The Heat Burn the Bulls and Kenny Smith’s Theory
Dwyane Wade was feeling himself a little bit too much when he said the world was a better place since the Miami Heat were losing, but he certainly wasn’t wrong in suggesting that a lot of people didn’t care to see the Miami Heat and the Big Three thrive. And assuming that’s the case, then a whole lot of people just got a whole lot less happy last night, as the Heat beat the Chicago Bulls 96-85 to go up 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
Say what you will about the Heat, but they are good. Their three stars carried them to victory again last night. Chris Bosh, believe it or not, was last night’s leading man with 34 points. LeBron James and Wade scored 22 and 17, respectively, while nobody else on the Heat scored more than 8 points.
Why was the unbalanced attack of the Miami Heat able to outdo a Bulls team that is supposed to be the more team-oriented contender?
I was very surprised when going into this series, all three TNT analysts, and all three ESPN analysts picked the Chicago Bulls to win this series. Actually, it was quite amazing. Granted, I’m not surprised on one hand, because I know that many members of the media are sour on the Heat and would love to see this “experiment” come crashing to an end. However, people in the media would much rather be right than stubborn, so part of me has to believe that at least the majority of the people who picked the Bulls actually believe Chicago is the better team. And then Kenny Smith explained it to me.
I don’t have the tape, but during the pre-game show leading up to Bulls-Heat Game 1, Kenny Smith picked the Bulls, and in doing so, explained that he thought the Bulls had the better team. By “team,” he meant that they share the ball, have a great bench, and have players that can contribute in a lot of different ways. That’s exactly what Miami isn’t, and so in Kenny’s mind, the Bulls were the better basketball team and would win the series because of that.
I don’t disregard the “team” theory, because it does play some role in basketball. After all, how on earth does the 2004 U.S. Olympic team not win the Gold Medal if “team basketball” does not play a factor? Because no one will question whether or not we had the best talent—that team simply didn’t play well together.
Still, the Miami Heat is not filled with a bunch of guys who have never played a certain brand of basketball and are learning to play with one another over the course of just a few weeks. Unlike that Olympic team, the Miami Heat, star-driven or not, practice everyday, have been playing with one another since last August, and they run a typical, NBA-style offense that most of the players on this team have played in throughout their professional basketball careers. So no matter how driven by their super stars they are, the Heat still play some semblance of “team” basketball.
This is why it’s absurd for anyone to think that the Bulls were the clear favorites to win this series. Simply put, the Heat has more talent than the Bulls. If you’re picking teams, three of the first four picks go to the Miami Heat. And MVP or not, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are better than Derrick Rose, no matter how much the NBA writers will tell you otherwise.
What has happened through the first three games of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals is that the more talented team has prevailed. As I mentioned earlier, nobody outside of Bosh, LeBron and Wade scored more than 8 points for the Heat. But those three combined for 73 points, and led a defensive surge that saw the Bulls score just 15 points in the first quarter and shoot 41.6% from the field for the game. Team ball or not, having three players on the court that are capable of the offensive and defensive wizardry that these guys are capable of is enough to beat a Bulls team that doesn’t even have one of the two best players on the basketball court.
I have been wrong many times before, and I am sure that I will be wrong again, but this Heat team isn’t going to lose to the Bulls this series. It’s just not a fair matchup. The Bulls can have all the offensive chemistry and bench play they want, but as long as the Heat can get five people they have practiced with for the last 10 months on to the court, their talent will outdo that of the Bulls. You saw that talent prevail last night, and you will see that talent prevail this Miami Heat team to the NBA Finals.
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