Linda Robertson

Linda Robertson: Heat-Pacers is riveting theater

The NBA playoffs are like a soap opera or telenovela, oozing melodrama. The scripts of heroes and villains change with each game. The acting and the musical cues have no subtlety. There’s blood, tears, insults, tantrums, mouthpieces gnashed to a pulp. Feelings get hurt, revenge tastes sweet, and the audience keeps watching, no matter how long it takes to find out who triumphs.

Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers, Episode 6, toys with our emotions Saturday night. Miami, leading three games to two, can close out the best-of-7 series if it can stay true to its energetic identity and stampede the Pacers. Alternatively, LeBron James can take over as he did in Game 5. Not a bad Plan B.

The Pacers, back home in Indiana, will count on Roy Hibbert’s height and David West’s muscle to exploit the Heat’s flaws. If the ascending Paul George and mercurial Lance Stephenson get into a groove, the suspense will feed our addiction.

Game 7 in Miami would really be juicy.

What shall we call this series of ups and downs, panic attacks, relief and second-guessing? Anger at Mario Chalmers on one day replaced by worship the next? A mix of aggravation and pity for the ailing Dwyane Wade? A curious longing for Mike Miller? The return of Udonis Haslem? Admiration for the former outcast, painted Chris “Birdman” Andersen, a walking, squawking Wynwood wall? Abandonment of Chris Bosh by the unfaithful, who will fall in love with him all over again when he nails the pivotal shot? Malice for gawky, googly eyed Tyler Hansbrough? A desire to slap the vexing Stephenson?

How about As the World Flops. Do they give out Emmys for Worst Pratfalls? David Stern fined three players $5,000 apiece for flopping, mere pennies from their pockets. Soccer players would laugh with unabashed derision at NBA fakery, particularly James’ and West’s dual dive or Wade’s delayed-reaction phantom fall. Maybe pro wrestlers could give lessons. Or soap actors, adept at fainting, could teach proper technique. Better yet, raise the fines to six figures and force thespians to watch a highlight reel intercut with Spaghetti Western scenes of spastic shootout deaths.

The Young and the Fouled applies to this whistle-polluted series. Charging, tripping, hacking, blocking, camping out, over-the-back, knee-to-the-groin, elbow-to-the-jaw, forearm-to-the-ribs, wedgies, noogies. Accusations that Shane Battier and Wade are dirty players. One interrupted possession after another. Now, Andersen’s suspension for Game 6 after flagrantly body-checking Hansbrough to the floor. We’re sick of watching Joey Crawford’s performance. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra showed his team scenes from Ali-Foreman. But basketball shouldn’t evoke comparisons to boxing. Besides, these are big boys. Let ’em play. Otherwise, three-hour games risk taking tired spectators to The Edge of Midnight.

Perhaps you enjoyed the classic Destilando Amor. Heat-Pacers is Destilando Odio, Distilling Hate. A flood of trash talk and technicals is the norm for this series, including expletive-deleted diatribes by Andersen and Haslem on Thursday. Soap stars are experts at manufacturing this sort of rage. All it takes for a center to go off is a perceived slight to his point guard.

All My Man-Children is Spoelstra’s show. He is sensei/guru/Dr. Freud to a roster of egos, managing them through a stunningly serene season. Believe it or not, his players truly believe Spoelstraspeak. Your motivational claptrap is their fuel. It works. Now he’s defusing breathless speculation that James’ reference to Cleveland on Thursday night — when he was alluding to his role of carrying and inspiring teammates — was a subconscious indication of his post-2014 return to the Cavaliers. Turn up the violins, zoom in on knotted brows; such twisted rumor-mongering is right out of a soap writer’s handbook.

Call it what you will: General Hospital, featuring Wade and the magic kneecap tape job, or Game of Thrones, featuring King James defending his crown from so many usurpers we’ve lost count, or Search for South Beach, or Yo Soy Charles, El Gordo, I’m Charles, the Plump One. You cannot deny that like sands through the hourglass, so are the Games of Our Lives.

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