Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Heat Are Not Interested In Compelling Stories

So tonight in Miami, the Heat did something no one in the NBA has been able to do for the better part of a month: they made Jeremy Lin look ordinary. At best.

Like many games involving the Heat when they seem to care, this was the kind of game where you kept looking at the score and wondering why the margin wasn't twice as big as it currently was. By focusing their defensive intensity on Lin with the superior athleticism that is their hallmark, Miami was able to limit penetration, make ballstop Carmelo Anthony the focus of the offense, and more or less dial back the clock a month to when New York was a sub-.500 team and Lin was nothing more than a cognoscenti curiosity.

It was, of course, nothing what the national television audience wanted, especially with a small slate of games on the last night before the All-Star Weekend, aka the weekend that watchaable sports does not really exist. How bad was Lin, really? The Knicks actually looked better for stretches with Baron Davis on the floor, and Davis on his third team in a year. Yes, so is Lin, but you get the point. The Knick PGs went 1 for their first 14 from the floor, had more turns than assists, and never seemed to belong on the same floor as the Heat.

It is, of course, unfair to judge the Knicks too much on a single mid-week game, on the road, against the team with the best record in the NBA. But that's the mean fact of life in the NBA: the gap between the best teams (Miami, OKC) and the next tier is just substantial, to the point where you just can't see outcomes other than a 1 seed vs. 1 seed finale. As encouraging and refreshing as the Lin story has been, as much as it has seemed to open the possibility that anything can happen in the NBA... well, um, no. Not in a best of seven series, not when your coach is Mike D'Antoni, aka a coach who has always found himself behind the bench for entertaining pretenders, and not when three of your five starters are ordinary, at best, defensive players. Sorry about that.

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