Miami Heat: 5 Reasons Why Loss to Boston Celtics Is No Time To Panic
Well, I guess it's over Heat fans.
The Miami Heat lost their third regular season game to the Boston Celtics this season, falling 85-82 yesterday afternoon and officially ending any hope of Miami making a deep playoff run.
Well, it was great while it lasted, but the dream has officially died. It's now time to break up the Miami Heat and start from scratch. Let's see what we can get for a still productive Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Pat Riley is on the phone right now, utterly panic stricken about how miserable his 39-15 team has performed. Now, it's time for change.
Now the only hope this team has to contend is to move Miami to Boston and rename the team the "Miami Celtics." Great thing for LeBron, as he can be just as hated there as he has been in Miami, so it's win-win for all sides.
Seriously, it's a loss people. It's one game, on the road, against perhaps the league's best team. Is it a disappointing loss. Sure. Does it suggest that the Heat have their work cut out if they faced Boston in the playoffs? Obviously. But in the grand scheme of things, the ramifications of the game could be potentially minor at best.
Here are five reasons why:
1. Regular Season Series Rarely Reflect Playoff Results
Back in 2006, Miami faced another set of opponents in the regular season who it would later have to beat in the postseason to win a title: The Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks.
The Pistons, like the Celtics, were experienced veterans who were playing the regular season with the goal of securing home court advantage in a possible Finals rematch against the Spurs, who defeated them in seven games the previous year.
The Pistons only played the Heat three times in the regular season but won two of three. Meanwhile, the Mavericks won both regular season meetings with the Heat. So those two teams went 4-1 in the regular season against the Heat, but Miami eventually won a 2006 playoff series against each team in six games for an 8-4 total record.
The upshot is: The regular season results are not a solid indicator for what will happen in the postseason. Commentary writers and sports pundits love to talk about a "psychological edge" and a "mental advantage," but seriously, all that matters is who is playing the best in the postseason.
I can give you a ton of other examples of season results that were terrible predictors of what would transpire in the playoffs:
In 1998 the Atlanta Hawks owned the Charlotte Hornets in the regular season, going 4-0 against them. In the playoffs? The Hornets won the series 3-1.
The Utah Jazz were a combined 3-1 against the Chicago Bulls in the 1996-97 and 1997-98 regular seasons, but lost the NBA Finals in six games each season to them.
Tthe Bulls were 0-6 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1988-89 regular season and no one cares because Jordan hit "the Shot" over Craig Ehlo in the postseason.
2. The Boston Celtics Must Continue To Keep Pace With Miami
Boston faces one major question after securing the tiebreaker over the Heat in a possible post-season matchup: Will they be able to keep pace with the Heat in the wins column in order to make it matter?
Unless, Miami begins to slide and struggle over the next few games, the pressure is on Boston to keep winning or they lose their chance to secure the top seed anyway. Meanwhile, after this current road trip, Miami plays a decidedly more home-friendly schedule in March with full opportunity to win the top seed in the East anyway.
My question basically is: Will the Celtics go for the top seed in the East knowing that, unless Miami and Chicago hit simultaneous slumps, they will have to win upwards of 60 games? This could actually secure homecourt advantage, but also hurt the Celtics in the long run because at their age, pacing themselves becomes more important.
Even if they do secure the top seed, how much will be left in the tank for Orlando, Miami and Chicago after so much energy was expended winning 60 games? We'll find out.
3. We Have Yet To See Miami's Ceiling
When people offer their plethora of reasons why the Heat can't win, I ask myself a simple question: Can we honestly say we've seen their ceiling? In other words, are the Heat, as currently assembled, as good as they will ever be? If you answered yes, congratulations. Your NBA knowledge is now greatly in doubt.
Miami is an improving team. The Heat are becoming more comfortable playing together and will continue to improve. We've yet to see the impact Udonis Haslem's return will have on the team and they still have games left to work out the kinks.
But, in the event that they do lose in the playoffs this year (since I have to at least acknowledge that the Celtics are the East's favorite to advance to the Finals right now), Pat Riley will be on the phones the day after the season ends to work on improving this team.
Meanwhile, next season, the Celtics will be rebuilding, and the Heat will have one season under their belt together and will be greatly improved next season.
4. Would Any Regular Season Victory for Miami Really Quiet Critics?
Following the Miami Heat's 85-82 loss to the Celtics, the media predictably used it as an opportunity to ascribe several hyperbolic meanings to the outcome.
"This game proves the Heat's struggles with elite point guards." "This game proves that the Heat aren't winning a title anytime soon." "This game proves that Miami can't compete with the NBA powers."
Oh. So a three-point loss in February to the best team in the league is reason to lose all hope? Gotcha.
Granted, the 0-3 record against Boston is a bit troublesome. But since there is still so much basketball remaining for both teams, it means nothing unless the two teams are tied record-wise by the end of the season.
The critics have been consistently predicting Miami's ultimate doom for some time now, so a win against Boston would not have changed that opinion.
Remember when the critics said that the Lakers would wipe the floor with Miami on Christmas Day? Well, Miami won and what did their critics say afterward?: "The Lakers clearly weren't 'up' for this game." It wasn't that the Heat beat L.A., it was that the Lakers didn't play well.
It was the same thing going into the Magic game. All the talk was about how they couldn't guard Dwight Howard, that he would wipe the floor with their frontline and it would be a "statement game." What happened after the Heat won? The Magic "had a chance to win, but fell short." Once again, the Heat were not given credit for a victory against a solid team.
If the Heat had beaten Boston would the critics be saying, "Oh, now the Heat have proven to us and the world that they are true contenders!" No. They'd be talking about the Celtics being undermanned, unmotivated or that the game wouldn't matter because the Celtics would still beat Miami in the postseason. The perception of the Heat would not have changed one iota.
Bottom line: The Heat will be doubted until they win in the postseason and not a moment prior regardless of what the critics may claim.
5. The Heat Can Use This Game To Stay Motivated
If you have the critics tell the story, there is nothing good that can come from this loss. This defeat at the hands of the Celtics is an absolute disaster, and the final nail in the Heat coffin regarding any hopes of a deep playoff run.
However, for a team like Miami, which is still trying to work out its kinks, a loss like this can be a highly motivating factor. Remember the 9-8 start to the season, where everyone was prematurely predicting the Heat's ultimate demise? That early failure actually united the team and humbled the Heat enough to get on the same page and run off an impressive string of 21 wins in 22 games.
When a team loses a game that it had its heart set on winning, the easy thing to do is to talk about how bad it is that it lost the game, what it did wrong, why it was a cataclysmic loss, etc. The hard thing to do is talk about the soul searching that occurs afterward.
No team ever won a championship "easily." Teams generally need to face a lion's share of struggles, losses and adversity along the way in order to become the team it wanted to be.
In 2008, Boston glided through the regular season relatively easily, winning 66 games, but in the playoffs, the Celtics went seven games in the first two rounds. Those early playoff struggles made the Celtics a better and stronger team. They beat their next two playoff opponents in six games.
The Miami Heat know that they need to beat Boston advance to the NBA Finals. But sometimes when a team is new and learning how to win, it needs to lose first to learn how to win together. I may be alone in this opinion, but I am proud of the Heat's effort. They had a chance to win in a game where the Celtics needed to expend every last bit of energy they could to win, and just barely pulled it off.
One more thing to consider: Each win by the Celtics was closer than the previous one. First an eight-point win, then a five-point win, then a three-point win. From a symbolic standpoint, that almost seems to suggest that Miami IS closing the gap on Boston, but just is not there yet.
Who's to say where they will be in April though?