HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It’s a knee-jerk response. Every time a great defensive team rears its head, so many are quick to jump up and compare them to the Bad Boys of Detroit who ruled the Earth two decades ago.
Such is the case now with the Heat as they’ve limited the Mavericks to just 41.15 percent shooting and 88.3 points a game through the first three games of The Finals.
But seriously, when did you last see Miami’s Joel Anthony trip a player trying to drive down the lane ala Bill Laimbeer and then sneer? When have you seen Udonis Haslem pull the old rocking chair out from under his man and then chuckle like Rick Mahorn when he falls to the floor? When have you seen LeBron James or Dwayne Wade demonstrate even an ounce or two of the seething defensive defiance that Isiah Thomas and Dennis Rodman took out onto the court with them for every game.
Our good friend Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel caught up with a guy who’s had an up-close view of both. Ron Rothstein, now on the Heat bench, was one of the architects of the Bad Boys along with the late great Chuck Daly in Detroit.
Those Detroit defenses Rothstein helped assemble for Chuck Daly’s “Bad Boys” Pistons in the ’80s were more about brawn and bulk, players such as Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer.
This Heat defense is about athleticism, the type of closing speed that can pack the paint and still chase 3-point shooters off their spots.
“We have some athletes on this team that are just off the charts,” Rothstein said. “The amount of ground that we cover, the amount of space that we can cover, getting back in transition and running people down is remarkable.”
This is not to diminish the Heat’s prowess, merely to distinguish it from the rest and give its just due. All of those open 3-point shots that the Mavs hit against the Thunder and Lakers — especially the Lakers — in the previous two rounds of the playoffs are no longer so readily available because the Heat are simply too fast, too quick to recover on defense. That is especially true of James and Wade, who get most of their accolades for the jaw-dropping stunts they perform on offense, but can be just as overwhelming at the other end of the floor. The ball movement and slick passing that is a Dallas trademark has not been able to get enough open looks at the basket for anyone but Dirk Nowitzki and that lack of scoring from the supporting case is what has the Mavs battling uphill.
Make no mistake. The Heat defense is as good as it gets in today’s game. But they’re not the Bad Boys. Not until some bodies hit the floor and we see some sneers.
Admit it, don’t you miss the Bad Boys?