Friday, February 10, 2017

Zach Lowe, ESPN, on the Miami "Heat"

1. The Heat, my god the Heat

Enough with how this crazy streak is "bad" for Miami -- how the Heat would have been better off tanking for a top-three draft pick. Are we incapable of fun? Are we all NBA technocrats now, all the time?
This is awesome. This is literally the most improbable prolonged winning streak in NBA history. This is why we follow sports: A group of castoffs sitting at 11-30 works, and works, and works, and suddenly lands upon a connective magic that carries them all to a higher plane.
[It is. It is. It is. Everything in that paragraph is an "It is."]
Miami is playing with such force. They engage attack mode for 48 minutes. Goran Dragic, twirling and dishing at an All-NBA level again, is racing the ball up the court on every possession -- after makes, misses, free throws, timeouts, steals, spilled beer incidents, whatever. If that initial push yields nothing, the Heat pivot into a relentless series of drives-and-kicks until a gash opens. No one (well, no one except Dion Waiters) holds the ball for more than a second before driving or passing. No one (well, except Waiters) dribbles in place.

[Constant attacking. That is Pat Riley's influence. Taking nothing away from Erik Spoelstra!, that is the way Riley-coached teams always played.]
They are like a boxer coming forward every second, throwing precise three-punch combinations at your nose. If you are not ready -- if you're tired, hungover, on the second end of a back-to-back -- they will run your ass off the floor.
Decisiveness can turn marginal bench guys into playmakers. When you don't pause to let the defense reset itself, even Rodney freaking McGruder can knife into the lane and find Hassan Whiteside for lobs. Even Waiters is holding the ball a little less, and slithering to the rim.
["Rodney freaking McGruder," Ho-Ho-Ho. That is something I would write.]
It is a measured force. The Heat players mostly stay within their skill sets, and search for the right kinds of shots. A full 32 percent of their 3s have come from the corners, by far the highest such share in the league. They give no quarter on defense.

[All except that last is all Spoelstra. Riley AND Spoelstra-coached teams always played with ferocious defense.]
Yeah, the No. 2 pick would have been nice. Winning this emphatically has value, too. The Heat can proceed confident Waiters has turned a corner, and (more important) that Dragic is an All-Star-level building block. Maybe Hassan Whiteside will develop a new taste for the little, gritty things that drive winning.
The Heat mean something again. They stand for something. Other players around the league notice how hard and smart Erik Spoelstra has this team playing. They respect it. That may not be enough to lure stud free agents under the new collective bargaining agreement, but it helps.

[They go for #13 in less than an hour.]