So of all the suggestions for breaking up the Big Three of the Heat, you have to hand it to the parade route planner for being the most decisive, though derivative.
But LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh survived the attempted recreation of the giraffe-in-the-convertible scene from The Hangover Part III and now we’re left with a summer of the NBA’s most-asked question:
What’s wrong with the Heat?
After all, it’s been nearly a week since they won a game.
Never mind that it’s the offseason. Facts and rationality never seem to enter the discussion when the topic is Miami basketball.
To twist an old saying: If it’s not the Heat, it’s the stupidity.
Remember, it was only days ago when everything that Pat Riley had built inside American Airlines Arena hung in the balance.
What if either Manu Ginobili or Kawhi Leonard had made one more free throw in the final 28 seconds of Game 6?
Then Ray Allen’s back-away 3-pointer from the corner doesn’t mean a thing. Then Game 7 isn’t even played. Then Big Three get deep-sixed.
Really? Because of one free throw?
No less an accomplished playoff veteran than Magic Johnson was telling listeners on a conference call prior to Game 7: “I think we may see the end of this Big Three. I think that things will change, no matter what happens. Things have to change with that team, because everybody has caught up to them now.”
So how come there weren’t parades in San Antonio or Indianapolis or Memphis or New York or Oklahoma City or Los Angeles this week?
You can talk the talk about the Heat from now until Opening Night next season when another banner drops from the rafters and another set of gaudy rings is handed out. But until somebody can walk the walk and take Miami down at crunch time, it’s all just blather.
It seems that the most consistent criticism of the Heat has two lines of attack:
— They don’t win every game.
— I don’t like LeBron.
Of the latter, if it stems from the silly made-for-TV show on ESPN, it was three years ago and it’s time to get over it. Adam Sandler made Grown Ups that year, so it might not have been the worst decision of 2010.
If the complaint is a lack of victories, it might be time to put new batteries in the calculator.
In the three years since Miami’s Big Three have been playing together, they have a combined 170-60 (.739) record in the regular season. That means they win three out of every four times they step onto the court. They won 27 consecutive games from Feb. 3 through Mar. 25 of this season, the second-longest streak in NBA history. They have made three straight trips to the NBA Finals, winning the last two.
Yes, there was that humbling defeat by the Mavericks in 2011, the first season that James, Wade and Bosh were wearing the same uniforms and trying to figure things out. Perhaps keep in mind that in the first season Michael Jordan played with Scottie Pippen (1988), the Bulls were knocked out of the playoffs in the second round and didn’t even reach The Finals until year four.
Magic wants to blow up the Heat “no matter what happens,” even though they went back-to-back. What about when the Lakers followed up their 1980 title in his rookie year by getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by a Houston team with 40-42 record? After winning in 1982, his Lakers were swept in The Finals by Philly in 1983. The Lakers dynasty did not repeat until 1987 and ’88. The Larry Bird-Robert Parish-Kevin McHale Celtics never won two in a row. Tim Duncan’s Spurs have won four championships, but none consecutively.
This is a bar that was set impossibly high for the Heat from the start and is constantly being raised.
There are, in fact, very few areas in which the Heat haven’t delivered as hyped and promised, not the least of which has been making every stop in 28 other NBA arenas an event and every chapter of their three straight playoff marches must-see-TV.
Can anyone truthfully continue to hang LeBron with the old charge that he blinks in the spotlight? The times that the Heat have faced elimination in the last two playoffs, they are 5-0 and James has averages of 35.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists. Remember his 3-pointer that preceded Allen’s 3?
The 31-year-old Wade has been written off like a bad debt over the past two years, but summons up big performances just when it looks like he is slipping over the edge.
Bosh will always be the third, lesser jewel in the chain, but he has made the biggest adjustment to make it all work and did get the critical rebound and make the pass to Allen in the corner.
Coach Erik Spoelstra has made the climb with them, rising from youthful caretaker to battle-tested leader who pushes the right buttons with the lineups and navigates the always roiling waters of great expectation. There are no more gaps in his pedigree.
Any one of the Big Three can bolt next summer, according to their contracts and then everything changes. That’s a whole year away.
For now, this is a team precisely as Riley dared envision it three summers ago — bold, entertaining, accomplished.
So what’s wrong with the Heat?
Only that we haven’t seen them play in nearly a week and are already missing them.