I have a small confession to make: after Miami won the title last season, I was not sure if I would keep on writing about them – or for that matter, supporting the team. A lot of my writing had been focused on LeBron’s quest for a first title which ended up being shaped by an epic failure against Dallas and then redemption versus the Thunder. Where could I go with the team? Moreover, was I truly a fan?
My posts about the team this season have been, well, sparse…and I have watched with more of a casual fandom (instead of living and dying with every shot), but sometimes, when you see something amazing it can bring you right back to where you began.
Wednesday night, after running some errands I flipped on Game 1 of the Eastern Finals against Indy expecting either a Heat blowout or a Pacers win over a rusty team. Instead I ended up with one of the best basketball games of the year. Paul George showed he can play clutch after hitting a remarkable desperation three and three free throws with the game on the line. Within ten seconds of turning on the game I was yelling at the tv and blatantly cheering for the Heat with none of the casualness I had previously displayed. This game was incredibly back and forth and there was no question the stage was set for a fantastic finish – and it certainly delievered.
Talking with my brother, Just Ross, afterwards, neither of us could ever remember a guy going to the basket with 2.2 seconds left, let alone getting the shot at the rim off in time. LeBron, we agreed, is maybe the one guy in the league who could have done so. After catching the ball at the top of the key with his back to the basket, Bron had time to turn, blow past George like he was a road sign, get to the hoop in about two steps and put the ball in off the backboard. For a brief second I thought he was going to throw down an emphatic dunk, which may have caused some sort of seismic activity off the East coast. No one else would have the gall or the ability to go to the rim like that. Part of the reason the play was successful was the brilliantly executed play (Ray Allen and Bosh setting screens and clearing out the whole middle of the floor) and that George, like most defenders in that situation overcommitted to stopping a quick shot. LBJ made him look foolish afterwards. The play was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. Probably the best part was the Heat players and fans celebrating deliriously while LeBron simply walked, stone faced around the court. He knows what winning one game means when your ultimate goal is nothing short of repeating for the NBA title.
Two nights later, an entirely different result but only slightly less amazing. LeBron, doing the complete opposite of what he had done the previous night by throwing the ball away – twice – with under a minute left. The Pacers were simply in the passing lanes and refused to let him create with anyone else. Two great defensive stands with the game on the line…that were only eclipsed by the 24 seconds previously which featured maybe the best defense I have ever witnessed by one team. The Heat, after LBJ turned the ball over played aggressive, ferocious and absolutely remarkable D for 24 seconds.
There was simply no way that the Pacers were going to get the ball in the hoop. It did not matter who had it – they were hounded until they finally had to give it up. An incredible sequence that finished with a 24 second shot clock violation. In the end though, it was all for naught – the Heat lost and the series was tied up.
No question though, who reps the East in the Finals. The Heat repeat is on.