Four months ago, if you thought anyone but the Miami Heat was favored to win the NBA Championship, you were an idiot. The team had the most transcendent player of the generation playing at his absolute apex, an MVP-level sidekick shooting the highest percentage of his career, and an all-star third piece who had gleefully embraced his role and adjusted his game to fit his surroundings. Maybe even more important, this team had an identity: by redefining conventional NBA lineups, playing insanely aggressive trapping defense, and operating in an uber-efficient, uptempo, three-point-centric offensive attack, the Heat were innovating basketball while destroying opponents at the same time.
What a difference four months makes, eh? In that time, I’ve gained approximately seven pounds, went into a horrendous non-writing slump on my blog, scuffed my “Military Blue Jordan 4’s,” been on local radio for stopping traffic because my car broke down, and called a guy by the wrong name during a job interview. And the crazy thing is, compared to the Miami Heat, I feel pretty good right now.
In a span of six games against Indiana, this team has gone from “borderline unbeatable” to “will this group ever contend for a finals run again?” In all my years of playing/watching basketball (and YouTubing the famous games I wasn’t yet alive for), I’ve never seen anything like it.
So what’s happened to Miami? It’s pretty simple really, but for complicated reasons. Let’s start with the obvious, easy-to-notice observations and try to explain why they’re happening: Continue reading