And some of it, yes, was that time-off factor. Had to be.
Rust shavings would have fallen off Heat players in a cartoon cloud and formed a film over the court had the team’s off-key performance been reflected in more than just missed shots.
The reigning NBA champions were pretty awful for much of the night.
The reigning MVP, LeBron, was (for him) just about as bad for too long.
Pros, cons of rest
James was pondering the pluses and perils of a full week’s rest between playoff games. This was maybe an hour before Monday’s ill-fated tipoff.
“The body always enjoys the time off. You can definitely tell,” he had said. “But as far as conditioning and stamina, you can tell that, too.”,
And timing, he might have added.
“We’ll try to get our rhythm on the fly,” he said.
It took the whole game. They never quite got it.
James, Wade and Chris Bosh’s combined 12 first-half points were the lowest of the Big 3 era. Even the crowd seemed sedate by playoff standards.
This game and series was supposed to be Miami’s hungry lions vs. Chicago’s hurting lambs, except it turns out the Bulls are poorly cast as lambs. Wounded, yes. But not lambs.
The Bulls arrived here trying on the role of courageous warriors, depleted, limping, yet somehow still around after toughing to a Game 7 victory on the road in the previous round.
That stuff works against Brooklyn.
You didn’t imagine it would against Miami.
“Heart can’t beat great teams like the Heat,” noted Bulls forward Taj Gibson.
Except maybe when the great teams shoot 39.7 percent and get outrebounded.
“Disappointing, especially losing at home, but we had our opportunities,” said Wade. “A lot of shots we don’t normally miss, we missed.”
The Bulls don’t like Miami much, and played like it.
“Words cannot express how badly we want to beat them,” said Gibson.
The Heat had better know that now, and match that attitude.
It isn’t as if Miami has been here before. Felt what it feels right now.
Last year, on the way to a championship parade, the Heat trailed Indiana two games to one in the second round. Then faced two elimination games vs. Boston. Then lost the Finals opener to Oklahoma City.
Miami had the answers, every time.
One year later, let’s see what Miami’s answer will be Wednesday night.