Greg Cote: Miami Heat’s toughest opponent right now might be boredom

05/03/2013 12:01 AM

09/12/2014 7:13 PM

It is cute the things we do to manufacture drama in a Heat postseason that is lacking in that because, well, because Miami is so good that even pretending the NBA champions might not repeat — let alone that they would be seriously threatened in the early rounds — takes some real imagination.

There wasn’t even the pretense of drama before or during the first-round sweep of Milwaukee. The Bucks’ Brandon Jennings guaranteeing his team would win in six games was offered as a novelty, but it was so preposterous you just wanted to hug Jennings, pat him on the head and say, “There, there,” like you would a lunatic uncle who claims there’s a Martian at the door.

Now comes the second round — well, eventually! — and we’re inching closer to actual drama if only because Chicago and Brooklyn are sincerely better than Milwaukee. (I’d say as cities as well as teams, but that might be mean).

It still stretches credulity, though, to prop up either the Bulls or Nets as an opponent that should worry Miami. It was fitting that Thursday for the Bulls and Nets meant a fight for playoff survival, while Thursday for the Heat meant a day off. A leisurely brunch, perhaps. Maybe a nice massage. Haircut?

Chicago and Brooklyn work overtime for the right to meet the basketball guillotine that is a rested LeBron James & Co.

We so want to believe “the playoffs start now,” that the second round will really test Miami and bring some exciting tension to this Heat postseason. But because that’s so tough to fathom, let’s go find some fake drama here. Where is it?

How about this: Boredom! Heat players will have had a full week off by Monday’s Game 1 of the next round here, or what Shane Battier called “a playoff bye week.” (Actually that would be two bye weeks in a row for Miami: Bucks in the first round, now all this time off).

Perhaps mojo and momentum are frittering away.

“Dudes get bored,” noted Chris Bosh.

Maybe that’s why Battier has cultivated an idle-time mustache that looks like its heroes were Hulk Hogan and Dr. Fu Manchu.

LeBron used his free time to donate $1 million Thursday to his old high school in Akron, Ohio, which trumps growing a mustache.

Or how about this for some fake worry: Rest turning to rust! The concern that Miami will be all out of playoff shape Monday while the opponent will be revving at postseason RPMs.

“I really don’t like a lot of rest,” said LeBron, ominously.

I’ll give you that one. There is a real concern the rust factor means Miami could be a bit ragged the first five minutes or so in Game 1. It’s those other 43 minutes that should worry the opponent.

Making the case for Brooklyn as a dangerous next foe for Miami would have been a particular challenge, considering the Heat was 3-0 against the Nets this season by a combined 53-point margin.

Chicago as a tough opponent is at least an easier sell. The Bulls and Heat were 2-2 this season, and it was Chicago that ended Miami’s 27-game winning streak, after all.

An arcane statistical nugget unearthed by ESPN.com this week further suggested that the Bulls possess a secret weapon against one of Miami’s big weapons: Chicago’s defense allows fewer corner three-point attempts than any team, and that far corner is where LeBron is looking first for an open man when his rhinoceros runs into the paint draw every defender with a death wish.

So if I have this straight, the theory is that Chicago will give Miami fits by limiting Ray Allen to, say, two corner three-point attempts per game instead of four? Really!?

I would counter with a reason — beyond all prevailing logic including Chicago lacking the offensive firepower — to like Miami over Chicago.

Dwyane Wade’s bruised right knee will be rested.

And Derrick Rose’s repaired left knee will still be resting.

Wade should be close to healthy again Monday in his first game in nine days.

Rose’s return is anybody’s guess – although speculation about that would pass for decent drama in Round 2 in lieu of the expectation of, say, a seven-game series. Rose reportedly has been medically cleared to play after ACL surgery almost a year ago (last May 12), but doesn’t feel comfortable enough to return yet. Analyst Steve Kerr said Rose “owes it to his teammates” to tough it out and join this playoff run now. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and teammates publicly support Rose’s caution (which is not always the same as privately endorsing it).

So where is the real playoff drama for Miami? The kind that emanates from the court in a series that is taut or teetering?

Didn’t come from Milwaukee. Doubt it will come in the next round. Might it then come from Indiana or New York after both are struggling just to get past the first round? Might it finally come from an Oklahoma City perhaps without Russell Westbrook? Or from an aging San Antonio?

Might it come at all for the Heat this postseason?

Commissioner David Stern and TV networks praying for Game 7s have to hope it will as they pitch the idea that anything can happen and nothing is foregone.

It’s a tough sell, though, in 2013. Why pretend?

The reigning champions are coming off a club-record-setting season for victories, led by the best player in the known galaxy. They have won 41 of their past 43 games. No team in any sport is running hotter or is more confident, and justifiably so, than the Heat is right now.

Am I saying this Heat team cannot be beaten?

Of course not.

What I’m saying is this Miami team, healthy, cannot be beaten in a seven-game series — no drama, no doubt.

About Greg Cote

Greg Cote

@gregcote

Greg Cote has been a Miami Herald sports columnist since 1995 and also writes the Random Evidence blog and NFL predictions along with his notorious sidekick the Upset Bird. He has covered Hurricanes football (1984-88), the Dolphins (1990-91) and major events including Super Bowls, NBA Finals, World Series, Stanley Cup, Olympics and World Cup.

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