Why the Heat could Playoff FAIL

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When pundits talk Heat, conversations are caveat laden.

“Ya, they’re playing great right now. But in the playoffs…”

In the playoffs, the ball is square, the rim’s actually underground, and the Chinese government pressures David Stern into letting a giggling Yao play jetpack-aided. Or something like that. It’s as though nobody wants to admit an inconvenient truth: The Heat are great. America’s not getting redeemed through their demise. Sympathies to sports school marms everywhere.

The winning Heat remain enemies to many, and in the absence of current South Beach pain, LeBron haters are paying the schadenfreude forward–to the playoffs. Others hold no grudge, but favor the success they know (Lakers, Celtics) over the succes that hasn’t occured yet. Either way, hordes are grasping for reasons, rationales and talking points to explain a negative prediction.

What confuses me is, why aren’t Global Heating deniers grabbing the right arguments? Miami could suffer a playoff stumble, for reasons that aren’t these:

“In the playoffs, they can’t run that fast pace! Everything slows down.”

That makes sense, except the Heat don’t exactly run.

“They’re too small! That can’t work in the playoffs.”

Yes, the Heat big men are staring at the Retirement Reaper, but know that 7-footers Illgauskas and Dampier are looking down when they do it.

“Who gets the last shot! Who gets the last shot!”

Um, the guy who shoots last, I would presume? Contrary to widespread belief: The rules allow more than one player to score in crunch time.

“How are they going to defend and protect the rim in the playoffs?”

My guess is that Miami’s top 3 defense will be allowed to play during the postseason.

So, why all the flawed “Heat-flaw” arguments? Why are Heat-haters juggling red herrings with their feet? Perhaps this denial rests on hokum because it is in fact, denial. It’s hard to evade reality–that the Heat are great–bolstered by solid logic. Which brings me to an interesting denialist trope:

“They have no depth!”

Actually, they have depth–Chalmers, Dampier, Miller, Jones. But, Miami might stumble in the playoffs due to a depth issue. To my eyes, the Heat feast on regular season second-string cheese. LeBron often closes quarters as the one man team who scrapes over-matched dregs. As Haberstroh mentioned, the King has frolicked alone to the tune of 234 total minutes. And when James isn’t on the court, Dwyane Wade is. The opponent may catch a break from LeBron, or from Dwyane, but never from both. Garbage time is their only shared respite.

But, this is where an altered playoffs reality could undermine a regular season advantage. Come postseason, the bench shrinks. Nervous coaches squeeze more time from their principle players. For example, compare the minutes per game for Boston’s Big Four, regular season to playoffs.

2009-2010 Season: Kevin Garnett 29.9, Ray Allen: 35.2, Paul Pierce: 34, Rajon Rondo: 36.6
2009-2010 Playoffs: Kevin Garnett: 33.3, Ray Allen: 38.5, Paul Pierce: 38.8, Rajon Rondo: 40.6

Combined, Boston’s big four played an extra 15.5 minutes per game in the NBA’s second season. While James, Wade, and Bosh will also up their playoff usage, they will cull fewer mismatches from opposing scrubs. So, the postseason will be more about how James-Wade-Bosh play as a team and less about how they can individually help that team. The whole will have to be even greater than the sum of its players.

So, there is a logical reason for future playoff shortcomings, regular season fool’s gold. Or I could go with, “They’ll lose because LeBron lacks some mysterious winner quality, which he proved when he left a bad team in pursuit of winning!”

Twitter: @SherwoodStrauss/Email: ethanstra@gmail.com

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