Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Six Points About The Heat's Winning Streak

Stop Skimping On Your Sign
1) It is, of course, amazing. Basketball is a funny game, where terrible possessions can get bailed out by fouls against three point shooters, balls can just rim out for no reason, players are just gassed from travel or the schedule or from some heretofore unknown personal issues... and the fact that no team has ripped off as many wins as the Heat have for decades is just kind of crazy.

2) Having said that, it's also the time to do this, as the Nuggets' 15-game streak shows. Tonight's Heat opponent, the Orlando Magic, got exactly what they wanted from tonight's game: minutes for their young players, a full house for a going nowhere team (and they didn't even care that much about who they were rooting for, really), and until the game was late, a modicum of dignity and hope. They wanted to win this game, and get fewer ping-pong balls against the Bobcats, like you and I might want to win a brand-new car where you have to pick up the taxes and payments. And the same thing went for the night before, in Miami, when the Bobcats came to call. There's a reason why Dwyane Wade took both games off with a sore knee that would have never come up if the games were actually in doubt.

3) I have no interest in the Heat; no rooting interest one way or the other, no historical animosity or affability. But I wish I had some of the latter about now. Lebron James is the first dominant NBA superstar in my memory who seems to really, truly play basketball because he finds it to be a fun thing to do. Ever since the Michael Jordan Era, superstars have been joyless maniacs and hyper-competitive dramatists who attack the refs in the same way they attack their opponent. They have been, in short, the kinds of guys that you would not want at your home poker game, and who you would take way too much interest in knocking out if they were at your table in a casino, and the kinds of guys that you can only root for if they are wearing your laundry. I don't know about you, but the older I get and the worse my teams are, that type wearies me. James might be a phony, as Cleveland Fan is ready to howl for the rest of his days on the earth, but he's a palatable one.

4) This Heat team, it is not news to relate, is this good because of their defense and transition game, with the offense a bit of a mismash in the half court, which is why the rest of the NBA hasn't just folded its tent already for a repeat championship. But it's an odd kind of dominant defense. Miami is unique in my NBA experience of being a great defensive team with a light switch mentality. In many of the games in this streak, the Heat have been down by double figures in the first half, only to go to full pressure in the second half and turn teams into powder. That all acts to help them, actually; for as many lobs and showboat plays as they make, the opposition does not seem to take things very personally. Maybe that's a function of the new NBA sensitivity towards hard fouls and taunting, or maybe it's that everyone wants to be on Lebron's team one day, but, still, interesting.

5) Wade is, by far, the dirtiest player on this team, and provides more steel than anyone realizes. He's also a blocked shot hammer at shooting guard, a man who seems to have just stopped shooting three pointers because someone showed him the numbers, and the biggest reason why James is as good as he is. When you've got a top 10 player that's willing to transition his game to a support role, it's infectious, especially when rings and winning streaks come their way. Because of Wade, Mario Chalmers does not shoot too much, and Chris Anderson never shoots, and Mike Miller does not pule for minutes and Ray Allen does not care that he's coming off the bench.

6) Comparing this team to the 33-win Lakers is, of course, silly: that Laker team had Gail Goodrich, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain all taking defined roles as the scorer, passer and rebounder, and did their damage in a run where two -- two! -- of the games were decided by fewer than 10 points. This Miami team just wins and wins and wins; they do not salt the earth and ravage the women (Wilt's job) behind them.

But if they go past 33, and win a championship, and whip through things on Fo' Fo' Fo' Fo'... well, scoreboard is scoreboard. And while I can't say I'll be rooting for them to do it, I also can't say that I won't be watching to see if it happens. That's the thing about this club; you haven't seen one like them before. And that's almost as big of a compliment as calling them better than the Lakers, really...

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