The Heat are rolling while the Bulls are struggling. But which is in a better position in the long run?
Posted by Matt Moore
Alright. We hate to bury the Sixers before the heart stops beating, because it's entirely possible they put together a much better effort in games 3 and 4 to even the series. But they certainly look outmatched in the first two meetings. The Sixers pushed the Heat a bit in the first meeting before the Heat responded with a fury. There was no such response in Game 2 , as the Heat clobbered them beyond all reason. And since this is a 2-7 matchup, even with the craziness of the opening weekend of the NBA, we can look ahead just a bit from the first round and ask the question.
Is this really what's best for the Heat? A total roll-over?
While the Lakers and Spurs are dropping their first playoff games to lower seeds and the Bulls are struggling through a much tougher series than the No. 1 seed should, the Miami Heat ran away from the Sixers. The Sixers hung tough for the first quarter and sustained a fourth quarter rally. Other than that? It's been nothing but the Triad show, and the Triad show has been impressive. A sweep seems more likely for the Heat than any alternative. So what does it mean?
It means that, should the Bulls win two more games, and the Celtics three more, that the Heat will have two battle-tested teams between them and the Finals. But the Heat will be riding the same thing that carried them into the season: hype. It seems counter-intuitive to suggest that losing is better than winning. And it's not. Winning close is better than losing. The Bulls aren't doubting themselves right now. They're feeling good about being halfway out of the first round. Sure, there are things to work on. But the Bulls also had to work to get the two wins they've gotten in the first two games of the playoffs. And that's the result. They worked hard, and as a result, they don't have a loss in the playoffs. This isn't to say that the Heat haven't worked hard. Surely, blowing out the Sixers in such a way as to make the team quit and turn a playoff game into a horrendously boring affair by the middle of the third frame takes a bit of effort. But there's a difference between having to match a team who has the playoff gear, testing you, forcing you to scrap for every point and to rise comebacks, and playing up the score like it's a video game set on "easy."
The Heat also can't determine who they play. They can't swap with the Bulls (though I'm sure the Bulls would take them up on that for a stretch). They can only beat the team in front of them with the best effort they can muster. And in that regard, they're outperforming the Bulls. But the Bulls will learn things emotionally and mentally against the Pacers. They'll find or remember the gear and intensity of a close playoff series. The Celtics will find the same in a tough series against the Knicks. The Heat? They'll start to buy into themselves, just like Orlando did last year and the Cavaliers before that. And if there's one thing that's shown to undo this team, it's the comfort of destroying softer teams and the stark contrast between those contests and the battles they'll face against great teams.
The Heat could use a stiff test to show that they can close; like the Celtics and Bulls have. It's the bizarre situation where the Heat could finally benefit from not looking like the greatest team in the league. Typical. Even when the Heat win, they don't win.