1) Are you up for the grind, or are you not up for the grind? Because to beat a good team like Indiana in a playoff series, you have to be up for the grind. There's just no other way to do it, there is no other way to win a series like this. This was a game in which everything went janky for Miami: KJ and Wade got off to slow starts; Indiana center Roy Hibbert got off early; Chris Bosh got injured (seriously injured - more on that in #3); the Heat shot 40% from the floor; and Mike Mil-lar, Mario Chalmers, and Shane Battioke - the "shooters" combined to go 1-9 from the floor and score 6 points. Yet, Miami won, pulling away down the stretch for a 1-0 series lead. How? I just told you, dude, are you listening at all? We grounnndddd!!! Let's Go!
2) Oh, also it helps to have the MVP on your team. KJ James, awarded his third MVP trophy yesterday (first MVP season in Miami Heat history, and it was a pleasure to watch!), took this game over down the stretch. He pounded the paint, getting to the line 10 times, and scoring 32 points overall, 16 in the fourth quarter, equalling Indiana's team output for the final period. He held Indiana's best player, Danny Granger, to 1-10 from the floor. He grabbed 15 rebounds! 5 assists, 2 steals, a block, and only 1 turnover, even though he played 43 minutes and had the ball virtually the entire time. Coach Spo told him after 3 quarters: "You simply can not get tired," and he didn't. He ground the bejeezus out of this game. M-V-P.
3) Man, oh, man. As much as everyone likes to bash Chris Bosh - not me, of course, I mean other people - no one wanted to see this. Late in the second quarter, after a good first half of 13 points and 5 boards in 16 minutes - he was the only guy keeping Miami afloat early - he drove past Indiana center Roy Hibbert and dunked with his left hand as Hibbert's late contest pulled his arm back. Instantly crumpled to the floor, got up slowly, made his free throw, but then limped back severely on defense, had to come out, and could not return in the second half. Strained abdominal. I've never had that injury. But everyone who ever has had that in the NBA seems to miss a month or more. That's really bad. Already a million texts, emails, and tweets asking "Can Miami win a title without Bosh?" I don't know. For now? Just stay on the grind...
4) Bosh is super important in this series, and in every series, because he is the only frontcourt player on Miami who can make an offensive play for himself. Against a good defensive team like Indiana, that's important, especially because they have a 7'2" behemoth named Roy Hibbert, who had a nice offensive day with 17 points in 29 minutes. He has a hook shot he plays right over the top of any Heat big man. But he can't really guard Bosh, who repeatedly took him off the dribble in the first half, including the play on which Hibbert injured him. Miami's easy counter to Hibbert's size is to play Bosh at center with KJ at the 4 - he can handle any power forward Indiana has defensively, and it forces Hibbert up and away from the lane, since he has to go play Bosh. In the first half, with UD and Bosh playing together early, Hibbert guarded Haslem, no threat to score at this juncture, and stood in the lane, clogging things up. But even without Bosh to space Hibbert out in the second half, Miami used this strategy anyways, and put KJ at the nominal 4, where he proceeded to run pick and rolls with either Joel Anthony or Ronny Turiaf - whomever Hibbert was guarding. There is no way for Hibbert to guard this because he is slow-footed. Step out aggressively and KJ drives the ball - Hibbert fouled out with 5 minutes to go, but ref Scott Foster fudged a foul call to allow him to stay in the game (gave it to a Pacer who clearly had not fouled on the play). If Hibbert steps back, KJ shoots an open foul line jumper - he made two in a row early in the fourth to push Miami out to a 6 point lead after trailing most of the game. Also, Joel and Turiaf stepped up: rolling hard to the basket after the screen they combined for 13 points on 6-8 shooting (would have been more if Turiaf didn't miss all 4 free throws he took). This was especially open because Indiana didn't help off shooters, and this freed Joel and Turiaf for free runs in the lane. On the other end, Hibbert couldn't get low position on the blocks: Joel, Turiaf, and even KJ on one possession, fronted him, three-quartered him, and beat him with quickness, while the Heat perimeter defenders jammed the pass in. On one key late possession, Indiana tried to loop the ball in over the top, but as Hibbert caught it, Battier flew in from behind and stole it out of his hands. This figures to be a huge key to this series: can Miami take advantage of Hibbert's defensive weaknesses by making him play in space more than Indiana can use his size to their advantage? Today, down the stretch, Miami won this battle decisively.
5) You know what else is a grind at this time of the year? NO MORE SUNSPORTS! Having to watch a game with national announcers is positively brutal. At least Sunday games are ABC - you get either Jeff Van Gundy, who is knowledgeable and funny, or Hubie Brown, who is harmlessly unconscious. TNT is a hundred times worse. TNT's Reggie Miller and Steve Kerr? Un-listenable. Today was Hubie and play by play guy the generally inoffensive Mike Tirico. I tend to tune out the national guys to large degree - they've seen about 1/15 the number of Heat games this season that any fan has, so they can't bring any insight - and I couldn't tell you much of what they said about this game. But I did hear Tirico, with the seconds winding down on the Heat victory, claim that Indiana "will go right to the hotel and scour the video to see what they can do better." He's spot on, as long as by "go right to the hotel and scour the video to see what they can do better," he means "go to the rooftop bar at the W Hotel, drink several fruity cocktails, like grapefruit juice and vodka, order about $600 worth of Johnny Rockets burgers delivered to their rooms, then call a fleet of private cars to ferry them over to Liv, where they will congregate in the extra-double V.I.P. section and drink brown liquor late in to the night, then wake about about 2 pm tomorrow, stagger to the pool, and roast in the Miami sun for a few hours while drinking margaritas." Also, no one has broken down games on "video" since 2002.
6) Friday evening after work I was standing in line to pay at the grocery store next to Dos Minutos International Headquarters, and the guy right behind me, a bit of a grizzled fellow, had two beers. Just two beers, not a six pack, or a case, and no food. When he glanced at me, ummm, sort of absently staring at him, I smiled and said, "Mellow weekend, huh?" and he raised the beers up in salute and goes, "this is just for the drive home." Touche, Grizzled Dude.
We are back at it on Tuesday for Game 2. Also, P.Minutos' birthday. Boys, let's do it for Bosh, and P.Minutos, who might be the two humans least interested in NBA basketball that I know!!! If you need me before then, I'll be breaking down Game 1 game tape on my VCR while chain-drinking Plumber and Tonics. Cheers!