I owe the Miami Heat an apology. I doubted them, called them soft, contrived, too arrogant and wished them nothing but ill will throughout the season.
I thought a team of three superstars and a bench of bums couldn’t make the NBA Finals. I thought that you had to build a team and add key pieces over the course of time. I thought LeBron James was too weak in the late stages of games, I thought Chris Bosh was soft, I thought they were two years away from being a contender.
I was wrong.
After last night’s 83-80 comeback win against the Chicago Bulls where the Heat closed the game on a 18-3 run and James came through in the clutch, again, all of my doubts were officially flushed down the toilet.
The Heat were tougher than advertised, they didn’t let the end of games in this series harm them like they did in the regular season. There was no passing to Mike Miller for game-winning shots (though when Miller did have the ball he was clutch in this game as well as game 4), there was no wondering if the big three could come up big when it mattered. They just did.
As much as we made fun of Chris Bosh this season from his crying in the locker room to him being routinely dominated in the low post, Bosh came up huge when it matter in this series as well as throughout the playoffs.
Bosh keyed their game 3 win by dominating Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson with 34 points and kept them on their toes in games 4 and 5. When Dwyane Wade and James seemed to be and hot cold throughout the series Bosh was consistent.
Even though Wade had his ups and downs in the series and seemed cold for most of it, he came through when it mattered. In two minutes Wade almost erased the Heat’s 12 point deficit single handedly by scoring 8 points in two minutes and setting up two of James’s threes… which reminds me…
The biggest winner in this whole run by the Miami Heat is LeBron James. Coming into the playoffs he was considered to be a liability in the stretch run of a game due to his disappointments in Cleveland and earlier this year. LeBron has shed that moniker with his crunch time shot making throughout this series and in the Boston series and his defense on Derrick Rose.
James has been counted on and come through time and time again and has officially transformed into the best player in the league as well as the best closer. After Wade went off late in the fourth, James hammered home the game tying three and go ahead jumper over Luol Deng that lifted the Heat to victory. We can no longer doubt LeBron’s onions, his failed performances down the stretch versus Boston last year and Orlando in the previous year are now in the trash. He has now elevated himself to a high plateau and like it or not we have to give him respect.
So are they the favorites to win it all? I think so. As good as the Mavericks are (and the fact that no one on the Heat can guard Dirk Nowitzki) the Heat are peaking at the right time and have 4 of the best 5 players on the court. After the Big 3 the return of Udonis Haslem has benefitted the Heat more than any other player. He brings a toughness and energy that the Heat needed all year long and teamed with Joel Anthony their big men have a distinct advantage over Dallas’s big men.
With the series starting in Miami on Tuesday Miami can jump out to a quick 2-0 advantage and afford to lose two in Dallas no matter how great Dirk will be in any game. The Heat have the better team at this current moment. God that pains me to say.
It also pains me to say that I’m sorry to the Heat for the bashing and name calling and downplaying of their talent this year. Pat Riley knew what he was doing and it’s working to perfection with a maximum of 7 games left in their run. We can no longer downplay them as a non-threat to the title, or say that they need more pieces, or that you can’t build a champion like this.
The Heat did, and within the next week or two after all is said and done they’ll be holding the Larry O’ Brien trophy laughing at us all saying they told us so.
They’ll get no static from me.