The Miami Heat appear to have righted the ship and look to be serving notice to the rest of the league that the word of their demise was quite premature.
On Wednesday night, they played a full 48 minutes of aggressive, tough defense and excellent team ball, leading to a 110-80 thrashing of the San Antonio Spurs, the same team that beat them by 30 just 10 days earlier.
Suddenly, the endless harping about all of the team's weaknesses have halted, as their critics are left to quietly brood over the team's recent success over its last three games.
But the detractors still want to try to convert Heat fans into non-believers.
"They won't win. They don't have a championship mentality."
The ranting has grown both tiresome and predictable. Nevertheless, when the anti-Heat brigade begin making their cases against the club, even they fail to notice how many of the arguments either make no sense or are contradictory.
Here are the top five most noticeable logical flaws.
The detractors have argued that LeBron James' decision to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was an admission that he "couldn't win a title by himself and needed other great players to get over the hump," thereby stacking the odds in his favor and "increasing his chances to win a title." Nevertheless, they also claim that the Heat are not good enough to win a title, so his team has "no chance to win."
How can James have joined a team to "increase his chances to win" if that team did not have a chance to win? These arguments completely contradict one another.
He either went to a team that could win or he didn't; it can't be both.
If you're arguing that he "needed" Wade to win, then that means he CAN WIN with Wade. But if the team is not good enough to win, that nullifies the ring chaser argument because then it suddenly becomes just an average team that is only "decent" now but is not a serious contender at this point in time. Therefore, what makes the Heat any different from the Clippers, Knicks or any other team that is still years away from a title?
He' either with a contender or not. If he's not, then he isn't ring chasing. If he is, then they are contenders.
Also, if James really wanted to be a ring chaser, why not go to the Lakers, a team that just won two in a row? Why go to a team that was knocked out of the playoffs the last three years straight?
Ahhh...Yes, apparently the only regular season games that matter are the Heat loses. Their wins are nullified and dismissed as insignificant.
So when the Heat lost to the Bulls by a point a few weeks ago, that game mattered because it showed "The Heat's obvious flaws, and prove why they can't win." When they lose five straight games? "Further evidence that this team is a first-round ousting waiting to happen." When they start the season 9-8? "Clearly, this is the most disappointing team in NBA History."
So I got you. When the Heat lose regular season games, it shows that they aren't a legit contender. But what about when they win?
When the Heat beat the Lakers on Christmas Day? "That was a poor effort by the Lakers." Or win 21 of 22 games? "Most of those teams were non-playoff teams." Or get great performances from players off the bench? "That was a fluke. Their bench sucks." Or will be getting a veteran, title winning piece back from injury soon. "Udonis Haslem is a scrub, eight point, eight rebounds and solid defense non-withstanding." They have a better road record and point differential than any other team in the East. "It means nothing. They still can't beat them when it counts!"
How do you know? "Well...I just know alright!"
Yes, it's the old "I just feel the Heat suck argument" conveniently made by the Heat's biggest detractors.
Now, I'm not saying that the Heat will assuredly win. Nor am I claiming that they don't need to improve in several areas and become more consistent. But anyone who thinks they are not a legit contender is either in denial or doesn't know as much about basketball as they claim.
Furthermore, regular season and playoffs are different and constantly bringing up the Heat's very misleading 0-6 record versus the Bulls and Celtics (none of the loses decided by more than eight points) suggest two things that aren't true:
-The regular season and playoffs are the same (they are not).
-The Heat won't improve much between now and the playoffs, which is wishful thinking only a Heat hater can appreciate. The Heat lost those games to the Celtics and Bulls because they didn't play 48 minutes of solid ball. Who's to say they can't win against either when they do?
How bad is Chris Bosh?
Well, according to the detractors he's pretty bad, statistics be damned.
None of the anti-Chris Bosh arguments really carry a lot of weight when held up to real scrutiny:
They say that "Bosh is weak on the interior defense," even though it's been solid since December. All-Star caliber bigs like Amar'e Stoudemire, Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin and Carlos Boozer all struggled to score in the paint against the Heat, in large part because of his defense. In fact, the Heat are the stingiest interior defensive team in the NBA in terms of field goal percentage allowed.
"Bosh is the third wheel on this team, he's expendable." Only Heat critics fail to see the value of Bosh on this team. With Bosh in the game, their point margin is vastly improved. He gives them interior offense that they don't get in other places, plus he has come up big of late against the premier forwards in the league.
Also, his numbers currently sit at 18.4 ppg and 8.2 rpg. I can't think of a single third option that can boast those numbers. Sure they're down from last year, but they are still among the best in the NBA at power forward position.
"Bosh has never led a team past the first round of the playoffs by himself."
Neither did Pau Gasol before the trade that sent him to L.A.
The Bulls and the Celtics are clearly Miami's biggest obstacles in this year's playoffs, and with Miami posting a less than impressive 0-6 combined record against these two team thus far in the regular season (they play the Celtics one more time in April), many have argued that the Bulls and Celtics are overall better teams.
In fact, the insistence has been so deafening that some Heat detractors have went so far as to predict that Heat won't make it past either of these two teams should they meet in the second round.
Really, are the Bulls and Celtics that good?
First of all, I find it interesting how people can label the Heat as a team that "hasn't proven anything in the playoffs," yet they give the benefit of the doubt to a team (Chicago) with not a single starter that has ever played in a finals game. In fact, MVP-favorite Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah have yet to play in the second round.
Second, I sincerely believe that the anger and vitriol that Miami have inspired have led some people to simply ignore the Bulls flaws and emphasize the Heat's weaknesses in an attempt to prove that the Heat can't beat Chicago or that the Bulls are without their flaws.
But it's not true.
The Biggest Flaws of the Bulls
-Terrible free throw shooting. The Bulls are currently 26th in the league in free throw shooting. That's pretty low for a team that has its sights set on going deep in the playoffs.
-It's best player is a playoff novice. Sure Derrick Rose is a great point guard and probably the league MVP. But the playoffs are a stage that traditionally younger players need to make strides in before they take the next step.
-Bad shooting team. There is no way around it, this Bulls team can't shoot. Granted Rose and Deng have made strides to improve their jumpshots and have become better perimeter scorers, but outside of maybe Kyle Korver, there are few true marksmen on this team. If defenses decide to throw multiple defenders at Rose to get the ball out of his hands, can Keith Bogans be trusted to hit consistently from the field in a high pressure playoff position?
-And speaking of high pressure situation, let's say that the Bulls secure home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, they will then be playing as the favorites and teams like Miami and Boston will be the underdogs. Are we really sure the talent disparity is great enough that the Heat or Celtics couldn't win in Chicago? I don't think so.
The Biggest Flaws of the Celtics
-Injuries: Rajon Rondo just doesn't look good right now with his gimpy ankle and the O'Neal's are still riding the pine with injuries of their own.
-How much energy will they expend the remainder of the season and how will it play out in the postseason? Remember, the Celtics rested their veteran players in the final weeks before the playoffs and came into the postseason rested. If they do that this season, they lose home court possibly in both the third round and finals, thereby nullifying their season-long goal of HCA. It really is a catch-22 for this team. Play for HCA or play well in the playoffs regardless of seeding?
-I still say that the loss of Kendrick Perkins may destroy their interior toughness.
So clearly, the Bulls and Celtics are not exactly locks for the finals either, despite what the Heat haters want to rant from the park bench.
Finally the detractors want us to believe that the Heat can't win because they are too top heavy. They have three great players ("or two and an overrated power forward" to quote one critic), but a sub-par bench, and therefore, since they don't go 10-man deep, they will lose.
There are several flaws with this theory:
First, it suggests that teams win titles with role players, and this is simply not true. Generally, the teams that win have the most talent at the top of the roster. It's always been true. For example, last season, in the NBA finals, the Lakers bench did not play well. Jordan Farmar was erratic, Shannon Brown was invisible and Lamar Odom was inconsistent.
Meanwhile, the Celtics bench was playing very well. Rasheed Wallace, Tony Allen and Glen Davis outplayed the Lakers bench. But when Kobe outplayed Ray Allen, Pau outplayed Kevin Garnett and Ron Artest played Paul Pierce to a standoff, the Lakers were victorious.
Role players win games for you, but stars win playoff series.
That's why the Lakers beat a deeper Portland team in 2000, because the Lakers had Shaq and Kobe and the Blazers didn't. Or why the 1998 Bulls beat two teams with better benches in Indiana and Utah. Because Jordan, Pippen and Rodman outplayed Malone, Stockton and Hornecek, and that was all she wrote.
I'm not saying that the Heat don't need to get more from the bench. Mike Miller needs to be more consistent and James Jones needs to rediscover his three-point shot. But I don't believe that CJ Watson will win the series for the Bulls instead of Derrick Rose versus Dwyane Wade or Luol Deng versus LeBron James.
Another problem with this theory is that it presumes that playoff rosters are the same as regular season rosters.
So what if a team can go 10 deep? In the playoffs when rosters shrink and all that vaunted talent is shortened, there is more emphasis on elite players on a team whiddled down to seven.
The playoffs reward top-heavy teams not 10-man deep squads.