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2 posts from May 20, 2014

May 20, 2014

Postscripts, reaction, notes on Heat's Game 2 win

Postscripts from the Heat's 87-83 Game 2 win over the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which leaves this Eastern Conference Finals tied at one game apiece.

### This is why you don’t seriously doubt this team trailing 1-0 in a series to a flawed opponent, if at all, for that matter. 2-0 down? Then you can worry. 1-0? Not so much.

We’ve now witnessed a Heat win in Game 2 on all five occasions when Miami lost the opener of a series in the Big Three era.

What’s more, the Heat has now won 11 straight playoff games after a loss.

And there’s this: No team in NBA history has won five consecutive series in which it lost the first game. The Heat is trying to become the first.

### LeBron James, passive at times offensively early, scored 12 of his 22 in the fourth, made several key passes when double-teamed that resulted in second-half threes (by Norris Cole and Chris Bosh) and shook off a few early defensive missteps to make an impact on that end of the floor in the second half.

"I needed to do something in the fourth," he said. "I did a great job of attacking in the third quarter and getting my guys open threes. But I needed to make a few buckets to help my guys in the fourth quarter and I was able to come through."

LeBron was able to conserve some energy in the fourth by primarily defending George Hill late instead of Paul George or Lance Stephenson, both of whom he defended earlier.

“He wasn’t in a rhythm and was able to break free with a couple of cuts and in transition,” Spoelstra said.

### Wade didn’t score for the final 8:34 of the second quarter or the first 16 minutes of the second half but scored 10 in the fourth (5 for 5 shooting) to close with 23, with five rebounds and five assists.

Wade, who finished 10 for 16 from the field, has now scored 28, 27 and 23 in his past three games, his highest three-game total since December.

His mid-range game remains exemplary, as it has been all season when healthy. “I’ve got to slow him down,” Stephenson said.

### James and Wade, on their own, outscored Indiana, 22-20, in the fourth. Down 75-72, Miami closed the game on a 15-8 run over the final 5:33, with the Heat shooting 6 for 8 and Indiana 3 for 9 over that stretch.

"This is what we envisioned --- two guys who can be dynamic," Wade said of himself and James.

### The contributions of Cole and Chris Andersen cannot be underestimated, and Erik Spoelstra wisely rode them down the stretch.

Cole had 11 points, made both his threes, had two assists and no turnovers in 27 minutes and played stout defense in the fourth on Stephenson, who scored only two of his 25 in the final quarter. Cole said LeBron told him to defend Stephenson, which LeBron confirmed.

"Norris loves to play defense and did a great job on Lance, which allowed me to switch to Paul George and LeBron on the point guard," Wade said.

Stephenson, exceptional the first three quarters, had six rebounds and seven assists but also five turnovers. “Last five minutes, we didn’t make no plays,” he said. “Last three minutes, LeBron stepped up and made big plays.”

Spoelstra said he had Cole defend Stephenson late because Stephenson was “killing us with dribble penetration. Norris is one of our better pick-and-roll defenders. We were going to test it out a few possessions [with Cole on Stephenson] and just rolled with it.”

The Heat was plus 14 when Cole was on the floor and outscored by 14 with Mario Chalmers on the court.

### Meanwhile, Andersen had 12 boards (and three points) in 29 minutes, had an excellent defensive play on Roy Hibbert late and was active defensively throughout.

This was telling: Miami outscored the Pacers by 25 points when Andersen was on the floor. Conversely, the Heat was outscored by 20 in Udonis Haslem’s 19 minutes.

Andersen, by the way, had as many rebounds in the fourth quarter (six) as the entire Pacers team. And Indiana shot 12 for 41 with Andersen on the court tonight.

### The Heat finished at 50.7 percent from the field, just above its regular season average, while Indiana shot 40 percent, including 4 for 16 from Paul George and 5 for 16 from David West.

“There was a better commitment to that end,” Spoelstra said.

"We got back to Heat defense," James said. "We played the type of basketball we wanted to play. Even when we made mistakes, we flew around."

### The Pacers, who shot 37 free throws in Game 1, had only 15 in Game 2, making 10. The Heat was 11 for 18.

### Bosh had typically modest numbers against Indiana (9 points, 6 rebounds) and hit the side of the backboard on one three-pointer. But he had a blocked shot and covered a lot of ground defensively.

### Big picture stuff from Wade: "We always give credit to our first year together, where we did panic in situations like this. That year brought a lot of growth to our team and our leadership, particularly [LeBron]. We believe in our defense. Offensively, we've got two guys you can put the ball in their hands and they will make the right play for their team. That's why we don't break a sweat [when down early in a series].... Today was about how much we wanted it."

### From the Pacers side: Paul George said he blacked out briefly and was dazed for the final five minutes after Wade’s knee collided with his head. That was news to Pacers coach Frank Vogel, who said he was told George was fine…. Vogel:  “They’re a great team. They’re the champs. That’s what we expect [from Wade and James]. We’re not demoralized. Just have to respond. We had some defensive breakdowns that led to threes and some turnovers.”

### Indiana’s bench was supposed to be better than a year ago, with Luis Scola and CJ Watson replacing Tyler Hansbrough and DJ Augustin, and Evan Turner added in February. But Turner, who was active after missing Game 1 with strep throat, didn’t play.

Scola (1 for 6) couldn’t hit his jumper and was a liability. Watson was 0 for 4 and a minus 13 in 13 minutes. Indiana’s bench shot 3 for 13, with two of those baskets by Rasual Butler.

### Greg Oden was again inactive…. The reason for the long wait before the next game (until Saturday) is because the NBA wants to make up for moving up the start of the series to this past Sunday and doesn’t want the series to end too early because the NBA Finals start-date (set for June 5) won’t move up under any circumstances.

Please check back Wednesday for the Wednesday buzz column, with lots of football talk.

6 p.m. report: Analysts concerned with Heat; UM start times; Details on ESPN's U documentary; Stephen Ross concession; Seantrel warning

Couple 6 p.m. items:

Hours away from Game 2 of the Heat series, analysts predictably are expressing concern about the Heat.

TNT analyst and new Warriors coach Steve Kerr told Dan Le Batard's ESPN Radio show, a short time ago, that Miami "looks tired" and expects the Spurs will win the championship.

TNT's Greg Anthony said today: "Miami, while still capable, is probably not as complete as their teams that have won it in the past. The supporting cast is not nearly as supportive.  Very few teams have won back to back championships, very less three in a row. They’re going to have their place in history regardless of this outcome.”

TNT's Reggie Miller, on a conference call, chimed in: “We’re all waiting for the Heat to go into that extra gear. We haven’t seen that extra gear yet. It’s not a light switch that you can turn off and on."

(And, of course, the vulture will be circling -- and by vultures, we means Bill Simmons, Skip Bayless, etc. --- if the Heat loses tonight.)

Please scroll down for another Heat note.

### UM announced the start times today for its first two football home games: The Sept. 6 game against Florida A & M will kick off at 7 p.m. There will be no live TV but ESPN3 will stream it on the Internet... The Sept. 13 game against Arkansas State will start at 3:30 p.m. and air on ESPNU. UM announced previously that its Labor Day night opener at Louisville will air live on ESPN.

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Some Tuesday morning quick hits:

### A few more details have surfaced on ESPN’s second documentary on the University of Miami football program:

ESPN is allotting two hours to the film and is planning to air it this winter. It will pick up where the last one left off – late in the 1990s – and cover the 2001 championship team, the program’s decline, the Nevin Shapiro scandal and more.

UM isn’t thrilled about having anything about the Shapiro story in the film, but the extent to which the NCAA scandal is covered will depend on various factors --- including how many people are willing to be interviewed on the topic. But it’s a big piece of UM’s history in recent years and obviously won’t be ignored.

UM refused to allow current employees to be interviewed for the first “U” documentary. UM said it hasn’t been asked this time around, but it’s still very early in production.

Director Billy Corben and producer Alfred Spellman, who did the first movie, are also doing the second but are not permitted to comment about it, in accordance with ESPN’s policy. They have begun interviewing the program’s stars from the past 20 years.

(FYI: I answer two other UM questions posed by a reader in the comment section below.)

### There’s high optimism that Stephen Ross’ Dolphins stadium renovations will get done in the wake of Ross making more concessions in recent days.

Not only is Ross willing to pay for the entire cost of the upgrades/renovations, but he is no longer asking for a tax break.

The newest twist is Ross is now asking for Miami-Dade County to pay him some of the incremental value for big events that are lured to the stadium (Super Bowls, college football title games) with that payment coming after the event, according to an official involved.

Ross is updating NFL owners today at league meetings in Atlanta. The Dolphins hope the renovations can be finalized in time for them to be a serious player for the 2019 Super Bowl.

### By signing California linebacker Chris McCain this week, the Dolphins now have added at least three rookies who were thrown off their college teams (Liberty’s Walt Aikens – by Illinois; Oklahoma’s Damien Williams and McCain). They also added another, Marist’s Terence Fede, who was suspended a year.

### It would be foolish if Erik Spoelstra doesn’t start Udonis Haslem tonight considering: 1) Shane Battier can’t realistically defend David West again, and LeBron James made clear he prefers not to after opening Game 1 with that assignment.

2) Roy Hibbert has shot just 2 for 12 when guarded by Haslem this season;

3) When Haslem has been on the court with Hibbert this season, Miami has outscored Indiana by five points. The Heat is a minus-12 when Hibbert is on the court and Haslem isn’t.

6:30 p.m. update: Haslem is starting in place of Battier. Greg Oden is inactive.

### Seantrel Henderson said all the predictable things during Bills minicamp, that’s he’s come a long way in his maturity (we’ve heard that before).

Henderson said Buffalo is a good place for him because “there’s not much to do here but work, so no excuse.”

“We’ve talked to Seantrel and he knows that he’s got one shot,” Bills G.M. Doug Whaley told Bills reporters. “We’re saying we’ll give you this one shot. It has nothing to do with us saying this guy is a talented football player; he’s been dealing with some demons. Hopefully those demons are out of his life and why not give somebody — this is America — give somebody a chance.”