March 16, 2011
The count was growing louder and louder with each successive loss against top NBA teams. Tension and anxiety rising as the ref drew closer to the end - "...six, seven, eight, nine..." But then Miami miraculously shook off the punches and sprung up with a new confidence and swagger.
Just when you thought they were down and out, the Heat turned a back-against-the-wall scenario into an opportunity to prove doubters wrong (including myself). They did just that by emerging victorious against the defending NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers - marking the first of three consecutive exceptional victories.
That performance was followed up with a 33-point shellacking of the Memphis Grizzlies (who've had a track record of defeating the NBA's elite this season). And they topped it off with a 30-point signature victory against the league-leading San Antonio Spurs (returning the favor from their own 30-point loss in San Antonio).
It's been a roller coaster ride of a season to say the least but at least it seems like the rough patches have passed and the thrill is up ahead (at least for now). Nobody could predict that this team could play as bad as it has during their tough stretches of the season nor as good as it has during the high points.
We didn't want to hear the phrases that Erik Spoelstra constantly fed the media: "It's a process" and "We will have our breakthrough." However, those phrases held an underlying sense of confidence that the team could weather the storm, no matter the intensity. It was a difficult pill for fans to swallow but now that pill is beginning to yield the promised results.
Amidst this cloud of uncertainty, Miami is now finding their true identity and realizing their sky-high potential. Their biggest weaknesses are quickly being corrected in time for the playoffs: bench production is up, half court offense is improving, points in the paint are rising and wide open threes are dropping. These improvements make Miami not only a gritty defensive team but a legitimate offensive threat, whether they're running the fast break or setting up a half court set.
The ironic part of this all: Miami had it in them all along. All it took was some refocusing for the Heat to excel. But in essence this new attitude has given the team a rebirth of sorts - cleansing their past and leaving their future brighter than ever.