The Miami Heat is slowly attracting great praise among the bigger names in the national media, with The Ringer’s Bill Simmons and ESPN’s Zach Lowe now among them.
“I do not want to see Miami in Round 1,” Simmons said on Lowe’s podcast yesterday (21-minute mark) before Miami clobbered Minnesota, “because first of all, Whiteside is just a bad matchup for the Celtics. He would average 16 rebounds a game in that series. They’re an excellent 3-point shooting team. Excellent. Really, really top notch…
“And Dragic is playing really well. Dragic is one of those guys where a couple times in his career where he’s in the right situation, he’s been an All-NBA point guard or at least on that level… So what are the reasons for that? Well, Dwyane Wade is really hard to play with.”
Nodding with hesitation…
“Riley dumping Wade and just selling high at the perfect time, replacing him with all these young interchangeable 3-and-D guys and turning the keys over to Dragic was really smart,” Simmons continued. “When you look at the recipe of what they have — a point guard who’s very very good offensively, a rebounder/shooter center, a bunch of 3-and-D wildcard guys — it’s a dangerous playoff team and it’s kind of the team the Clippers should build around Chris Paul…”
I’m just waiting for the reverse jinx, as he did before the season when we thought he picked them to finish sixth.
“I think Miami is dangerous and they’re very very well coached. The good news is they have a terrible home-court advantage so that helps the Celtics… How many times have you turned on a Miami game this year and it’s just empty seats?”
And there it is! Simmons just couldn’t help himself. The homer Boston fan comes out.
Lowe, an objective basketball mind, agrees.
“I think the Heat are just good,” he said. “I don’t think it’s as good as Boston or Washington but I don’t think this is just a cute team… Like when I thought when they won 13 in a row, well that’s insane and once that ends they’ll play the rest of the season maybe slightly under .500… I think they’re 10-5 since that streak ended. I just think they’re good… if they get up to [the seven seed] — they won’t be favorites — but I think they should be considered a real threat.”
Simmons then swung for the fences, saying the Heat could challenge the Cavs.
“I think they are a threat to Cleveland in Round 1,” he said. “Yeah. I said it. If Love isn’t 100-percent healthy and we have no idea if he’s healthy or not… If you’re telling me they’re 100 percent healthy in their Top 3 I would tend to agree that Miami’s not a threat but if they leave a sliver in the crack, any type of door open from an injury standpoint, that’s not an easy out and then on top of it you through in Waiters Island and the Dion Waiters revenge against Cleveland and his little feud against Kyrie Irving — I think Dion Waiters is gonna be out of his mind in that series, just out of his mind.
“And then the real kind of antipathy that Miami fans have for Cleveland and especially LeBron cannot be underestimated. And if they’re down three [games] to two for whatever reason in a Game 6 in Miami, that crowd’s gonna show up and Waiters is gonna be out of his mind. I dunno, that’s a scary spot. I obviously wouldn’t bet on it and I don’t think Cleveland should be that concerned but if they’re not 100 percent healthy with the fact they don’t really have a great bench, who the hell knows. Miami is good.”
I actually listened through to the end of the podcast this time, waiting for Simmons to say it was all a ploy — a reverse jinx — designed to help his Celtics, as if the basketball gods hold Simmons dear to their hearts. It never came.
I tend to agree with both Lowe and Simmons. As long as LeBron, Love, and Kyrie are healthy the Cavs will and should be favorites against the Heat. But they’re not that healthy presently and LeBron is also among the league leaders in minutes for some asinine reason.
Miami hasn’t merely been on Cleveland’s level of late, they’ve surpassed them.
Since January 19, representing a two-month, 27-game sample, Miami ranks fourth in offensive efficiency, third in defensive efficiency, and second overall with a plus-8.8 Net Rating, trailing only the Golden State Warriors (+9.7). Cleveland ranks first in offense, 25th in defense, and sixth overall with a plus-4.7 Net Rating.
Cleveland’s defense has and will continue to be vulnerable. While we can be certain the Cavs can tap into another level in the postseason, this clash could become a dogfight.
Miami has been playing an ego-less brand of basketball with house money over the last two months, pumpig out elite production on both ends of the court. The Heat can’t match the Cavs’ player for player but as a team? It’d at least be interesting.
As for the Celtics, I think a case can be made for the Heat being the favorite.