With a minute left the Heat staged another comeback to tie and win in overtime, something they have perfected.
I consider myself basketball literate but I’d been lying if I said I knew its detailed history inside and out as well as I know NFL history. NBA was in the background growing up as my father’s household motto was “There is football and then there is life.”, but it was impossible to ignore Jordan, so every once an while I found myself watching. When The Miami Heat were born in 88′ I payed more attention. When they won their first championship with Wade & Shaq, I became a full fledge fan of the game. When the Big 3 were created, I became a fanatic of the sport.
Nowadays I find myself looking forward to watching NBA more than NFL. Not to say NFL has gotten worse (though officiating has definitely taken a downturn), this NBA season was one of the first ones that I like many were super excited to see. Of course I was excited for the Big 3 but this season is more significant because there isn’t a Big 3. There isn’t a Big 3 anywhere. The NBA Superteam seemingly was devoured by Kawhi Leonard who took the concept and shoved it up our asses. The NBA is kinda like it was during the early Wade years where teams where dependent on 1 star or a duo or a collective team effort. Because teams were all scrambling to copy the Big 3 Formula, the Big Team was created by Golden State. And like Star Base Killer, Leonard came back to end the era by being the Big Team Killer with a solo effort in Toronto.
So much has happened that has changed the course of the NBA in the last decade but one thing that hasn’t changed is this team’s, specifically this coach’s, ability to make the last minute of a game last longer than the game itself.
I know stretching the final two minutes is common stradegy. In NFL they practice the two minute drill or even the two minute offense. In NBA teams use fouls and timeouts to stretch out the end as a way to catch up and I know it’s a technique that prolly goes back to the invention of the game. But in my time watching since Spoelstra has taken over, I’ve noticed that he has gotten better and better in the final 2 minutes of the game.
Spoelstra’s last minute mastery evolved during the NBA Finals between the Heat and Spurs in 2013 when The Ray Allen Shot was born. Down ten heading into the fourth of that game everyone thought the Spurs were going to pull it off. Then Lebron lost the headband and the Heat stormed back leading by two with two minutes left. Pops gave the Spurs the talk and Parker stormed back to take the lead back going up 5 with :28 seconds left.
At this point EVERYONE thought we were done. I was sitting by myself cause I couldn’t get tickets or have a group to go out with so I SADLY took in the game alone wearing my Heat gear. Parker took the lead and I thought we were sunk. :28 seconds was not enough time I thought. That’s what the people leaving the arena early thought. That’s what Stugotz thought. Down 5? Time to go home.
The ball came out to James for a 3 and I remember not being condifent. He had been a disaster in the final minute with turnovers and obvious freak out mode. Lebron would miss and just as quickly Wade slaps it back out and the ball would eventually find itself back in James hands for a second shot which would be good this time. Empty redemption I thought. I was still like no way cause they are still down three with only :19 seconds left. And now they would have to hope Kawaii Leonard who would be fouled at the time could sustain the pressure free throws as a rookie. Leonard had put himself on the map in the series but he was still a rookie. He would miss one of the free throws and the Heat would have a chance.
Lebron would take another 3, miss and our hopes would be dashed again until Bosh would rescue the ship with one of the greatest rebounds in history and pitch it to one of the greatest 3-point shooters in NBA history, and Ray Allen would tie it up and tell them to get those yellow ropes the hell out of here. Heat would eventually win after OT and the rest is history.
Win in 60 seconds
It was there and then that I started to notice just how well Spoelstra manages the final minute of games. How he would always have a plethora of timeouts in the last quarter. How he had seemingly discovered a new way to extend the final two minute to where a whole new quarter is born. More so than many of the coaches in the league. Since big 3 I’ve still watched just about every Heat game and have even watched more of other teams. Other teams don’t manage the last two minutes like the Heat.
I want to encourage someone to look into it and see if the stats back it up because I swear it happens. I’ve watched a lot of Heat games and I know there have been many times where the last minute of the game we were down 5+ points and they are able to come back and tie or win the game or have a chance in the final seconds or in OT. Like a wizard Spoelstra has discovered the 4th and 3/quarter.
The skill was on full display Tuesday night at home against Atlanta down 6 with a minute left. Trae Young waved his arms and mouthed “It’s over!” and honestly I was like way too early buddy. Apparently Jimmy Butler and Duncan Robinson thought the same thing as they came back with a pair of 3’s to tie up the game in a blink of an eye. The Heat would go to overtime and run off 15 straight nearly shutting out the Hawks in the 5 minutes of after play while remaining undefeated in overtime and undefeated at home. They had a similar performance in Raptors overtime when they dominated the extra minutes as well and in Milwaukee which is still their signature win of the season.
Welcome Home Lebron.
The Heat will be looking for another signature win with the Lakers coming to town for a rematch on Friday and I worry that the team might fall into it’s own trap by letting a game get away from them early and trying to win it in the end or overtime. Though maybe this is where this team feels more comfortable with their undefeated record at home and Lebron in MVP mode staring at them in the face.
I’ll tell you this though, if the Heat are down single digits (even low double digits) and there is 2 minutes left or even a minute, call me crazy but I’m good knowing that is when Spo is at his best. He has a knack of finding a quick score that chips away at the deficit and puts his players in a position to make a comeback. This year he has a squad that have all bought in. Even during the Big 3 we were only sure about those 3 guys (add Ray Allen) and on this team everyone is kind of at the same level of trust. You can trust Butler as much as you trust Dragic. I know Justice has been dealing with injuries but he has shown great promise and improvement every year and when he’s rolling he is actually one of our best attackers and dare I say 3 point shooters. Winslow has really fallen into the role at PG and the tag team nature of the team suits him.
Waiters Still Waiting
Which is a reason why I really want Dion Waiters back in the lineup. Him and Dragic built good chemistry together to the point we were calling them 7-11. I know he’s a knucklehead and has made some boneheaded mistakes and I can’t fault the Heat for reacting the way they did. They went through a lot to try and get Whiteside off the ground from taking a nap and they did a hell of a job with him. Heat do not want to have to do the same with Waiters. None of us do. But when he opened his mouth and complained about playing time in a preseason game, it was stfu time for him. At this point I want to see him on the court cause I want to see him respond to Riley and Spo. To fans. To the rooks who stepped on the the court and snatched the city from under him.
Straight up, Waiters has few allies in Miami. Only a handful want to keep him while most feel he’s worn out his welcome before it even started. I’d be lying if I didn’t think Spo and Riley were being a little harsh but now after these hard ass wins. After seeing how much this team has rallied around each other, not just one player, but around eac other. Every night it’s someone else. Winslow kicked off the season with Kendrick Nunn, then Dragic started playing well, then Butler and Bam, and Herro and Robinson. And through it all another undrafted rookie on a two-way contract named Chris Silva has been the real MVP. Every time he gets on the court he makes a play, an impact, a run, a block, a steal. He is the reincarnation of Udonis Haslem. 100% Heat. Out of nowhere. Silva’s play also goes back to Spo and how he is managing his 40 day contract in a way that it has stretched passed 3 months. Spo is finding a way to stretch the two way contract till January or February when they can sign him to a full time deal.
The Fire Burns Bright
There is a lot to be hopeful for when you think about the Heat’s future. A lot of the bad deals are gone with only two that let’s be real again are on the cutting board. Would not be shocked to find James Johnson (someone I’ve always believed can be the best player in the league if he wanted to) on the trade block alongside the gummy bear Waiters for whatever the heck they can get. With constant talks of trade I fear that the Heat might get wrapped up in the drama and loose a good player they are forced to add to a deal just to rip the bandage off. I stress patience to them and to fans to see how far this squad has come. Dragic who is just in his 4th going on 5th year with the Heat, has made Miami his home and I can easily imagine lucky 7 will hang alongside 1,3,6, & 34 someday. Winslow is still developing with tons of upside. Miles ahead of where he was when he first came in the league. His recent home purchase in the Gables suggest he not going anywhere yet his string of injuries is has some people complaining. And now with the Rookie Trio in Nunn, Herro and Silva there can be a real powerful core to build around.
These guys just gotta last and Spo knows he will have to have healthy players to replace the ones who are not later in the season if they are to make a deep run, because NBA seasons should always go till June in Miami.