Three decades ago and a different coast out west, Pat Riley was the charismatic young coach making the Los Angeles Lakers’ fast-paced, run-and-gun machine work. There was nothing more exciting in the NBA. They called it “Showtime.”
Three decades later and a different coast, Riley is the silver-fox statesman and architect of the Miami Heat as club president, but what he has seen in glimpses in the first two games of these playoffs had to have cast his mind back to those dynamic 1980s.
Showtime Heat — or close enough for the giddy Miami fans spilling into the night late Wednesday.
With a big assist from the Charlotte Hornets’ barely-there defense, the Heat is doing stuff offensively lately and in these young playoffs that we didn’t see the first half of the season and that is turning this first-round series into an avalanche.
For Miami, the franchise playoff records are falling like the three-point shots are.
Playoff intensity? I’ve heard the phrase. When does it start? The so-far overmatched Hornets are turning the Heat into the Golden State Warriors.
We saw it again Wednesday night in Game 2 in the ebullience of the downtown bayside arena. This was the game that was supposed to see a proud response by the Hornets. Instead it was a comfortable 115-103 Miami victory in which the Heat set franchise records by shooting 74 percent and scoring 72 points in the first half, and popping 43 points in the second quarter.
It was a continuation of Miami’s 32-point rout in Game 1 that saw Miami set club playoff records for most points (123), points in a first quarter (41) and field goals (49).
Miami did not score 115 points in consecutive games all season but has done it to open the playoffs. Of course coach Erik Spoelstra, in character, downplayed a suggestion his offense has suddenly turned “elite.”
“Two games,” he cautioned.
Spoelstra won’t let himself enjoy it, but fans should.
On Wednesday a vintage Dwyane Wade led the way with 28 points and eight assists, at one point weaving through three defenders for a driving layup, and pumping his right fist into the din of noise.
“He is always putting the team on his shoulder,” Goran Dragic said.
Wade had a lot of help as Miami flexed its depth of scoring and bench.
Hassan Whiteside had 17 points and 13 rebounds on 8-for-8 shooting and is now a surreal 19 for 21 in two games, his summer payday getting bigger each day.
Dragic added 18 points, Luol Deng 16 and Josh Richardson 15.
Everybody seems to be scoring at will. Heat Dancers. Burnie the mascot. The Golden Oldies. It’s a South Beach par-tay!
Hey, if LeBron James thought he was bringing his talents to South Beach, that’s good enough for me.
That reminds me. For the first time in 10 years the Heat sits with a 2-0 playoff series lead without LeBron. That last happened in the first round against Chicago in 2006, and the first of three parades down Biscayne Boulevard would soon follow.
There are historical indications of how important Wednesday was: In its all-time playoff history the Heat is a perfect 13-0 when leading a series 2-0, but is only 10-8 in a series tied 1-1.
Now, though, surely, the Hornets will muster a better effort or at least a semblance of defense in the next two games in Charlotte, right? Surely the missing playoff intensity (read: close games) will commence. Right?
Maybe. Probably. So enjoy this while you can.
Two-game runs like this offensively, especially in the playoffs, are rare treats. Dragic called Game 1 “perfect on both ends,” and Wade said, “We did everything we wanted to do, 100 percent.” Game 2 was close to that level.
A Charlotte win in Game 3 could flip the narrative.
But right now the story of the series is Miami’s offense doing what it wants as Riley sits stoic but satisfied amid the surrounding bedlam and watches unfold two games of attacking excellence.
Read Greg’s Random Evidence blog daily at miamiherald.com and follow on Twitter @gregcote.