Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Cause for Concern?

April 26, 2011

 The 2011 NBA Playoffs began with a surprising blow dealt to multiple top-seeded teams. We witnessed the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic suffer game one losses. And today all three teams are still fighting for their postseason lives.

Unfavorable match-ups are the primary factor in this spree of underdog triumphs. Just ask the 2007 Dallas Mavericks (which had the best regular season record) how it felt to lose to the eighth seeded Golden State Warriors. The Warriors had the Mavs' number and playoff seeding didn't stop Golden State from shocking the basketball world. Don't be surprised if the Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Hornets or Atlanta Hawks follow that same path.

On a less intense note, the Miami Heat's game four loss to the Philadelphia 76ers drew some concerns from fans and analysts, particularly for the way in which they lost. However, the panic alarm is still far from being rung in Miami despite the rumblings by Heat skeptics.

More Overreaction and Skewed Points

Having journeyed through perhaps the most scrutinized season in NBA history, this Heat team has experienced overreaction from the public all year long (including from myself at times). But ultimately they proved doubters wrong with signature victories in the last stretch of the regular season. Today's scenario is no different - just the same overreaction in a postseason setting.

The critics seem to have short memories, or at least selective ones, when it comes to placing doubt in the Heat. The notorious statistic that is consistently used against Miami is their 1-of-19 field goal conversion in the last 10 seconds of games decided by three points or less. Now, read that stat again and tell me if it can be narrowed down any more. Who chose three points as the number of choice? Why 10 seconds and not 15, 20 or 30? I guess it's easy to prove a point with statistics when you set the criteria.

Nevertheless, Miami's two victories against the reigning NBA champion Lakers, 30-point blowout win versus the Spurs and late season "W" against Boston mean nothing, right?

It's About the Series, Not the Game 

Well if we're going to throw out stats, here are a few to prove that Miami's loss is no cause for concern:
  • The past three NBA Champions (Celtics in 2008, Lakers in 2009 and 2010) did not sweep their opening round opponents.
  • In '08, the Celtics went to Game 7 in the first round against the Atlanta Hawks
  • In '09, the Lakers went to Game 7 in the second round against the Houston Rocket
  • In '10, the Lakers went to Game 6 in the first round against the Oklahoma City Thunder
The point is that no path to the title is a clean one. There will be bumps, bruises and losses when paving this road. And it's time for the public to realize that four games decide a series, not one.

Miami fans will have to accept that six- and seven-game series will be a part of the Heat's near future. However, they should never doubt a team that is out to prove the world wrong. This is what they sacrificed money and pride for. This is what they played 82 games and practiced countless hours for. This is what it's all about. 

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