourage it as a third-party observer that spends hours a day on YouTube? Not at all.
And about that gaping hole in the middle. It should be a problem, and if they ever have to play the Lakers, it will be â€“ but who in the East, outside of Dwight Howard, has the interior scoring to really exploit it? And do we really think the Magic are a real threat this year? To our real elite teams, I’m just not sure if Boston or Chicago have the honest post-game guys that could really hammer Miami inside. And if you’re stuck out on the perimeter against a motivated Miami defense, then you’re kind of like this guy.
What I don’t like about them:
1. Riding the Pine: I was going to look up how many times the Heat bench have been outscored by their opponent’s bench this year, and then decided it didn’t matter. It’s all the time. The numbers are almost irrelevant. The moral of the story: their bench doesn’t score a lot. They don’t score a lot at all.
Also, I wouldn’t put too much faith in a potential Eddy Curry signing. After he recently headed to Chicago to get in shape (ya know, right around game 60), I decided that wasn’t nearly soon enough. You can’t take all of that time off and expect to come in and contribute to a contender.
2. Finish Him: So you’re telling me that the guy who conceptualized “The Decision” is going to sit in the corner and watch a D-Wade iso with seven seconds left on the clock in a Game 6? I wouldn’t bet on it. But only because you can’t. I checked. Despite his well-documented late-game shortcomings this year, this is still LeBron James: the guy who, according to 82games.com, had by far the best clutch production of any player in the NBA last year. I still feel like there might be a late-game alpha dog battle brewing in Miami, and it might take the pressure of the playoffs to really bring it to the surface. And if the Heat end up matched up with the Knicks, I’ll be praying for it. We shall see.
Are The Heat The Team That No One Wants To Play In The East?
Follow Chris on Twitter at @TheBigCDilly.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.