David J. Neal: Regardless of journey, Miami Heat’s current position seems clear

05/30/2013 12:01 AM

09/12/2014 6:41 PM

Well, there the Heat is. Right where most of us expected it would be four games into this wrestling match with Indiana.

Amazing, isn’t it, that so often where one stands doesn’t affect the mood as much as how the person got there?

If the Heat had won Games 1 and 2 at home, then lost Games 3 and 4 in Indiana, the 2-2 would be accepted as each team winning when on its floor and that favors the Heat if it holds. If it doesn’t, well, the better team usually breaks the trend first, and that’s the Heat.

If the Heat had lost Games 1 and 2 or been down 2-1 going into Game 4 on Tuesday, the 2-2 would be accepted with greedy relief. But, what am I saying? You know that, unless something erased last year in your head’s hard drive. The Heat trailed Indiana 2-1 with Game 4 on the road. A Heat win calmed everyone down.

Instead, after the Heat demonstrated its vast powers to its fullest extent in Game 3, the Pacers responded to the slap-down by showing how what they do well strikes at the Heat’s pressure points. The Pacers wouldn’t be disheartened by even the Heat at its best. An “uh-oh” settled over many Heat fans, a panic over others, both usually associated with hurricanes moving through Hebert boxes instead of Heat moving through Hibbert’s lane.

But the Heat is exactly where those of us who picked it to take this Eastern Conference finals in six or seven — translated as “pretty much everyone outside the Indianapolis metropolitan area who isn’t a starry-eyed Heat fan” — expected it to be. Believing the series would run that long usually doesn’t dovetail with thinking the Heat would blow a chance to close at home in Game5.

Cut all the griping about officials. They have been fairly bad. Or, perhaps, that’s bad, fairly. What has made this 2-2 is what anybody with two cells of basketball sense thought would make this an interesting series.

Dwyane Wade must husband his energy for bursts of brilliance, thus cutting the Heat’s star-power advantage.

What provides the fuel for the Heat’s attack is its three-point shooting. The Heat finished the regular season second in three-point percentage at 39.6 percent, behind Golden State’s Steph Curry-led squad. Guess which team led the league in three-point defense, at 32.4, on corner three-point attempts and 33.2 on those attempted above the break in the arc?

In the Game 2 loss, the Heat shot .318 from behind the arc. On Tuesday, it was 8 of 23 (.348) and 4 of 16 (.250) by those not named LeBron James. That keeps the Heat within range for, oh, two late-game turnovers to swing the outcome.

At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Disney Channel showed the Jessie episode guest-starring Chris Bosh. Too bad that episode was shot months ago. Were it live, I’d have confirmation that Bosh didn’t go the way of the brontosaurus while Indiana’s Roy Hibbert T-Rex’d all over the Heat in Game 4.

Throughout the Big 3 era, it has become almost a mantra that Bosh isn’t the Heat’s best player, but he’s the most important to its playoff runs. Indiana’s Nemesis Kids, particularly Hibbert and David West, neutralize Bosh into the Invisible Kid: zero offensive rebounds in Game 2, 1 for 6 from the field, only four free throws, one offensive rebounds and three total rebounds in Game 4.

But it’s hard to blame Bosh for passivity when none of the Big 3 truly has attacked the Pacers, who love single-coverage bump-and-run defense more than the late Al Davis. That Hibbert left Tuesday with one foul indicts the Heat’s concession of down low.

None of this should be a surprise. Now, let’s see if the Heat continues the predictability by making the necessary corrections in Game 5 to set itself up for a series win in Game 6. If not, this season could see a most unpredictable end Saturday.

About David J. Neal

David J. Neal

@DavidJNeal

David J. Neal joined The Herald in 1989 and South Beach in 1990. He covers FIU after covering the Panthers for over a decade then the Dolphins for half a decade. The only day he won't work is Indianapolis 500 Race Day.

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