HEAT shine in NBA Playoffs again with their backs against the wall
Miami showed resiliency at just the right time in Game 1 against the heavily-favored Milwaukee for a stunning victory.
Time and time again, the Miami Heat prove they function best in high-stakes situations when their backs are against the wall.
Perhaps it’s because the make-up of the individuals in this team resemble that spirit:
Multiple undrafted role players.
A head coach out of the film room.
Sidekicks taken at the end of the lottery.
A superstar who was selected at the end of the draft.
There’s a comfort level for them to the “all-or-nothing” situations that make hearts pound faster throughout the arena of a basketball game. The Heat thrive in it. Maybe, they even crave it.
Erik Spoelstra, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and company have taken a 1-0 series lead in the 1-8 Eastern Conference Playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The same Milwaukee team which garnered the most wins in the NBA regular season and a Bucks squad that many have as the rightful choice to win this NBA title.
We’ve seen this script before, to some degree: in 2020, when Miami made an NBA Finals run in the bubble, they defeated Milwaukee in the opener of the semis, then went on to advance in 5.
This situation is significantly different, with Milwaukee being a better team and this Heat squad not having the firepower of back then, particularly Goran Dragic, who ironically now rides the opposing side’s bench.
But it was integral Miami score the first win for even the slightest chance to complete what would be one of the greatest upsets in NBA Playoffs history.
We’re far away from even considering that.
The smart wager is to still bet on the Bucks, even with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s immediate availability in question with a back contusion, because there should be a point in the foreseeable future where the Heat, minus Tyler Herro (broken hand) for the series, should eventually return to the mediocre-heavy, 8-seed team we’ve seen all regular season, yes?
But the Miami we saw in Game 1 played like a team which believes that regardless of their position, they can compete against anyone in any best-of-7.
The have a franchise guy who when it matters most is as good a warrior as you can have in a basketball coliseum.
They have a head coach who can out-think, out-wit, and out-maneuver any other head tactician he goes up against.
As Spoelstra articulated constantly, they just wanted a chance at this stage. And the moment they got it, did they ever capitalize.
The Heat attacked early in transition, were on point from downtown, and secured enough stops down the stretch to prevent a contest they were in control of from becoming a “clutch” game down the stretch of the fourth quarter.
They weren’t afraid to pull-up from midrange even if that was the shot Milwaukee’s defense is designed to allow opponents.
They moved the ball around, consistently finding the hot hand of the moment. They played a half step quicker than Milwaukee all game, a quality which hasn’t been seen regularly from the Heat this season.
Playoff Jimmy was magnificent with 35 points and 11 assists on 15-of-27 shooting. He was getting to his spots at will, drilling jumpers with ease, scoring at the rim, and beating multiple Bucks defenders down the court for easy scoring chances. No one could stay in front of him.
In the second half, Adebayo joined the party by scoring a handful of buckets over Brook Lopez, the man many peg as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and someone who’s given Bam trouble in the past.
Repeatedly Lopez gave Adebayo space to shoot – as he always has and will continue to do so – but the Heat’s big man, who’s received a fair amount of criticism as of late, came ready for the task. He added 9 rebounds and 7 assists while continuing to anchor the D.
Kevin Love was superb with 18 points in 23 minutes. Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, and Caleb Martin combined to shoot 13-of-18 from the floor. Overall Miami drilled 15-of-25 from downtown. Is it surprising? Maybe a little bit, because of how poorly they shot as one of the NBA’s worst 3-point shooting teams in the regular season.
But it isn’t shocking, because many of these guys were on the Miami squad last year that led the league in outside shooting.
The Heat have a case of being Mr. Jekyll and Hyde. In Game 1, the Bucks saw the latter.
Drawing first blood in an NBA Playoff series isn’t as impactful as it was before, due in part to the variance of how quickly teams can shoot themselves in and out of games, and we’ve seen tangible proof of it in recent years.
But as the old saying goes, “a series doesn’t begin until the road team wins.”
The Heat just did that. Despite how badly stretches of the regular season went, they now have homecourt advantage against arguably the best pick to win this year’s NBA championship.
Are their backs still against the wall? Absolutely.
Do they love it? Probably.
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We enjoyed our best game of the year.We did it at the right time.I only hope and pray that we can get hot for the rest of this years playoffs.
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