6 Thoughts1) I’ve already received like 100 emails, texts, and tweets blaming this loss on me, since I guaranteed the Nets would beat the Bulls in Round 1, and because I said the Bulls “stink.” You can give me the blame for the loss if it makes you feel better, that’s fine. Just know that, myself, I’ll be putting the blame where it truly belongs: on the Nets. This is all their fault. What the hell, Nets!...It’s been so long since Miami lost a meaningful basketball game that it feels like someone died up in here. I don’t even have the energy for a defiant “let’s go;” how about a half-hearted “let’s get on with it?”
2) Still, the weird thing was that I thought the game went fine…right up until it didn’t. Miami hasn’t really played a competitive basketball game for several weeks – the Bucks went on vacation long before their series with the Heat started. Predictably, Miami was rusty, and a step slow – and still, after back-to-back KJ James finishes through Jimmy Butler, Miami led by 7 points halfway through the fourth quarter. What else do you want? All year Miami has out executed teams down the stretch of games, but tonight, it was a comedy of errors. Miami fouled too much and allowed the Bulls to claw their way back into the game from the line. Chalmers and James missed crucial free throws of their own. James didn’t get a body on noted homophobe Joakim Noah on a defensive rebound, and it resulted in a Marco Bellinelli three to tie the game with a couple of minutes to go. Out of a timeout, Wade took a horrific early triple on a play that looked like it was supposed to be a James postup, and worse, kept getting lost guarding Jimmy Butler. Finally, at the most crucial of junctures, Ray Allen ended up on Nate Robinson on a switch at the top of the key, Robinson blew by him, and James and Chris Bosh (who was otherwise good defensively) watched him lay the ball into the bucket for the backbreaking hoop. Miami held the Bulls to 58 points through 3 quarters, then gave up 35 in the fourth. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It was a collective effort, everyone played poorly at the end. Again, to be fair, it’s more the Nets’ fault than Miami’s – the Bulls shouldn’t have even been playing in this game.
3) Jimmy Butler was the best player on the court, I thought. Noah was great, too, and KJ James came alive in the second half, but Butler played all 48 minutes, most of them pressed up tight defensively into KJ James’ airspace. He was strong, he was quick, and he limited KJ to 24 points on 8-17 – never allowed him to feel comfortable. Furthermore, on the other end, Dwyane Wade could absolutely not guard him. Butler worked his way to the line for 10 free throws and scored 21 points, which included an and-one on Battier (on an utterly bizarre foul call), and another on Wade, on a play Dwyane couldn’t have played worse – lazily trailed a Butler cut to the basket off the ball, and tried to blocked his shot from a bad angle. Butler also knocked in a huge late triple because Dwyane gave him space to protect against another blow-by. And grabbed 14 rebounds! Kid was unbelievable. Tip your hat to him. Not sure if Dwyane’s knee is still hurt, or he’s just rusty from a long, long layoff. But he was terrible on both ends. Besides his poor defense, he also only scored 14 points on 16 shots. If he gets badly outplayed by Jimmy Butler on both ends, this could end up being a long series. C’mon, Dwyane – I know you’re old dude, but you need to ramp it up. Stay calm, and play basketball.
4) Miami never made shots in this game. They started the night moving the ball fairly well, and got wide open looks for the shooters. But Allen, Chalmers, Battier, and Mike Miller were a combined 4-17 on threes. They got good looks; they just didn’t go in. It’s rare they all shoot poorly on the same night. In the second half, Chicago changed up its defense. Instead of sitting everyone in the paint and allowing Miami to get those same looks, the Bulls’ wings hugged the shooters, sat Noah at the rim, and allowed James and Wade to take runs at him. James made some plays, but Wade kept hurling himself at Noah, trying to draw a foul, and stuffing himself on the bottom of the rim. It’s a little like when the Heat played the Pacers in the playoffs last year – it took Wade and James a little while to understand to pull up and shoot the short jumpers and floaters over Hibbert when he sat down in the lane. They need to get to the same place against Noah.
5) KJ James won his second straight MVP award yesterday, but he was not the first ever unanimous selection because Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe voted for Carmelo Anthony! First of all, congratulations to KJ – it’s his fourth MVP, and he’s in pretty rare company (Chamberlain, Jabbar, Russell, and Jordan, although I do not count Jordan). Second of all, it was funny to see a lot of the Heat beat writers rush to Washburn’s defense in a backhanded way, which essentially boiled down to: “no, no, he didn’t do it out of spite because he’s from Boston – he’s just kind of a dope.” Washburn confirmed this when he claimed to be shocked that KJ had won in a runaway. Other elections that surprised him: both landslide Obama victories (“I thought Northeastern centrists loved Palin”); Coke’s continued dominance over Pepsi in blind taste tests; and Hitler’s victory over more moderate options in late 1930s Germany (“it wasn’t the fact that he won that surprised me – I just thought he’d be a far more sympathetic leader – shocked he turned out to be somewhat racist”). Had Washburn voted for Jimmy Butler, yes, that would have made sense. But Carmelo Anthony? It’s hard to believe that newspapers are dying, the people who write for them are so suh-maaart.
6) You know what “hiking” is? It is white people trying to make “going for a walk” sound more edgy and dangerous. Hey, white people, you are not exactly putting yourself in any peril when you park your Volvo station wagon in a leafy, shaded, paved lot three miles from your house, and then traipse around the reservoir for an hour in West Hartford, Connecticut, my very white hometown. That is “strolling,” not “hiking.” We white people try to make anything we do seem cooler than it is!
Okay, so we lost a game. We were in worse spots – twice – in last year’s playoffs (down 2-1 to Indiana on the road, and 3-2 to Boston on the road), and we also lost Game 1 of the Finals. If we lose Game 2 at home, we can all panic. For now, stay calm, eat some lean protein…go for a hike. We’ll be back at it Wednesday. If you need me before then, I’ll be tabulating the results of the All-NBA teams. Hey, look here, someone voted for Brandon Bass at All-NBA first team power forward! Wonder who that was? See you Wednesday!