(You think that’s ridiculous? Show me a league rule that specifically prohibits the consumption of alcohol by a team playing a meaningless game – newly defined as any starting lineup that includes 40-year-old Juwan Howard. Although in fairness, Ponce de LeHoward scored 12 points Wednesday, playing like a man of, I dunno … 36?).
By weekend, of course, atmosphere and intensity will ratchet up palpably. The difference between Wednesday’s casual ribbon-and-bow atop the regular season and the coming weekend will be the difference between a fishing line gently cast and one pulled taut by a racing barracuda.
You and I might feel certain that the Bucks have about as much chance of beating Miami in a seven-game series as the Bahamas would have of beating the United States in a world war, but evidently Milwaukee did not get the memo on that.
The Bucks show surprising spunk for a No. 8 seed with a losing record, mindful of the goofy puppy that attacks the much bigger dog because he doesn’t know any better. Bucks guard Monta Ellis said earlier this year he was as good as Wade, inviting doubts about Ellis’ sanity. Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings said his team matches up well with Miami and that this was the preferred first-round matchup. (Brandon, people have been ordered to undergo Breathalyzer tests for less.)
For the Heat, though, the opponent is secondary. Playoffs are playoffs and Milwaukee just happens to be the first team standing between Miami and what it sees as its shot at history, and legacy.
“It’s a smaller, compact, 16-win season now,” Wade described the turn to the playoffs. “It’s another level. The lights are brighter. The popcorn smells fresher. You see the pregame videos, and you get goose bumps. …”
The greatest, most exciting regular season of the Heat’s first quarter century just ended.
Are you ready? Because now comes the REAL fun.