Sunday, April 24, 2011

Closing Time is for Champions, Not Frauds

No team in NBA history has ever won a title in the first round, but plenty have lost their chance.

The Miami Heat may be the most recent example.  The team that predicted seven titles in ten years must have figured they can concede 2011 as one of those championship runs.  How else can you explain their breakdown in the City of Brotherly Love, Sunday?

It was a breakdown Mel Gibson would have had to step back and say "wow, that's too much."

The Heat blew a six point lead in a minute-and-a-half, let the Sixers steal game four, and cost themselves a chance for some extra rest.

This isn't the mark of a champion.  If you want to see what a champion looks like, take a look at what happened at Madison Square Garden.

The Celtics handled business they way a team that expects to play in June handles business.  They manhandled the Knicks.  Yes, New York made a late game comeback, but almost every NBA team makes a late game run no matter the situation.  The Celtics didn't panic, stayed within their game plan, and gave the Knicks an early start on their summer vacation.

Boston is like the guy who goes into an interview who has been laid off for months after working in the business for years.  He comes ready because he has something to prove.  Tie is knotted, suit is dry cleaned, shoes are polished.  He pulls it together to emphasize his professionalism.

The Heat are the wiz kid out of college who expects to get the job just because he is who is.  He comes to the interview sloppy, uninspired, and entitled.

Who do you think gets  hired?

What the C's understand that Miami, specifically LeBron, doesn't is that every extra game you play, makes that trip to the finals 48-minutes more difficult.  James should be the last guy who wants to be on the floor more than he has to.  He is heckled and mocked in every road game, fouled harder than everyone but Dwight Howard, and the pressure created by the press mounts with every loss.

The 76ers were the dog you see in the road that had just been hit by a Cadillac (DETROIT!).  They were squirming and panting and just wanted out of their misery.  But instead of just running them over and ending it, LeBron's inability to close gave that dog some life.  And now Miami has to spend more time dealing with this dying dog instead of preparing for the healthy and hungry pitbull that's getting stronger as they rest.

Psychology is such an important part of the NBA playoffs.  If you can get into the head of your opponent early, you have a distinct advantage.  That's what made the Bad Boys and Bulls great.  The Pistons would beat the crap out of you for 48-minutes and make you think twice about driving into the lane, opting instead to take ill-advised jumpers.  The Bulls and Jordan had so much confidence that they would hit the necessary shot down the stretch, that their opponents expected to lose.

I think Miami expects to win, but they don't know how.  The don't understand the mental aspect. Having to play an extra game allows the veteran savvy Celtics to sit back for a few extra days, rest up those aging bodies, and analyze every Heat miscue.  Boston will use this advantage and past experience to give the Heat a business lesson next round, strike while the iron is hot.  If you linger, you'll miss out.

The Heat lingered and their let down in the first round will cost them even more in the second.

No comments:

Post a Comment