In My Opinion

Greg Cote: Drama might not be real, but Miami Heat’s dominance is

What happened in the buildup to this Heat-Pacers Eastern Conference final is something you would find at the intersection of Funny and Sad.

Indiana coach Frank Vogel made a comment about playing Miami that was very benign and coach-like: “They’re the next team that’s in our way, and that’s how we’re approaching it.”

Except that Heat superstar LeBron James — in the fashion of Michael Jordan, who always led the league in taking umbrage and seeing imaginary slights to fuel himself — chose to interpret Vogel’s remarks as disrespect.

“We’re not just another team” responded James, as if Vogel has said exactly that. “I don’t understand what he’s saying. We’re a great team. We’re a very confident team.”

Immediately the exchange had formed the framework of this series. It was called a “War of the Words” in a Miami Herald headline and dissected ad nauseum on ESPN.

The blooming of one comment and one reaction into something controversial was halfway between funny and sad because this is where we’re at now in this Heat postseason run toward a second consecutive NBA championship.

We are so desperate for some dramatic tension, for a challenge to the dominant Heat, that we will see drama where it doesn’t exist if necessary. Hey, it beats boredom!

Admit it. Ease and tranquility are overrated. Difficulty and messy are more fun.

The first season of Miami’s Big 3 era was so exhilarating, so memorable, partly because it was so damned fascinating playing the role of national villain. To hear that booing and feel that hatred in arenas all over the country, especially toward LeBron, cast the Heat as the most interesting, talked-about team in America.

And it recast this franchise, literally overnight (the night LeBron made “The Decision”).

“Miami was never considered a big-market team until we put these guys on the team,” as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra noted Monday. “If you build it, they will come. …”

Year 2 of the Big 3 had its own innate chaos thanks to the first season falling short of a championship. The outward venom directed at the Heat subsided noticeably, but this remained a team under intense pressure to live up to its advertising and its own expectations — and that living up was in serious doubt until the moment it wasn’t.

Last year’s postseason was a genuine thrill ride, with Miami trailing these same Pacers 2-1 with Game 4 in Indiana in the second round. Then facing two elimination games in the Eastern finals vs. Boston. Then losing the NBA Finals opener at Oklahoma City.

“Last year was about survival,” Spoelstra said of the 2012 postseason.

One season later in the playoffs, Year 3 of the Big 3 is about dominance, about a reigning champion flexing its muscle.

A year ago today, Miami had not yet won enough to deserve James calling his a “great team.” Now that he believes it, that is why he took it as disrespect that Vogel would suggest (at least to him) that Miami was just another opponent in the way of the Pacers’ own title run.

(Perhaps LeBron took it as unearned confidence in part because the Pacers haven’t won anything since reigning in the old ABA in the short-shorts year 1973.)

The little Vogel-James media rift found fertile ground because Year 3 of the Big 3 has had neither the hatred that enveloped the first season nor the doubts that chased the second.

Things have been too darned smooth!

The first playoff round was a 4 games to 0 waltz-sweep of unqualified Milwaukee, which was so mediocre we couldn’t even fake any dramatic tension. So we settled hungrily upon Brandon Jennings bravely predicting his Bucks would win in six games.

The second round brought a Chicago squad so depleted by injury that it almost wasn’t fair. The rough play in the technical fouls-littered series lent the illusion of drama, of competition, but the bottom line — Miami 4 games to 1 — suggested otherwise.

Now comes Indiana, opponent No. 3 on Miami’s Upper-Midwest Annihilation Tour as the Heat sweeps across the region.

The easy contention is that after the breeze past the Bucks and Bulls, “the playoffs start now!”

But do we believe it?

Does anybody outside of Indianapolis really believe it?

Miami is a 2-to-15 favorite to beat Indiana, with betting odds, of course, a reality through the prism of public perception. That makes the Heat a landslide favorite and the Pacers an enormous underdog. Miami winning the series in four, five, six or seven games all are better odds than the Pacers winning the series in any number of games.

Fourteen ESPN experts predicted the series. Fourteen picked Miami.

Trot out all the “yeah, buts” you want.

Yeah, but Indiana was 2-1 against Miami during the regular season.

Yeah, but Indiana is much healthier and even better defensively than the Bulls.

Yeah, but Indiana rebounds very well, at times a Heat weakness.

Yeah, but the Pacers’ Paul George seems to defend LeBron pretty well.

Yeah, but Roy Hibbert gives Indiana a true center presence.

All true … yeah, but none of them matter much.

Remember that Miami closed out Indiana with three consecutive victories in last year’s playoffs despite missing injured Chris Bosh.

Remember that Miami is better, right now, than the team that raised the championship trophy last June.

Remember that Miami has won 45 of its past 48 games … and now this team is supposed to lose four of its next seven?

Won’t happen.

LeBron was right. This is a “great team.”

We’re all looking for drama.

Settle for dominance.

Heat in five.

Read more Greg Cote stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade signals a big three pointer in the fourth quarter in Game 1 of the Miami Heat's NBA Playoff matchup with the Charlotte Bobcats at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on April 20, 2014.

    In My Opinion

    Greg Cote: Miami Heat needs Dwyane Wade of Game 1 to three-peat

    The Heat this season put together videos featuring every player that are shown on the home arena’s giant scoreboard screen during games. The one on Dwyane Wade happened to air Sunday during a timeout in the second half of the playoff victory over Charlotte that opened Miami’s postseason bid for a third consecutive NBA championship.

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, left, and center Chris Bosh watch from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wednesday, April 16, 2014 in Miami. The 76ers defeated the Heat 100-87.


    Greg Cote: Dynasty or dismantling for the Miami Heat?

    A Heat playoff run is the annual gift we slowly unwrap together, our two-month emotional thrill ride ever since LeBron James grandly announced he was “taking my talents to South Beach” that summer night in 2010. Well, buckle up again, South Florida. Prepare for exhilarating highs and work-productivity lows. Prepare for late nights walking drained from the downtown bayside arena. Prepare for hearts to soar or plunge on whether a basketball swishes through a nylon net or bonks off a painted rim.

Charlotte Bobcats' Al Jefferson, left, drives past Miami Heat's Shane Battier, right, to dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.

    In My Opinion

    Miami Heat sweep would challenge rosy outlook by Bobcats’ Al Jefferson

    I think that Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson, not a star in the NBA but a good player, must lead the league in seeing the bright side, in trying to find the best in a bad situation. This talent figures to come in particularly handy in the next week-plus as his hopeless underdogs try to avert being swept in four games by the two-time, defending-champion Heat.

Get your Miami Heat Fan Gear!

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category