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Blessed are the Heat, for they ball out in spurts.
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray combined for 53 points in Denver’s 104-93 victory over Miami in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Heat never led after the contest’s opening minutes and lagged behind by as many as 22 points late in the third quarter.
Some took this as a sign of the future. The Heat seem to have no memory whatsoever.
In Game 2, Miami masqueraded in its amnesia. The team trailed, 83-75, at the end of the third quarter, with a 2-0 hole staring it in the face. Then Duncan Robinson scored all 10 of his points on all five of his field-goal attempts as the Heat outdid the Nuggets, 36-25, in the game’s final 12 minutes. With the 111-108 conquest in Colorado, the series moves to Miami with an entirely different mood.
This has become standard procedure for the Heat in these playoffs. Nothing seems to kill them – not injuries, not bad performances, and not their opponents. Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo have barely played in this postseason, and it hasn’t mattered. Miami suffered blowouts and a heartbreaking Game 6 disappointment last round against the Celtics, and it didn’t matter. As the East’s No. 8 seed, the Heat have not had home-court advantage in any series and faced some of the league’s most formidable foes, not to mention having to navigate the Play-In Tournament before earning the right to fight in the playoffs. None of that has mattered, either.
When you put it all together, it begs the question: does anything matter with Miami?
Nobody expected much from the Heat in the first round. Giannis and the top-seeded Bucks were one of the favorites to win the 2023 title, which would have been their second in three seasons. Even with Herro exiting Game 1 with his ailment, Miami still shocked the sport with the initial upset. Surely, that was a mere coincidence, though, which especially had to be true after Milwaukee responded strongly in Game 2. These series are best-of-seven for a reason, right?
Turns out, none of that was relevant. Game 3 was a comfortable Miami triumph, and the Heat closed out tight contests in the next two to send the Bucks to the links in five despite Oladipo’s absence.
In the second round, Miami managed to split the opening games with the Knicks. A defeat in Game 5 welcomed some queries into whether or not the lowest seed had it in them to close out the series. That disbelief was swiftly disproven in Game 6.
The Conference Finals introduced the most adversity yet. The Celtics and Heat are well-acquainted, having previously met in two of the last three Eastern Conference Finals, with Boston besting Miami in seven in 2022. Tensions were high, and they grew higher with every chip the Celtics placed in the 3-0 series jump the Heat held early on. No team in NBA history had ever gone up 3-0 in a series and not advanced, but after beatings in Game 4 and Game 5 and one point separating the sides in Game 6, all the energy was with the Celtics leading into a Game 7 at TD Garden. Naturally, the Heat beat Boston into next October, 103-84, pulverizing revenge on their adversary.
So here we are, two games into the 2023 NBA Finals, and Miami is still doing it. Just when you think this team might waver, it locks in. Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent are each averaging about four points better in the playoffs compared to in the regular season, Jimmy Butler is operating in another dimension, and Robinson has naysayers swallowing their tongues. Whether it makes sense or not, this is happening.
The Heat have become the wascally wabbits of the NBA, evading capture regardless of their hunters’ ample arsenals. The Nuggets are no Elmer Fudd. They dominated the West on their route to these NBA Finals and have two of the hottest players in the world in Jokic and Murray. But there is something undeniable about Miami; something difficult to articulate but impossible to ignore. Perhaps that’s just the genius of Erik Spoelstra at work.
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