SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
As the Heat navigates through these playoffs, these players have started shattering myths and criticisms and premature conclusions that have polluted airwaves and poisoned perceptions. Eight of our favorite:
### LeBron James and Dwyane Wade don’t make each other better. That theory has been espoused by Jon Barry and others. Consider: With Wade and James on the court together this postseason, James is shooting 53 percent (44 percent otherwise) and averages more rebounds, assists and free throws. Meanwhile, Wade is shooting 49 percent with James on the court, 37 percent the rest of the time.
Then there’s this: When Wade and James play together this postseason, the Heat has outscored opponents by 178 (12.4 per 48 minutes), compared with plus-7.3 per 48 for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook together. No two players on any team have a better plus/minus postseason number than James and Wade. Conversely, when James is playing without Wade, the Heat is minus 15 in 165 minutes. And when Wade is playing without James, the Heat is minus 32 in 99 minutes.
### James can’t deliver in the clutch. In the seven games of these playoffs with the series tied (excluding series openers) or the Heat trailing, James' numbers have been especially remarkable: 32.9 points per game, 52.3 percent shooting.
“Other than Michael Jordan, I haven’t seen a run like this in the playoffs,” NBA TV analyst and former Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said off the air Friday. “Has he had a bad game in the playoffs? He hasn’t had one. He has answered every critic. He walked on the floor in Boston and said, ‘You guys won’t have a [bleeping] chance to win the game.' He did what Jordan used to do.”
James also is the first player to score 30 or more (40, 45 and 32) in the three games his team has trailed in a series since - drum roll, please - Wade in 2006.
### The Heat badly needs a center. In an era without a lot of classic back-to-the basic pivotmen, Chris Bosh has proved highly capable of manning the middle, averaging 15.2 points and 9.6 rebounds in the nine games he has started there this year (excluding the Pacers series opener when he was injured before halftime) and the two recent playoff games where he played 30-plus minutes off the bench. In postseason only, (excluding his low-minute first two games back from the abdominal injury), he’s averaging more points than opposing centers (13 to 5.4) and roughly as many rebounds (8 to 8.5.)
Bosh admitted Saturday he was "shell-shocked" when the Heat asked him to play center at times during the 2010-11 season. "I was still fighting it a lot last year, for like the ninth year in a row," he said. "But in this day and age, I'm a center, so to speak. I just had a conversation with myself. I had to own up [to] it and accept it. If we're at our best when I'm at center, so be it."
### The Heat are front-runners. (Another Jon Barry quote). Miami is now 3-0 when trailing in a series, the only NBA team without a loss in that situation.
### Miami needs to get in the open court to win. That’s often a recipe for success for this team, but after scoring at least 18 fast-break points in five early playoff games, Miami has scored five, 12 and 10 in its past three wins (Games 6 and 7 vs. Boston, Game 2 vs. OKC) and been outscored, 38-27, in that category in those games. The Heat’s halfcourt offense, often criticized, has produced the third-most points per possession in postseason.
### The Heat's lack of size will be its undoing. Even without Bosh for nine games, the Heat has outrebounded opponents by 18 in the playoffs. And the Heat has 100 postseason, compared to 75 for opponents, including a 51-48 edge among centers and power forwards.
### Udonis Haslem cannot hit the short jumper any more. In the regular season, he was 9 for 41 on those shots (in the paint, but outside the restricted area). In the playoffs, he’s 9 for 14.
### Shane Battier doesn’t have much left and wasn't worth the Heat's exception last year (three years $9 million). After Game 3 of the Boston series, Battier had the lowest field-goal percentage of any Heat player (minimum 50 shots) in playoff history. Since then, he’s 17 for 31 on threes. And Battier has proved more valuable, of late, than most anybody else Miami could have landed for $3 million last summer.
And don't overlook this: Despite playing power forward and routinely defending bigger, taller players, playoff opponents have shot just 38 percent against him, 37 percent on postups, according to synergysportstech.com.
Battier said because he isn’t the most athletic player, “most people think what I do is a fluke. They think I don’t belong. But it’s to my advantage they think that way. James Jones told me, ‘I didn’t know what you did, but you’re actually a pretty good player.’”
### Here’s why Mitchell, who picks OKC, says Miami should be worried: “What’s scary is you played a great first half in both games, and you got beaten by double digits in Game 1 and barely won the second, even though all three of your top guys played great in the second, and Westbrook didn’t play great. If Westbrook starts shooting 50 percent or better, this series will be over quickly. And Wade is having a hard time beating people to the basket.”
### Smart-aleck tweet of the week: From former NBA guard Speedy Claxton: “Way to put your best defender on the worst offensive player to start Game 1, [Erik] Spoelstra.” Mitchell said James – who opened Game 1 against Kendrick Perkins but Game 2 against Durant - should have told Spoelstra, “Don’t even think about wasting me on Kendrick Perkins.’ LeBron is the best defender in the league at 6-8. My best has to play your best.”
### Mitchell makes a good point when he notes that “it’s amazing with Miami, when they have to win a game, the ball moves. When their backs are not up against the wall, they revert more to, ‘LeBron, you go one-on-one’, then Dwyane, ‘it’s your turn.”
When they cut to the basket, James and Wade have been brilliant in these playoffs, with James shooting 24 for 29 on cuts and Wade 22 for 36. Conversely, James is shooting 41 percent on isolations, Wade 33 percent. And here’s what’s killing Wade: On two-point jumpers of 17 feet and beyond, he’s shooting 21 percent in the playoffs (13 for 61), compared with 40 percent in the regular season.
### Even if Mike Miller retires, as ESPN has suggested - Miller initially denied that but then added he doesn't know what he will do - the Heat would have only the $3 million mini-mid level exception this summer, which it would have regardless. If Miller retires and the Heat uses the amnesty clause on Joel Anthony (due $11.3 million through 2014-15), the Heat would still be above the cap but would have the $5 million full mid-level instead, which is available to non-tax-paying team.
But some other teams still would have more to offer the likes of Chris Kaman and Steve Nash… Ray Allen, who might take $3 million, and Jamal Crawford reportedly have the Heat high on their list.
### Quote of the day Saturday, from Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha: "I think we don't like that team and we've got to play angry and I think that's what we're going to do." OK then.
### Battier, perhaps the only NBA player who is learning the harmonica and routinely uses words like “monolith,” is so smart that when Spoelstra “asks a question, he will say, ‘Anybody but Shane answer,’ Joel Anthony said. Eddy Curry said Spoelstra “comes in with a quote, and Shane can not only tell you whose quote it is, but a lot of times coach gets it wrong and Shane will correct it.”
Battier, happily married, said he has received several marriage proposals, mostly from older women. Some others “say if I was 30 years younger, I’d have my eye on you. Or a 60-year-old woman saying, ‘If I hadn’t already been married….
### Besides lining up Reggie Bush and Lamar Miller at receiver, the Dolphins have added another wrinkle, with Daniel Thomas splitting out some at receiver…. Cornerback Sean Smith told WQAM's Joe Rose that Ryan Tannehill's zip on his passes "is something that stands out when you watch the quarterbacks. The ball comes out fast with a lot of force. He's making all the right checks.”
### Amid a report that the Marlins won’t offer Giancarlo Stanton a seven-year deal, Red Sox and ex-Marlins outfielder Cody Ross bemoaned last week: “You offer Albert Pujols seven years, so why not Stanton?” The Marlins have not decided when they will begin talks with Stanton, who’s under team control through 2016…
### Well-regarded South Ft. Myers safety Jayron Kearse, nephew of former NFL standout Jevon Kearse, de-committed from UM on Friday after spending four days in Clemson but said he has no favorite and hasn't ruled out the Hurricanes.
### Determined to avoid leaks in the UM investigation, the NCAA has ordered former UM coaches not to discuss the case with other former or current UM coaches or anyone else, for that matter.
(Note: For more Heat talk from Saturday's availability, see our Heat notebook in our last post, including Wade talking about his squabble with Spoelstra and other items.)