Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hope For Haters

Pwned, But For Reals?
So I'm away on business this week, which means I was able to watch tonight's Heat v. Thunder game in relative focus on a hotel treadmill... and in said game, the Heat raced out to an early 22-4 lead at home, then proceeded to get curb-stomped for the rest of the night, with Kevin Durant getting the best of LeBron James. It was OKC's biggest comeback to win for a damned long while, along with the first time that Durant beat James since Game One of their Finals

And the simple thing is to equate this as Durant finally passing James in his five year quest to be The Man, because Durant is so The Man right now, but hoop is, well, more complicated than that. What really happened tonight is that Thunder coach Scott Brooks got away from starting center stiff Kendrick Perkins in what might be Perk's worst matchup among any team in the league against Chris Bosh, and getting outstanding bench guard play from Derek Fisher and Jeremy Lamb. They also benefited from a lot of makes from perpetually improving power forward Serge Ibaka, and the increasingly lifeless Heat. They didn't even need Russell Westbrook, which is a whole 'nother story, of course.

There's no getting around this: Miami looks bored as paste with hoop these days. Designated #2 Dwyane Wade misses back to back games and plays effectively when he's around, but isn't the defensive hammer he used to be. Chris Anderson's short-term deal with Satan for professional relevance has gone back into remission, and point guard Mario Chalmers has atrophied into the guy they yell at for funsies, rather then as some kind of cruel indoctrination. They miss Mike Miller's presence in the bench unit something fierce, and another year of wear and tear on Ray Allen and Shane Battier isn't doing either any favors.

But, well, the story of the NBA for the rest of this season is whether, like Lucy with the football, the Heat are just trolling us. (It's not even, really, the Thunder; there's no telling who gets out of the West.) They don't need home court to win again; they just need to bring their A game and win on the road, like they've done before. They aren't going to be seriously challenged until the third round of the playoffs in the awful East, and all they will need to do is get past the twice-smashed Pacers, and whoever survives the meat grinder of the West. Getting punked at home in a national game on ESPN against a past Finals opponent is going to bother them for about as long as it takes you to finish this sentence.

So Durant's continuing eruption, his video-game cheat code level of prowess, his laughter-inducing 30-foot threes to just crush any chance of a Heat run in the few minutes of third quarter action where James and he went into Duel Mode? Well, it was as fun as the Association gets on a weeknight in January, but I was still counting all of the banked threes from Fisher that aren't going to happen in June, or how Ibaka has teased us before with that jump shot that doesn't fall in big games. Hell, Allen alone has been teasing regular season He's Too Old For This ever since he left Seattle.

If you could get a trend out of tonight, or a meaningful indicator, you're better than me. But not better than Durant. Which counts for, well, nothing more than hope right now...

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