It’s national “Pile on the Miami Heat Week” after Sunday’s loss to Bulls. Somehow, one of the NBA’s best teams has become seen as a crying, soft collection of overpaid talent that can’t win when it matters.
They’re doomed once the playoffs start, right?
Just like the Green Bay Packers were doomed, Matt Scribbins of Hoop Data reminds us.
Do you remember the story of the 2010-2011 Green Bay Packers? They were the trendy pre-season pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. After six weeks, their record stood at 3-3, and no one was predicting they would make the title game. They had to beat the Chicago Bears in Week 17 to even make the playoffs….
Green Bay was 2-6 in games decided by five points or less during the regular season. In the playoffs, they won three straight road games to capture the NFC Title. In the Super Bowl, they beat a team with an affinity for winning close games. Three of their playoff victories were by seven points or less. Mike McCarthy is not complaining right now about his team’s inability to win close games during the regular season. He is sitting at home reliving the moment he hoisted the Lombardi Trophy as the winning coach of Super Bowl XLV.
The tale of the Miami Heat resembles the story about Green Bay. NBA fans can’t stop talking about Miami’s record in close games and declaring them down for the count. Anyone who follows the Association knows they are 5-13 (that’s a better winning percentage than Green Bay’s 2-6 for those who are counting) in games decided by five points or less. But did you know Miami is 3-1 in games decided by six points? 3-0 in games decided by seven points? How about 4-1 in games decided by eight points?
The Heat keep losing close games — but those are close games. We’re talking about a made shot or two, one more stop and the outcome is different. Small fixes, little tweaks in execution.
LeBron James is taking the brunt of this, but as our own John Krolik points out over at ESPN, what LeBron does in the regular season and what happens in the playoffs don’t often correspond. His best playoff performances have come after sub-par regular seasons.
This is still a contending team, a team that is 43-20 despite some injuries to important role players. They are being compared against unrealistic expectations (granted, expectations they helped bring on themselves). This team is not the disaster they seem to be painted as; they are a team that is close.
And like the Packers, those close regular season losses could be meaningless when it really matters.
“They beat us from the three-point line the last two games, we beat them from everywhere else,” Kevin Durant said after Game 7.
He’s right. For most of seven games the Oklahoma City Thunder owned play inside the arc — their length and athleticism gave the Warriors tremendous trouble. But the Warriors had the three ball as the equalizer — or, it turns out, slightly more than the equalizer. Golden State shot their way to a series win by knocking down threes the last two games. Often contested, well-defended threes.
Above check out the 17 threes the Warriors nailed in Game 7 (on 37 attempts, or 45.9 percent shooting). There’s a lot of Stephen Curry (7) and Klay Thompson (6) in those highlights.
The Cleveland Cavaliers vs. the Golden State Warriors. A rematch of the highest-rated NBA Finals since the Jordan era, which you know makes the suits at ABC/ESPN/Disney happy. But it’s also good for fans, these are the best teams from each conference, and it should be an interesting matchup.
The NBA has moved away from the Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday pattern of games the NBA Finals has followed for years. Below is the schedule for this year’s Finals, all times are Eastern, and all the games will be broadcast on ABC.
Game 1 – June 2 (Thursday) at Golden State 9:00PM
Game 2 – June 5 (Sunday) at Golden State 8:00PM
Game 3 – June 8 (Wednesday) at Cleveland 9:00 PM
Game 4 –Fri June 10 (Friday) at Cleveland 9:00PM
Game 5 * — Mon June 13 (Monday) at Golden State 9:00PM
Game 6 * — Thu June 16 (Thursday) at Cleveland 9:00 PM
Game 7 * — June 19 (Sunday) at Golden State 8:00 PM
* means if necessary
Joel Embiid has a great sense of humor.
I’m sure if Kevin Durant were going to consider going to Philadephia — instead his hometown Wizards, or the Knicks, Lakers, Heat, Warriors, or (the most likely option) staying put with the Thunder — he’d want to get the advice of a guy who has yet to play one NBA game.
Not long after the Warriors eliminated the Thunder from the playoffs — making Durant a free agent — Embiid tweeted this.
Needless to say, KD is not going to go to the Sixers. GM Bryan Colangelo says the team is in the market for veterans, but this may be aiming a little too high.
Durant said after Game 7 he hasn’t thought about free agency yet.
The smart money remains on Durant signing a two-year deal with an opt-out after one year with the Thunder, keeping that roster together for a year so they can make one more run at a ring (you can’t get much closer than the Thunder did this season). Then in the summer of 2017 Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams and Dion Waiters will all be free agents.
Maybe one of them goes to the Sixers then. But I wouldn’t bet on it.
David Blatt said he was going to be a head coach somewhere next season.
That turned out not to be in the NBA, where he interviewed and was in the running for the head coaching jobs with the Nets, Knicks, and Rockets but didn’t land any of them. So rather than be a lead assistant, or just wait the market out, he is headed back to Europe, Turkey in particular, reports David Pick, a well-connected basketball reporter.
Darussafaka Dogus is based out of Istanbul and was in the EuroLeague for the first time last season (that’s the highest level of European basketball, featuring the best teams from leagues around the continent, similar to the Champions League in soccer). Darussafaka is trying to climb the ladder and compete with the traditional powers of Turkish basketball, Fenerbahçe and Turkey Anadolu Efes. The Darussafaka roster includes Sixers’ Summer League standout Scottie Wilbekin, Luke Harangody, Jamon Gordon, and Reggie Redding from the United States.
Hiring Blatt, who had tremendous success in Europe before coming to the NBA, would be a coup for the club. One they certainly are paying handsomely for.
Blatt won 67.5 percent of his games over a season-and-a-half with the Cavaliers and guided the team to the NBA Finals, but he never fully meshed with LeBron James and the Cavs veterans. Part of that was on Blatt — he demanded respect for his time spent and success in Europe, and that plus his need to be the smartest guy in the room rubbed players the wrong way. Blatt wasn’t humbly trying to earn respect, and the players went to current Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue when frustrated with Blatt. Eventually, Cavaliers management turned to Lue to coach the team because of team chemistry concerns.
Blatt deserved another chance in the NBA, but that didn’t come this summer. We’ll see if his return to Europe impacts that in the future.