Frank Vogel conceded the Eastern Conference to the Miami Heat on Saturday night prior to his Indiana Pacers’ loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, stating the obvious — there is no hope of catching LeBron James and Co. for the No. 1 seed.
This came one day after Pacers point guard George Hill, an Indianapolis native, criticized the local fans because so many of them were cheering for the Lakers during their visit to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday night.
You look southward in the Eastern standings and you see one train wreck after another …
The Knicks go into their Sunday matinee against the Clippers without Carmelo Anthony, who flew back to New York after his long-awaited alumni game against the Denver Nuggets to have his knee drained. Amare Stoudemire is out for the rest of the regular season, and options 1 and 1A are J.R. Smith chucking 3-pointers. Are they going out in the first round again?
Boston and/or Brooklyn can catch the Knicks for first place in the Atlantic Division if New York’s three-month stretch of mediocrity continues, and nobody out there can be taken as a serious threat to win 4 of 7 against David Stern’s secret favorite SuperTeam, according to Danny Schayes.
we should all begin asking ourselves the question: Will the Miami Heat lose a single game in the Eastern Conference playoffs? The historical significance of their 22-game winning streak following Sunday’s pull-away victory at Toronto is astounding — as is James’ numbers during the streak compared to what other top-tier superstars did for their teams during winning streaks of 19 games or more.
Here is the thing about the Heat that people need to start taking notice of …
Chris Andersen is the missing link (and yes, you can take that statement many ways). I was in Philadelphia on Wednesday night for Miami’s 20th consecutive victory, and I got there 3 hours early after making a pit stop at Rutgers to speak to journalism students. With time to kill, I sat on the Heat’s bench and watched the two players who were on the court getting up a ton of early shots. One was Mario Chalmers, who was sporting a pair of too cool green Spalding sneakers, and the other was Birdman, who was practicing 18-foot jump shots and nailing one after another after another after another … He did it for a full hour. Same shot.
We already knew Andersen was very good at getting tattoos, blocking shots, changing the rules of the Slam Dunk Contest and battling for rebounds. But who knew the fella had a mid-range game? All season long the talk has been that Miami is vulnerable in one area — on the boards where Chris Bosh had been their only effective big man.
But Birdman has changed that equation since playing his first game for Miami on Jan. 25, and it should not go unmentioned that despite never playing more than 18 minutes a game over his 24 games, the Heat have gone 23-1. Over the last 11 games, he is shooting 24-for-36 with 37 rebounds, never logging more than 17 minutes.
Again, he is the missing link. Udonis Haslem is too old and ineffective, Juwan Howard is an unneeded, unusable dinosaur, Dexter Pittman has been traded and Joel Anthony is never going to be a game-changer. Birdman will be. Mark my words.
On to the ranks …