Thursday, May 9, 2013

In Case You Forgot, The Heat Are Still Better Than You

Have you ever heard of that well-known saying "the only thing that could stop them, is them"?  That is your 2013 Miami Heat in a nutshell.  They cruised through their first round series against an over matched Bucks team.  It didn't even seem like the Heat gave forth a big effort, and still Milwaukee had no shot.  They averaged exactly 100 points per game, and I am pretty sure they were blindfolded in game three just to make it interesting.  With such dominance comes some expectations.  When they have those expectations they seem to get full of themselves.  It is hard not to when people are telling you that you are the best and that you will probably win the NBA Finals without losing a game, etc.  When you hear those kinds of claims, you start to believe them.  When you start to believe them, then something similar to Monday night occurs. 

The Bulls came into Monday coming off a hard fought seven game series against the Brooklyn Nets.  They were full of piss and vinegar and came at the Heat with a vengeance.  They had a strange confidence about them since they were the team that ended the much heralded 27 game winning streak.  The Bulls play the kind of basketball that hurts the Heat.  They are rough around the edges and even if they lose they make it extremely hard on their opponents.  They will beat you down and get in your head.  They will make you think twice about going to the hole and cause you to take more jump shots, which have a much lower shooting percentage.  They hurt you and get in your head.  They cause your frustration level to hit the roof.  Basically, they make you play their game, and that's exactly what they did to the Heat on Monday.  They let Miami get comfortable and then in the blink of an eye they were leaving as game one winners. 

Oh, by the way, they were without Kirk Hinrich AND Luol Deng as they were both out with different ailments.  The Bulls took down the "unstoppable" Heat with their JV squad.  They rode the likes of Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler down the stretch to steal home court advantage from the defending champs.  A 10-0 run to end the game spelled doom for the Heat who looked absolutely stunned that a team could come on their home court and take the game away from them in such a way.  They did it with four of their five starters playing at least forty of the forty-eight minutes.  With that, they held the Heat to their lowest output of the playoffs. 

The Heat are awake now.

They went into the last game hungry to quiet the haters.  They wanted the doubters in the media to know that the favorites are still just that.  One hiccup was just that, a hiccup on the way to a flawless victory.  They beat the Bulls by a score of 115-78, their biggest win in their franchise history.  The Heat shot a little over 39 percent in game one, they shot 60 percent in game two.  They made eleven more shots while taking eight less shots.  It was staggering how proficient the Heat were.  They were the ones who were doing the frustrating.  They caused the Bulls to take six technical fouls.  (The Heat took three themselves to show they were ready to play any type of basketball, Chicago was not expecting that.) 

It should have been expected that a night like last night could have happened.  The Bulls aren't known for their scoring, yet they dropped 35 on the Heat in the fourth quarter.  Nate Robinson is usually a good bench player, but he dropped 27 in the starting role.  He has only scored that much on four other occasions all season.  Before Monday night, Jimmy Butler hadn't scored 20 points since March 3rd, but he dropped 21 on the Heat.  What Chicago did was going to be hard to sustain. 

The point of last night was to show that this is the same team who people were saying they could go 4-4-4-4 and win every series in sweeping fashion.  That may not be possible anymore, but they can still dominate.  They need to survive this series without injury.  They need to keep Dwayne Wade as healthy as possible.  They need Lebron to keep doing best in the world kinds of things.  They need Chris Bosh to be quietly great as he has been since he arrived.  They need their bench to show they can hurt you just as quickly as the starters.  They need to shoot well and they need to remember the task at hand.  As long as the Heat don't become their own worst enemy then this will be as easy as everyone says it is.  Even if the Bulls get Hinrich and Deng back healthy they could still win this in 5.  Even if Derrick Rose made his long awaited comeback to the court they will still be moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals.  They are too good.  If something goes wrong (an injury maybe?) then it is a different story.  That is when it gets interesting.  Do the Heat have what it takes to win when they are evenly matched?  Only time will tell, but for now they are the best in the world. 

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