Posts tagged ‘Boston’

February 2, 2011

Heat Excuses Flow Like Milk and Honey in the Holy Land

by npiller88

As the season wears on, the Miami Heat have given fans of mediocre NBA squads a reason to look forward to the playoffs, if only to root against the new evil empire (think David Stern is happy about that? Yep). But leave it to the Heat to temper the expectations of their, ahem, fans? (wouldn’t want to seem overconfident. After all its not like the organization ever put up a banner that said “Yes We Did” after acquiring the two most outstanding free agents in the 2010 class and parading the “Big Three” around a stage with smoke machines and a light show)

Lebron had this to say in comparing the playoff chops of the Heat to those of more seasoned teams like the Boston Celtics:

“We’re way behind those guys,” Lebron James said following the Heat’s practice on Wednesday. “Just look at the number of games played, the number of playoff series those guys have had. We’re only a few months in together — 40-something-plus games. I’ve seen the statistics. Boston has like 250-plus games played together. We’re way behind those teams.”

It’s as if Lebron wants spectators to hear, “yes we know we are awesome, but we can’t guarantee a championship.” In fact, the heat seem to be displaying pretty solid chemistry so far this year, at least as its reflected in scoring differential (+7.8 points per game, highest in the NBA). And now that it appears Lebron’s bad tweet karma has worn off (the team is 4-1 in the last four games), there doesn’t seem to be a real cause for concern in Miami. Of course, knowing Lebron’s Hindu Guru reputation (thanks, Jeeves), we’ll have to keep our eye on his next few tweets to see if there’s any indication of a sudden dip in performance.

But this strategy of “managing expectations” really gets at the heart of the struggle the Heat will always face. Right at the moment that the franchise decided to go all out with a carnival of arrogance (“Yes We Did,” “Karma’s a Bitch,” etc.), or even earlier, at the moment the team signed James and Bosh, expectations were sky high, and for good reason. I remember saying at the time that anything less than a championship would be seen as a failure by most fans (many of whom will be rooting for MUCH less than a championship for this team). It’s too late to prepare the fans and haters for potential failure, because the Heat invited those high expectations from the beginning. I’m not one of these guys who claims Lebron jeopardized his legacy by joining the super team, but it is true that such high expectations (something he faced to a far lesser extent in Cleveland), are likely to lead to an emotional letdown of some sort.

There is simply no way the heat can justify the hype (and silence the haters) without a championship. But Lebron seems to be trying to find a way to do just that. His quote reads sort of like: “Just so you know, if we lose to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, it won’t be because we’re not as good as they are, just because they’ve played together more.” Maybe he should have saved this for the Eastern Conference Finals. Let the letdown (or uplift, for most fans) commence.

February 2, 2011

The Chicago Bulls: Not Quite Road-Warriors, as of Yet

by Jeeves


The Chicago Bulls have been playing great basketball so far this season. They have compiled the 4th best record in the NBA and are within spitting distance of the top two teams in the East (.5 games back of Miami and 3.0 behind Boston). All this has been done while integrating a handful of new players into a completely new system and juggling the rotation around the absences of Carlos Boozer (18 games missed due to injury) and Joakim Noah (23 games missed due to injury). To say they’ve out done expectations would be an understatement. The pundits, generally speaking had the Bulls pegged as a solid playoff contender, but nowhere near title worthy. Marc Stein, of ESPN, had the Bulls 9th in his Preseason power rankings and Britt Robson, of SI, had the Bulls 12th in his poll. They were viewed as a fringey contender, one that, perhaps, could make a deep run in a year or two.

As the Bulls stand now, they have to be viewed as one of the favorites to come out of the East. They may rank a bit behind Boston and Miami, but they have to be taken at least as seriously as Orlando. I would be zero percent surprised to see the Bulls in the ECF. I would, however, be surprised if they make it that far while maintaining their pedestrian road record. The Bulls home record (3rd best, behind only Boston and San Antonio) buoys their 10-10 road record. It should also be noted that only the Clippers have played fewer road games than the Bulls which can be used to further discount the Bulls’ overall record. This isn’t a horrendous mark, especially considering they didn’t have Boozer during the annual rodeo trip, but it’s not befitting of a title contender. The average NBA Finals team since the year after the lock-out has had a record of 24-17  on the road, with a numerical mode of 27-14.

Derrick Rose and company embark on a 5 game road swing through the Western Conference. Though the team is still not at full strength, it provides an opportunity for the Bulls to at least show that they are legitimate Finals contenders and not just Conference Finals contenders. The Bulls play, in order, at the Clippers, at Golden State, at Portland, at Utah, and at New Orleans. There is not a single back-to-back in that stretch which will aide the Bulls as they try to improve their road mark.

While maximizing their wins on this West Coast swing would obviously be best, I’m most interested to see how they perform against the Jazz and the Hornets. They are two of the better home teams in the league and either game would count in my books as the Bulls second impressive road win of the season. I don’t mean second most impressive; I mean their second impressive, period. The Bulls beat a full strength Mavs team way back on November 11th. Other than that game, their best road win is either their win in Memphis or their win in Phoenix, two teams that are around .500.

These 5-games won’t make or break the Bulls in the public’s eyes; their sparkly 33-14 record takes care of that. This stretch, though, represents their best chance to legitimize their championship aspirations that is, at least, until Noah returns.