Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
What do you think of the Heat now? Always impressed, newly impressed or … eh?
Steve Aschburner: Newly impressed. Three things came together over the past two playoff rounds that were a real credit to what Miami has accomplished this spring. First, the Heat fell behind both Indiana (2-1) and Boston (3-2), two solid opponents, but dug out from the deficits while either playing without Chris Bosh or having him for uncertain minutes. Second, they got back into and won each series without undue assistance from the referees -– not to say that any help would have been intentional, but a bevy of entirely legit calls and earned free throws would have fueled conspiracy theories; no compliant official was handing LeBron James that 19-for-26 field goal performance in Game 6 Thursday. And third, the Heat looked more like a team than just a Big 3, getting boosts variously from Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller and underappreciated point guard Mario Chalmers. I’m still not a fan of the whole concept — stacking the deck with elite players who should have stayed rivals — but the way Miami survived and advanced merits big respect.
Fran Blinebury: What’s changed? Three big-time talents and a roster full of dwarfs.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Always impressed this season. Are the Heat the perfect team? No. But there is no perfect team, and the Heat were clearly the East favorite once Derrick Rose went down and the Bulls followed. Being in the Finals is not a surprise. It is Miami’s deserved place.
Shaun Powell: They don’t appear to be better, as a whole, than last year. Same Bron (although with an MVP), same Wade, same Bosh. The supporting cast, never intimidating to begin with, remains very iffy. Miami never upgraded its big man spot and the best point guard remains Mario Chalmers. The Heat’s offense still isn’t very imaginative, and the defense is top notch. Any improvement must come from Bron in the fourth quarters. There’s room to grow there.
John Schuhmann: A little of both. Back in December, we all picked them to be here, so it’s not like this is unexpected. But they did show a new level of resiliency in winning the last two games against the Celtics. That was the first time LeBron has ever faced elimination and won a playoff series, and I do think he’s got a different mentality this year than last. So while I’ve always thought they could win a championship, I also like what I’ve seen of late.
Sekou Smith: Not particularly impressed with the Heat, since they’ve ended up exactly where I predicted they would back in December. But I must admit, I’m newly impressed with LeBron James and Chris Bosh. He’ll never be able to live up to the crazy expectations so many people had for him when he came into the league. He’s already six or seven championships short of that. But what he showed me in Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference finals is stuff I wasn’t sure he had in reserve at this stage of his career. You are basically what you are when you’re nearly a decade deep into your NBA career. But he rescued his legacy and the Heat’s season by delivering them from that 3-2 deficit and into The Finals. Bosh’s Game 7 performance is the kind of effort that makes the difference for a championship team. He showed some serious guts playing through whatever lingering pain he’s dealing with and making sure the Heat didn’t fall to the Celtics. If he has four or five more efforts like that in him, The Finals will be the epic we’re all hoping for.