You see, there is no disliking the Heat. It’s not that simple. You either like them, or you hate them. (At least that’s what the folks in South Florida, especially the superstars, would have us believe.)
So if you rejoice in the fourth-quarter failures of LeBron James, you have something to celebrate today — plus you get a second helping of Hater Tots because you get to bag on Dwyane Wade, too.
The first guy missed two free throws with 54 seconds left that could have given the Heat the lead. The second guy missed a layup with 16 seconds left that would have tied the game.
And when it came time for the Heat to draw up a final play for a game-tying 3-pointer, coach Erik Spoelstra pointed to Mario Chalmers and told him he as going to be the man.
Except he wasn’t the man. He missed, too.
You can’t blame the Indiana Pacers too much (although Wade did) for publicly celebrating their 78-75 victory over the runaway favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference, because beating the Heat — even beating them once — is justifiably a cause for glee. I expected Indiana to get swept, and pretty much everyone who follows basketball expected the Heat to have a cruise control round akin to what they experienced against the Knicks. Yet here we are just past the midpoint of May, heading into the second half of the week, not knowing if they have what it takes to get past the Pacers with only two of their Big Three — especially when those two cracked under fourth-quarter pressure yet again.
The stat of the morning can be found in Brian Windhorst’s postgame column on ESPN.com: James is just 10-of-17 on free throws in the final minute of one-possession games this season. That’s like a Reggie Evans percentage.
Then again, Evans is a tough guy who never shies away from contact. LeBron is a tough guy, too, as he’ll eventually prove en route to those four, five, six championships he so boldly predicted. (That was for the haters. You’re welcome.)
You want to see glee and hate all mixed into one? Check out the comments section in the Cavs forum in the online edition of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Something tells me the commenter rickastley69 is going to have a hard time wiping the smile off his face at any point during the day today.
For a slightly more measured approach, let’s check out a few lines from the top writers who were at the game.
First, of course, is Windhorst: “James had 10 points, six rebounds and three steals in the fourth quarter. But he missed two free throws that could’ve given the Heat the lead with 54 seconds left. Then he was not involved, either by choice or design, in the final two Heat plays with the game on the line. All of which brought back the old narrative of his struggles at the end of close games. “You go, you practice them and you go to up to the free throw line and you shoot them how you practice them. You hope for them to go in but the last two didn’t go for me. The game is not lost or won with those two free throws. You want to come through for your teammates. I’ll get an opportunity again.” All of that could create some strong opinions. Especially with coach Erik Spoelstra choosing to go with Mario Chalmers for the final shot of the game with the Heat down three points. Chalmers has a strong history of clutch 3-point shots, including one to force overtime in the NBA Finals last year and his famous 3-pointer that forced overtime in the 2008 NCAA title game. But he missed, one of the 15 misses in 16 tries the Heat had from 3-point range on the night. All of those events in the game’s final minute bring up some of the same questions. Did James not attack when he got the ball on the penultimate play because he didn’t want to be fouled again and go to the line? Should Spoelstra have gone with one of his two stars on the final shot no matter the percentages? The more pressing issue for the Heat, however, has to be that they didn’t come close to replacing Bosh’s 18 points and eight rebounds. The Pacers won the rebound battle by 10 and the Heat players not named Wade or James managed 23 points on 9-of-34 shooting.”
From columnist Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “The giveaway T-shirts handed to Heat fans walking into the home arena Tuesday night declared, “We Are Miami.” A more fitting slogan as those same fans left following the game might have been, “We Are In Trouble.” This is what trouble looked like: Heat players, shoulders slumped, walking defeated off their own court after the night’s final buzzer, no fist bumps, no high fives, no smiles. The Indiana Pacers were doing all of that.“They wanted to be like the Dallas Mavericks and celebrate one win,” an apparently annoyed Dwyane Wade said. This is what trouble sounded like: Silence, or too close to it, escorting those players off the floor in a filled arena, a sort of stunned buzzing sound where the customary happy bedlam is supposed to be.
From Dave Hyde of the South-Florida Sun-Sentinel: “It was one thing for a tough Indiana team to out-tough the Heat to take Game 2 of this playoff series, 78-75. But to do so this way? With LeBron striking up the chorus against him for his missed free throws and Wade missing an open lay-up? It mattered that Mario Chalmers missed a final, open 3-point shot at the end that could’ve tied it. But that was more than expected. The Heat is shooting one-of-22 for the series from the 3-point line. ”Obviously, we’re not shooting the ball well,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. This brings us to the question of the series: How did the Heat do without Chris Bosh? Answer No. 1: Not too well. Answer No. 2: Better buckle up. The Heat didn’t score in the final two minutes, 41 seconds. You won’t win that way. But with no Bosh there’s no relief for Wade and James. They scored 26 of the Heat’s final 29 points. No other Heat player scored more than Mario Chalmers or Shane Battier, each with five points. The support-less cast shot 9-of-34. And judging by recent weeks, can anyone expect it to change from here?
You have to wonder how Chris Bosh feels about the loss. He has always been the third wheel in the Big Three, underappreciated and often deemed expendable. Think he has mixed feelings? Check out Chris Perkins’ column on that subject from yesterday afternoon.
Of course, it is only one loss for the Heat. And they should have more than enough to win at least one of two in Indianapolis to take back homecourt advantage.
Or so one would think.
Then again, one would think LeBron could make a couple of clutch free throws, or Wade could make a clutch layup, or Miami could score a single point over the final 2:41. (Boxscore here).
But none of those things happened, making for a truly glorious day in Indiana (and Cleveland).
Oh yeah, there was another game last night.
The Spurs won by 16, pulling away gradually over the course of the third quarter against a Los Angeles Clippers team that played a Game 7 in Memphis just two days earlier. It was a methodical thumping, which is about what we’ve come to expect from Pop’s guys. (Boxscore here).
And with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul both playing injured, the Clips could be finished for the season by the end of the upcoming weekend. (In case you hadn’t heard, there are back-to-backs this weekend in both the Clippers-Spurs series and the Thunder-Lakers series.)
From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports: “The Western Conference scouts were sitting courtside, watching the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan take everyone back years with him. This was late in a magnificent performance – the nostalgia pouring out of every spectacular, simple move – when everyone else was dragging, and here the old man had come tearing down the floor on a dead sprint. ”He looks 25 again,” one of the scouts marveled, and it was something to behold in the AT&T Center. Duncan had been his old, devastating self for the Spurs, punctuating a 108-92 Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers with an array of moves and machinations delivered out of his playoff archives. He’s 36 years old, and mid-May in these NBA playoffs should belong to someone else now. The rest of the league kept chasing the formation of super teams, and still coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford believed there was a way to surround Duncan with proper pieces and make the Spurs championship contenders again. This is an old band, bringing on new instruments, new voices, and the sound is still so authentic. Fifteen straight victories for the Spurs now, and Tuesday night felt like something out of the time capsule, out of the glory years that refuse to fade. Duncan was Duncan again – 26 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, two assists and two steals. After all these years, he was the best player on the floor here. After all these years, there’s life in those legs, and still a steely resolve in those eyes.”