SATURDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Yes, there is still great respect for a Heat team that has won two championships in a row. But when some of the other Eastern Conference playoff teams look at the Heat and Indiana, they see opportunity, considering Miami went 11-14 since March 4 and Indiana lost 13 of its past 23.
“If we start out going inside out [against Miami], they can’t handle us,” Pacers guard Lance Stevenson said after Indiana’s loss to the Heat last week. “We match up great. We’re a great team. We’re equal with them [in talent].”
Said Indiana’s Paul George: “We like our chances” against Miami in a potential Eastern Conference Finals. But he added that center Roy Hibbert needs to be more aggressive offensively against the Heat.
The Heat would play the Toronto-Brooklyn winner in the second round, and Nets guard Joe Johnson said: “I think we have a good chance” to knock off Miami if the teams meet. “Small-ball works in our favor with them when they have LeBron James or Shane Battier at [power forward]. It’s a great fit.”
Even Toronto, the Heat’s potential second-round opponent, sees an opportunity, despite having lost 15 in a row against Miami.
Toronto's DeMar DeRozan said "you can take a lot from what has happened [with Miami and Indiana] recently and see what forces them to struggle. Look at the way Chicago, Brooklyn and us are playing. It's not going to be a cakewalk for anyone. We understand we can sneak into [the Eastern Finals] and make something happen."
Said Toronto’s Steve Novak: "Success in the playoffs comes from how you’re playing at the end of the year, and Miami and Indiana are not playing their best right now. If we’re playing our best, we can hold our own against the best. From a distance, someone not as aware might say a [Heat-Pacers Eastern Finals] is a lock. But the playoffs are very about much one guy that gives teams a problem. Brooklyn and we have those types of players.”
### Bovada.com lists the Heat as the favorite to win the title, at 2-to-1. The Spurs are 3-to-1.
### Impressive: Though he played in only 54 games, Dwyane Wade finished with the highest field-goal percentage by a starting shooting guard (54.6) since the three-point shot was implemented in 1979-80. The best Michael Jordan ever shot in a season: 53.9.
“When you see a guard shoot the percentage Wade does, it’s unheard of,” said ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy, who leans toward Indiana coming out of the East. It helped that Wade took only 32 three-pointers, making nine.…
What’s more, by shooting 50.1 percent from the field, the Heat became only the second franchise to make at least half its shots in the past 17 years. Phoenix did it in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
### The Dolphins have told at least two NFL people that they like Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin and believe he’s NFL ready. But NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said a general manager told him this week that he expects Martin to be gone before Miami selects 19th.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper has Martin going 16th to Dallas in his latest mock draft released Thursday, with Miami picking Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley at 19.
“Big-time play maker who can lead your defense and is worthy of going higher” and can play all three downs, Kiper said of Mosley.
Kiper has Miami taking Nevada guard/tackle Joel Bitonio with its second pick, at No. 50.
After Martin, Kiper has only three tackles going in the next 40-plus picks, and none in the range of 19th overall: Virginia’s Morgan Moses 28th, Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjiio 55th, Bitonio and Tennessee’s Ja’Wuan James at 64. Miami is bringing in James for a visit and also summoned Nebraska guard Spencer Long, a potential mid-round pick coming off an October knee injury, to team headquarters.
### Though UM’s Corn Elder, back from a knee injury, wants to play football and basketball, his future might be brighter in football, with coaches privately raving about his potential at cornerback.
“That guy is going to be a stud for us,” cornerback Tracy Howard predicted last week. “He’s got better ball skills than I’ve ever seen.”
### James Kelly's announcement that he's transferring is no big loss for the UM basketball program. Kelly was immature and not necessarily an ACC rotation player, according to one UM source.... UM hoped to lure Tennessee State fifth-year senior power forward MJ Rhett, but he told ESPN he will sign with Mississippi. Rhett had planned to visit UM on Monday.
### Even though Jake Marisnick outplayed Marcell Ozuna in the spring, the Marlins made the right call by keeping Ozuna, who’s hitting .339 (third among National League outfielders). Marisnick is batting just .167 (8 for 48) at Triple A New Orleans.
### After his walk-off grand slam tonight, Giancarlo Stanton has 26 RBI in 17 games. As of 10:30 tonight, no other big leaguer had more than 19. Stanton has two walk-off grand slams in his career. Every other Marlin has two (combined).... According to ESPN, the Marlins are the first team with a walk-off grand slam in three straight seasons since the Red Sox' streak ended in 1952.
### This broke after we posted our media column, but best wishes to TNT's Craig Sager, who's missing the playoffs while receiving treatment for leukemia. Sager released a statement tonight: "My favorite time of year – city to city, round by round, 40 games in 40 nights. A dramatic turn has matched me with acute myeloid leukemia. From the sidelines to being sidelined, 40 veins and 40 electrolytes. Too bad, I had some probing questions for Pop.”