After the unexpected turn that the games on Monday night took, the Miami Heat locked up the second seed of the Eastern Conference for the playoffs this year after beating the currently fifth seeded Atlanta Hawks while the Boston Celtics surprisingly lost on the road to the Washington Wizards in overtime. After last night, the Eastern Conference has been mostly determined, where the top seeded Chicago Bulls will play the Indiana Pacers, the Miami Heat will face the Philadelphia 76ers, the old rivalry of the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks opens a new chapter while the Orlando Magic and the Hawks will have another playoff series.
Once again, another first round series, given the fact that the Heat are starting to develop that team chemistry that everyone has been talking about. But hasn’t this happened already? When the Heat beat the Cavaliers the first time, and they went on that long run where they were unbeatable, didn’t everyone say that they finally clicked? Then they went on that losing streak and the “Cry-Gate” incident, and their eligibility to be contenders was questioned again. Now they seem to be on the right path, and the Heat along with their fans are hoping that this may be it.
Meanwhile, after a 3-13 start where most critics thought that will be another disappointing season from Pennsylvania’s lone representative in the NBA, Philadelphia’s coach Doug Collins was able to switch their fortunes around, giving them one of the best records in that period since the disastrous start despite the fact that they don’t even have a current Top-40 scorer in the NBA and no “legitimate superstar”.
From the beginning of the season, this man has always been on the rumors page and on the hot seat. Everything seemed to be pointing that Miami coach Erik Spoelstra will be fired. The 9-8 start, the five game losing streak that included a loss to the Chicago Bulls (whom eventually swept the Heat in a three game series), losing the season series 3-1 to Boston Celtics, blowing leads in the stretch, unable to win close games in the last minute, and other things worth noting. Yet team president Pat Riley never said that Spoelstra’s job was in danger, although there seemed to be conflicts at times between team star LeBron James and the coach. I still have doubts that the Heat will win it all this year given that they have a lot of inconsistencies to work on.
The season series that took place between the two teams was one sided, where the Heat won all three games at a margin of at least 9 points, but not more than 12. Yet if you take into consideration when the games took place, two of them which were very early in the season, you cannot judge how this playoff series will play based on the season. The Heat got their first win of the season in Philly, and the Sixers’ 13th loss was in Miami before they had that massive turnaround. Coach Collins, first year with the team who formerly coached the young Michael-Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, somehow managed to work things out with the team, and was able to put them on a huge run from that point on, after the second loss to Miami.
Winner: A little nudge to Doug Collins
The Big Three of Miami are doing a great job considering this is their first season and all the scrutiny and criticism they had to go through, although they are unable to execute down the stretch against the big teams (which matters most). After the second worrying losing streak that the Heat endured during March, Chris Bosh wanted the ball more and made it clear publicly, and when they played the Los Angeles Lakers next, despite how “soft” he is, he was still able to make a difference. These three, on any given night, are able to put up between 70 to 90 points easily. The third game of the season series indicated so, was one of a kind, where the Miami’s Big Three had 91 points, including a monster game by Dwayne Wade (39 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 blocks and 3 steals) that has a very unlikely precedence of happening again.
When the highest scorer on your team averages 15 points a game, you know that these players are all about the team. There is no really one star on this team, since every night, someone seems to play star when he’s on a roll. Elton Brand is one of six players on the Sixers that averages double figures (10+ points a game). Andre Igoudala is finally playing the lockdown defense on the perimeter that he should have been playing ages ago. Yet after seeing them throughout the season, the Sixers still lack a true star, a center I believe, that can play next to Brand in order to compete against the big guys.
Winner: Miami’s Big Three
At the beginning, Miami had James Jones knocking down all those threes for them. Then he got kicked out of the rotation. Udonis Haslem went down early in the season and has yet to play since. Mario Chalmers has been ineffective. Carlos Arroyo was released, and eventually signed with the Celtics. Zydrunas Ilgauskus has diminished a lot this year, Joel Anthony is Canadian, and Juwan Howard, well he’s Juwan Howard. Mike Miller has yet to play a decent game since he recovered from an injury, and Mike Bibby is starting to clearly look his age, although he is having some good games. When your fourth best player is some old veteran that has his ups and downs, that has to be worrying enough.
As mentioned above, the Sixers may not have the best players in the NBA, but they are full of role players that know their position on the team. Having four starting players that are under the age of 24, they have a very promising team in the future and although they won’t be able to compete now, one should have an eye out for them in the future. Jrue Holiday, Louis Williams, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young are all look-out-for players that should be taken into consideration.
It’s true that you cannot win with your stars only, but this series is likely to indicate otherwise. The Miami Heat are definitely winning this series, just don’t expect the Sixers to go down without a fight.
Final (Projected) Result: Miami 4 -2.