The NBA playoffs keep providing more drama.
This is reality TV at its genuine best. Basketball doesnât need any manufactured subplots.
Wouldnât you rather watch LeBron James vs. Rajon Rondo than Freddie vs. Abner on Storage Wars? Dunk beats junk.
The Heat demolished the Knicks, solved the Pacers and now waits to see whether it can outwit the Celtics or school the 76ers, starting here on Monday.
San Antonio vs. Oklahoma City commences Sunday.
After a shortened regular season (which should be made permanent because 82 mostly boring games is too much NBA), the second season is reaching its crescendo.
The Heat is doing its part to keep the audience engaged.
Miami eliminated the Indiana Pacers 105-93 in Game 6 in the heart of Hoosier Hoopdom on Thursday. Was there ever any doubt?
âThose your close-out game pants, D-Wade?â James asked Dwyane Wade, making fun of the salmon-colored slacks the fashionable Wade wore to the game.
Which brings up the question: What is with the thick, black-framed glasses every NBA player is wearing? Did they all go to the same optometrist?
The Heat knew it had the series in the palm of its hands, even without Chris Bosh and the suspended Udonis Haslem to battle the bigs inside.
No panic in heat
In a span of 10 quarters, the Heat went from calamity to colossus. After Wade cursed in the face of coach Erik Spoelstra in a five-point meltdown, the Heat trailed 2-1 and everyone (except the Heat) panicked. Uh, oh. The season would end with the Big 3 going 0-2 in title hunts. Would Phil Jackson replace Spoelstra? Would the entire bench be shipped out? Would the Heat trade Wade for Dwight Howard?
But the sky did not fall.
Who would trade Wade now? For anybody in the league?
During Game 6, he was back in 2006 form. He was snaking through double teams, twisting through midair on layups. We expected him to sink a bank shot off the top of the backboard.
Game 4 was the turning point.
Beforehand, Wade visited his Marquette coach, Tom Crean, in Bloomington, Ind., watched game film that Crean had edited and found his old self on the court. Haslem reverted to his âpick-and-popâ habits rather than the conventional âpick-and-roll.â The role players actually played their roles, making timely baskets and defensive stops.
And James continued chugging along, scoring, rebounding, passing, stealing â" an MVP no matter which position he played.
The cuts and bruises and hard fouls only fueled the Heatâs desire. The absence of Bosh, who is out indefinitely with a strained abdominal muscle, forced the Heat, and particularly James, to be more aggressive.
âWhen he puts his head down, he goes, and itâs tough to stop him,â Wade said.
Said Spoelstra: âWe have enough. [James and Wade] have to give us more. They know they have to play at a higher level.â
After the Game 3 gut check, the Heat scored more than 100 points in its three consecutive victories against a team that had not allowed 100 points through eight playoff games. James and Wade combined for 70, 58 and 69 points in those games, often assisting each other with lobs or a behind-the-back pass.
Think about the great tandems of the past: Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird/Kevin McHale, John Havlicek/Bill Russell, Julius âDr. Jâ Erving/Moses Malone, Shaquille OâNeal/Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan/Tony Parker.
We are witnessing the ascension of another dynamic duo.
The Pacers delivered a âwake-up callâ to the Heat, as Indiana coach Frank Vogel said.
âYou have to go through adversity in the playoffs,â Shane Battier said. âThat hones your edge.
âOnly the toughest teams win.â
Miami is back on the championship-or-bust track. The Heat is halfway to its goal.