In My Opinion

Greg Cote: Miami Heat rests while others rumble

 
 
LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts after defeating the Charlotte Bobcats 109-98 in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 28, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts after defeating the Charlotte Bobcats 109-98 in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 28, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Streeter Lecka / Getty Images

gcote@MiamiHerald.com

Miami was the team that was supposed to be so vulnerable entering this NBA postseason, if memory serves. The Heat was coming off an erratic regular season and seemed content, coming off back-to-back championships, to hear the foreboding of critics and consensus of doubt. The team was old, small, couldn’t rebound and had lost its three-point shot. Add Dwyane Wade’s health and the Heat just wasn’t as good.

Hmm. Well, looky here!

It is Miami, healthy, resting and watching, enjoying the spoils of splendid boredom — which is to say a four-game sweep in the only one of eight playoff series that was without drama or doubt.

It is the Heat, waiting, maybe getting a nice massage, while the rest of the league beats itself up in what has been, aside from Miami’s perfunctory advance, the most competitive, unpredictable, exciting basketball postseason in a long time. Maybe ever.

We saw it again Thursday night. Desperation, everywhere.

We saw Indiana coach Frank Vogel and the No. 1 East seed Pacers, in Atlanta, trying to avoid one of the biggest collapses in sports history. Vogel may as well have been courtside blindfolded and asking for a cigarette.

We saw Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City, in Memphis, trying to stave off unexpected elimination in a series that featured a record four overtime games. The Grizzlies defense was hounding Durant to a degree The Daily Oklahoman detailed his struggles under the headline, “Mr. Unreliability.”

And we saw the Los Angeles Clippers, at Golden State, trying to survive the feisty underdog Warriors as impressively as they had toughed through a nightmare week courtesy of Donald Sterling.

So, thanks again, NBA commissioner Adam Silver, for moving so swiftly and resolutely to yank pathetic old Sterling off the national stage after he so rudely had distracted us with his racist nonsense. Less bigotry, please, more basketball.

Silver banned Sterling from the NBA for life; now let the league’s owners vote to force him to sell the Clippers so the game might be sanitized from his foul prejudice for good.

First, though, back to a postseason in which compelling story lines don’t let up with Friday’s schedule — a postseason that represents the NBA so proudly, such the opposite of Sterling.

We already have seen the upstart Washington Wizards advance past the Chicago Bulls.

On Friday, we will see Brooklyn, at home, trying to stay alive against Toronto — seeded higher but the betting underdog — in the series whose winner gets the rested Heat.

We’ll see Portland, at home, trying to complete a series upset of Houston in a duel that already has produced three overtime games and a Rockets hero’s turn by a player who two weeks earlier had been down in the D-League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Oh, and we’ll see No. 1 West seed San Antonio, in Dallas, try to avoid being pushed to a Game 7.

This postseason gives me new hope, arrows in the quiver, in my ongoing argument that a seven-game series, when it’s good, is better than the one-and-done drama of the NCAA Tournament. Here, the framework changes with every result as tension undulates and builds, still water reaching a simmer, then a full boil. Here, there are no flukes, no luck. Beat somebody else in a first-to-four-wins format and you have either proved your superiority or found your opponent’s weakness. Either way, you have proved.

The college game has the trademark on March Madness but the NBA’s April-into-May has been madder, crazier.

The NCAA’s recent 32-game first round for the men (excluding play-in games) featured eight upsets by seeding and five overtime games.

The NBA’s 39 first-round games entering Thursday night featured 19 upsets by seeding and eight overtime games.

University of Wisconsin player Frank Kaminsky this week explained his decision to forgo the draft and return to the Badgers by saying the NBA couldn’t match the excitement of the college game.

Um, has he been watching these playoffs?

This is the 12th year there have been seven-game series in the first round. There have never been more than two go the full seven games any one year, but there was the possibility this year of six entering Thursday’s games. There also was the possibility this year might break the record for most total first-round games — 49 in 2003.

The eight overtime games entering Thursday already was a first-round record. And five of the eight series seemed headed for upsets based on betting odds entering the postseason.

As much as Sterling shamed himself and embarrassed the NBA, the competitiveness and excitement of this postseason has served the league and sport so well — the ultimate advertisement for the game and the players who make it run.

Meantime, while the other teams still alive spend energy and trade punches in a first round they won’t so much win as simply survive, the one team that has earned the most rest watches and waits.

It happens to be the two-time defending champions.

Be careful who you doubt, America.

Read more Greg Cote stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Head Coach Joe Philbin, at center, during Miami Dolphins practice at Dolphin Camp on Saturday, July 26, 2014.

    In My Opinion

    Greg Cote: Signs suggest Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is on the hot seat

    There are new windscreens on the fences surrounding the Dolphins’ practice facility at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. They bear a new message this season, one written unmistakably in 6-foot tall white, block letters against a turquoise background:

  •  
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill signs autographs after the first day of training camp in Davie, Florida, July 25, 2014.

    IN MY OPINION

    Greg Cote: Year 3 means proving ground for Miami Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill

    Mike Wallace is one of the few guys in the Dolphins locker room willing to let his personality come out and play once in a while, and he did so Friday, on the first day of training camp, when the subject turned to the doubts dogging his team.

  •  
St. Louis Rams seventh-round draft pick Michael Sam listens to a question during a news conference at the NFL football team's practice facility Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

    IN MY OPINION

    Greg Cote: Michael Sam is a distraction to embrace, not avoid

    It’s no surprise that Tony Dungy’s comments this week about Michael Sam — comments that on the surface seemed more benign than inflammatory — have created such a national tempest. Sports are a Petri dish for argument and debate under any circumstances, and when you add the politics of religion and gay issues to the mix, the chances of a quietly civil discussion have pretty much left the building.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

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