Quantcast 2011 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs: Round One - Miami vs Philadelphia

 

2011 NBA Playoff Preview – Eastern Conference First Round

(7) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (2) Miami Heat

 

 

It was soap-operatic. It was melodramatic. It was stomach-churning, cringe-inducing and myth-busting to varying degrees. The Miami Heat’s hugely publicized regular season aroused a lot of anger from the nationwide community of NBA fans, along with plenty of gleeful snickers whenever the storm clouds gathered over the league’s new villain. However, when all was said and done, the Heat managed to gain the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Given the problems that have affected coach Erik Spoelstra’s team over the past five and a half months, a second spot in the postseason really isn’t that bad.

Consider what the Heat – filled with undue hubris and unearned swagger in the preseason – endured once their strutting and posturing parties came to an end. First off, Miami began the year with a desultory 8-7 stretch that sounded alarm bells throughout the franchise. The expectations of a 70-win season were immediately dashed, and the values for scalped tickets at American Airlines Arena plummeted precipitously. The Heat never were the “superteam” a lot of casual fans thought they were going to be. Miami drew big crowds on the road, but primarily for the reason that the Heat were very easy to hate. The black-hat-wearing triumvirate of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade became the focus of opposing fans’ epithets and barbs. The Heat looked lost at times without a dominating point guard or a take-charge center near the tin. The combination of intense internal pressure and the team’s inherent weaknesses on the floor led to a panicky mindset for the Heat at certain points along the way in 2011.

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At three appreciably separate points in the regular season, Miami lost clusters of contests. The Heat suffered a three-game losing streak early in the year, a four-gamer in the middle portion of the season, and then that memorable five-game schneid in late February and early March, the skid that led some members of the team to cry in the locker room following a one-point loss to the Chicago Bulls on March 6. That moment marked the low point for the Heat, not to mention a snapshot which elicited an outpouring of delight from hoops fans who understandably hated the way in which LeBron made his “Decision” to “take his talents to South Beach” last summer. For a Miami team that represented style over substance and greed over loyalty (at least in the case of LeBron, who spurned his home-state Cleveland Cavaliers to play in South Florida), the reality of players crying in the locker room revealed the spoiled nature of the roster. Players who existed in a seemingly ideal situation – with two top-tier superstars in the lineup – were unable to accept or confront the fact that Miami could not close the sale in the latter stages of tight games. People wondered if the Heat would ever get off the deck in a season that, at least for the casual fan, was supposed to deliver so much more.

 

 

Now, though, the Heat don’t seem to be in that bad a position, despite all their failings up to now. Miami whacked Boston this past Sunday and then wrapped up the No. 2 seed on Monday night with a win in Atlanta against the Hawks. The Heat are playing tough defense and are showing all the resilience that was so profoundly missing over the past five and a half months. In many ways, the Philadelphia 76er team that will face Miami in round one of the playoffs is an incidental actor here. If Miami plays its best, the Sixers have very little chance of competing.

How will this series become a nail-biter? Only if Miami loses one of the first two games by a narrow margin… and creates a postgame scene in which a player cries at his locker.

Somehow, one doesn’t feel that kind of history is going to repeat itself. Philadelphia will have a very tough time beating the already-warmed-up Heat.

 

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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