NBA Playoffs 2011: Kevin McHale Talks Heat, Mavericks, Dwight Howard and More
With the 2011 NBA Playoffs about to hit the stretch run, I was able to interview the former Celtics legend again.
We discussed the remaining playoff teams, Dwight Howard and Mr. McHale's NBA Finals predictions.
With the conference finals right around the corner, here is what the Hall of Famer had to say.
Miami Heat's Dominance in the Postseason
Allen Levin: The Heat are up 3-1 on Boston after struggling against them in the regular season. What's made them so effective in the playoffs?
Kevin McHale: “They’re playing well. They had stretches during the regular season where they played really well too. They also had stretches where they didn’t play well, so you didn’t know which team was going to show up. They had that 9-8 stretch to start the season, where they didn’t look very good. Then they had that 21-1 stretch where they looked really good."
“They’ve gotten in a good rhythm. They found some things throughout the season that they can hang their hat on. I think LeBron deferred a little more to Wade at the end of games because Wade's probably a little bit better of a closer . I think Bosh chirped up a little bit about wanting to get the ball more, and he’s performed better."
“They’re in a nice rhythm right now, and playing against a Celtics team that’s a little bit beat up and that’s having a hard time scoring the ball. The Heat are playing very well.”
Can Miami Close out Boston?
AL: What will the Heat need to do tonight to close out this series?
KM: “They've got to get big games out of their Big 3. Last game, you only had three guys shooting the ball for them for most of the final quarter. So they got to get the ball distributed a little bit better and get their bench involved a little bit more. They’ve got to rely on their defense. They also have to make sure that they keep Glen “Big Baby” Davis—who’s been invisible so far—invisible and keep Ray Allen from getting shots and exploding. Also, make sure Kevin Garnett doesn’t have a monster game like he did in Game 3."
“If I’m Miami, I’m pretty confident going back home. They just got to play and let the game flow. Play that good, solid defense they’ve been playing and rely on Wade and LeBron to make plays with the ball and attack.”
The Surprise Run of the Memphis Grizzlies
AL: How have the Memphis Grizzlies been able to continue winning even without Rudy Gay?
KM: “After Rudy went down and after they had that little brawl on the plane with Tony Allen and O.J. Mayo, they’ve really came together. They’ve got a gritty team going, they defend and they’re tough, hard nosed guys. I think Mike Conley has played great ball. I think he was the difference in the San Antonio series.
“I know the big guys get all the credit, which they deserve. Z Bo has been unbelievable for Memphis. Big Marc Gasol has been played tremendous as well. I think it’s been the play of Mike Conley though—he’s really been solid for them—not turning the ball over, making shots and just kind of really got the team playing at a high level.
“Lionel Hollins has to get a huge tip of the hat because those guys play hard—they bang you, they hit you, they re tough. I like the way they play the inside-out game. They’re really making a lot of noise, and I’m really looking forward to this game tonight. It’s going be a dog fight.”
Chicago Bulls' Chances of a Title
AL: Chicago has had some trouble so far in the playoffs with both the Pacers and Hawks. Are they not as good as their record indicates?
KM: “But what happens when the playoffs start, everyone’s focused. Everybody goes up a notch or two. Teams are now matching Chicago’s energy, which I thought they overwhelmed teams with in the regular season. They just played harder than most teams did all year long. Now they’re running into teams that are playing every bit as hard. They have a matchup with Atlanta where the Hawks have some pieces that match up pretty well with Chicago."
“Josh Smith is a very unique player when he’s in the paint and rebounding—he can be very dangerous. You have Horford, who can make some outside shots. Chicago wins on their defense. When you have some bigs who can make some shots, it opens it up a little bit because Noah is always protecting the rim on the defensive side."
“I don’t think the Bulls have overachieved or anything. They won 62 times to get that record. Now, what they did in the regular season is getting met on a nightly basis in the playoffs.”
The Lakers Demise
AL: The Lakers bid for a three-peat crumbled at the hands of the Mavericks. What were the main reasons for LA's demise?
KM: “When you’re getting beat that heavily, especially like in Game 4 when they didn’t show up, I think they have some internal problems. The team just wasn’t on the same page. Then you start adding in the fact that Pau Gasol was playing very poorly—he didn’t have a rhythm going at all. Also, you factor in the Dallas Mavericks are playing really well defensively. They play a style with Nowitzki on the perimeter setting those picks and spreading the floor.
“Dallas does a great job keeping Brendan Haywood or Tyson Chandler down right at the basket, so if there’s any mistakes, those guys are getting dunks. They also have shooters all around the perimeter. So, if you’re talking about a bad matchup for LA—disregarding the fact that Pau wasn’t playing well—but let’s just say they’re hitting on all cylinders— that was still a tough matchup for LA. Part of it was the matchup and part of it was LA just disintegrated.”
Will the Mavericks Finally Get over Their Past Playoff Demons?
AL: Will Dallas finally be able to get over the hump this year?
KM: “It’s going to be interesting. They’ll be favored against whoever they play in the Western Conference Finals and have homecourt advantage. Dallas is a tough palace to play because the fans get into it. They’re really well coached—Coach Carlisle has done a great job with that team."
“Tyson Chandler has given them a defensive identity that they haven’t had before. J Kidd seems really focused. Then they got a bench—Stojakovic is capable of getting 20, Jason Terry is capable of getting 20, and Barea’s been giving them a lift. They’re a very interesting team. They do a lot of really nice things, and they’re fun to watch.”
The Miami Heat's Shaky Rotation
AL: What do you expect out of the Miami Heat's rotation as the playoffs progress?
KM: “I don’t know if they truly have a rotation right now off their bench. That’s one of the weaknesses of Miami right now. Their bench hasn’t been solidified. I think Haslem could be a huge boost for them, but you’re also talking about a guy who hasn’t played in so long."
“That’s definitely one of the questions with Miami. You don’t want to be experimenting at this point in the season. I think Coach Spoelstra plays his bench by feel and how the game is going. He’s going to make substitutions depending on the situation and what he feels he needs. Their bench has not been solidified with roles and solid play up to this point.”
The Dwight Howard Situation in Orlando
KM: “Boy, I hope not for Orlando’s sake. The whole Carmelo deal started in the summer, where rumor was he didn’t want to be there, but he never actually said it. And then Denver had to respond. I didn’t like how it was handled at all. If Howard wants to get traded, he needs to walk up to Otis Smith himself and say Otis ‘I don’t think I’m going to re-sign here, and I think it will be better off for the franchise if you traded me.’
“For all the craziness with the Carmelo situation, Denver ended up with a bunch of bodies and a bunch of players, and were able to move on and play even better than when they had Carmelo. Even though I didn’t like how the Carmelo thing was handled, I think in the end it was better than him just walking and Denver getting nothing."
“I don’t know what’s going to happen there and for me to speculate just doesn’t make sense.”
NBA Finals Predictions
Kevin McHale's best player in the playoffs up till now in both the East and West:
East: Derrick Rose
West: Dirk Nowitzki
Kevin McHale's NBA Finals Predictions: Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks
"I think that would be a hell of a series, but I would have to go with Miami because they have homecourt."