I know I've said it before, but despite my intense following of this team and training in sports journalism, I do not understand the Miami Heat. I've been flummoxed like never before. But I think I might have just figured it out.
I followed along with Monday night's 92-75 stroll in the park, seeing Miami build that all-too familiar first-quarter lead. Then they did something not too familiar this season: they held it. Atlanta, the team that's appeared to have the four seed on lock-down since the first week of the season, now appears staggered while Miami has a very valuable scalp to claim.
So there's no logic. Miami has lost three straight games: a failed comeback, a blowout and a choke. They've looked awful for about a week, and some cannibalization started to appear
. But lo and behold, the tides turn and Miami gets one of their biggest wins of the season, gaining ground while reinforcing Atlanta's spiral.
Dwyane Wade got 28 and eight rebounds, while the newly-reinforced Michael Beasley got 20 points in the first half. I'm getting my prediction in now; I think he's going to be dynamite down the stretch, after the All-Star Break. He needed a challenge, and he got it. Now, he's going to really fly.
So why do I have this team understood now? Well, it took a quote from head coach Erik Spoelstra, something he said after the game. From the AP, via ESPN
"We're far from a perfect group. But this group does have a spirit and they enjoy coming to work, and even though we went through a very tough stretch ... we've shown an ability to bounce back and have some resiliency, and it was a strong and important win."
Some of you may think it's just coachspeak - and you may be right - but I think when you think about this team, it sums them up pretty darn well. They're far from perfect; they lack depth, they lack height and they lack a super-reliable second scoring option. But despite all that (and despite what you may think you see from Dwyane Wade from time to time), they typically work really hard. Sometimes it doesn't work out (i.e. San Antonio) but sometimes it does (i.e. Orlando, Atlanta). It's going to be that kind of season.
Just because of this game, don't start thinking Miami's going to jump Atlanta for the four seed. I know I predicted it to begin the season, but I was wrong. Miami's not bad, but Atlanta's better, and that'll be proven out. But that's okay. Sometimes, it's okay to enjoy one night's joy and put aside longer-term concerns. That longest losing streak of the season is over, Heat fans, so soak that in for now.