Rarely do you get gifts this late in the season. Rarely. Teams (most teams anyway) are fighting for Playoff positioning and not willing to concede anything. Even the bad teams have young guys trying to prove they deserve a contract renewal for the following year.
So the Heat should probably thank the Celtics just a little bit. Not that Boston will reap much of the benefit or Miami will give its budding rival a bone in a few weeks when the two teams inevitably meet in the Conference Semifinals.
The Heat got a double gift from the Celtics when they defeated the Celtics on Sunday and then another bonus gift when the Celtics sat many of their starters in a 95-94 loss to the Wizards.
Miami did not, going all out for the No. 2 seed against Atlanta and winning 98-90 at Philips Arena.
Things got testy (although, not as testy as in Detroit) as Miami lost a 20-point lead and Zydrunas Ilgauskas was ejected for throwing the ball at Zaza Pachulia. But as Erick Spoelstra put it, Miami grinded out a win.
That has been the big change in the Heat throughout the year. As they have become more of a team, they have been able to win games even when they do not play their best. Certainly a sign of a good team.
So with one game remaining in the inaugural season of “The Legion of Doom,” Miami finds itself in a pretty good position. Sure things have been bumpy, but the Heat have wrapped up a division title and the second-best record in the East.
Against a Celtics team no one is quite sure what to make of potentially forthcoming in the second round, that promise of a Game Seven at American Airlines Arena could be crucial for this still-evolving team.
Around the Web
Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel: “The game was over, a collapse was averted, the Miami Heat had their 98-90 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. But the Heat wanted more Monday night. So players sat in front of their lockers, transfixed on their cell phones as the scores from the Boston Celtics’ overtime game against the Washington Wizards were updated. And then, for the first time since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh exulted on that AmericanAirlines Arena stage last June, the Heat exhaled.”
Michael Cunningham, Atlanta Journal Constitution: “This time the Hawks didn’t look as if they were taking it easy until starting the playoffs at Orlando this weekend. At least Atlanta’s bench players played that way.”
Michael Wallace, ESPN: “It was a familiar role for LeBron James. With the suspense building late in Monday’s game, the Miami Heat star forward was at the center of the action as his teammates rallied around him to come through in a big moment. James had control of the game in his hands, with the Heat’s playoff destiny riding on his next move. And suddenly, he delivered.”
Diego, Hot Hot Hoops: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The Miami Heat stood on the verge of blowing a 20-point lead when the Atlanta Hawks’ second unit surged back to make the game interesting. But Miami won the game; this win, coupled with the Boston Celtics’ loss to the Washington Wizards tonight, locks up the second seed in the Eastern Conference for the Heat. The Philadelphia 76ers’ loss to the Orlando Magic sets up a Heat vs. Sixers first-round playoff series.”
Check back in for tomorrow’s episode: Better Lake Than Never or No Fury Like a Duncan’s Spur