Heat Escape with Win: It’s difficult to determine exactly what last night’s overtime win by Miami means for the rest of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat had been off for a week, generally a trap situation for a higher seeded team. If a lower seed is going to steal a game on the road, the first one is usually a good opportunity, as Chicago did to Miami in the last series. The fact that the Heat found a way to win can be viewed as a positive if you’re a fan of theirs. On the other hand, Indiana can take some satisfaction from going toe to toe with the defending champs for 53 minutes, before allowing LeBron James to beat them with a virtually uncontested layup as the clock expired in overtime. Paul George’s desperation three-pointer to tie the game at the end of regulation was a thing of beauty.
I think the most compelling aspect of the win was the total transformation we've seen from LeBron James over the last couple of seasons. Two years ago he was almost universally criticized for all but disappearing down the stretch of playoff games. Now, he breaks free and scores the game winner on a picture perfect drive past a flat footed, out of position and unassisted Paul George. He’s now the guy who wants the ball in the crunch, and he usually delivers. I won’t get into a debate on the comparison of Michael, Kobe and LeBron. But I will say that I had put Jordan and Bryant ahead of James because of the way they put it upon themselves to take over a game in the latter stages. Now, I would have to put LeBron in that category as well. All great players, and if the Heat continue as they have and Dwayne Wade can stay somewhat healthy for another year or two, all will have led their teams to multiple championships.
Getting back to the series, I still like the Heat in five games. They’re just that much better than everyone else right now. If Miami has a bad game, perhaps the Pacers can grab two wins and make it a six game series, but I don’t see it going seven and I certainly don’t see Indiana winning it. Indiana reminds me of the Utah teams that lost to the Bulls in consecutive seasons back in the nineties. They have the misfortune of being a really good team that just happens to have to go through what may end up being considered a great team when all is said and done.
Grizzlies – Spurs Off Until Saturday?: I’m sure there’s a good reason, but I don’t understand why this series has a four day gap in the middle of it. Why not just start it a few days later? My guess is the Memphis arena just wasn't available for a Thursday night game.
Sergio on the Losing End: As much as I like Sergio Garcia for his outgoing nature and genuineness, he really stumbled this week in his verbal squabble with Tiger Woods. Tiger is clearly not a warm and fuzzy guy, one who has always shied away from the limelight, despite being a golfing superstar since he was 14 years old. I feel that Tiger could have done a lot more to present a warmer, more personable image to fans. But that’s just not his style and it’s obviously served him well on the course. For those of us old enough to remember, Jack Nicklaus was considered cold and aloof early in his rivalry with the older and more amiable Arnold Palmer. He eventually warmed up and today is one of the most gracious and entertaining figures in the sport. While Tiger could have done better, it’s unfair to compare him to a Phil Mickelson or Brandt Snedeker. Tiger’s single minded determination and drive on the course makes him less likable off of it. His comeback after personal and physical issues is nothing short of miraculous, especially at his age. We forget that he is 37 years old and back at the top of the world golf rankings and the FedEx Cup points race. In fact, he has enough FedEx Cup points to be ranked first AND tenth at the same time. And this after only seven PGA events. As far as Sergio goes, I feel badly for him. He can’t beat Tiger on the course, and it’s apparent that he can’t do it off of it either. Next time Sergio, you might want to pick on someone your own size, as we used to say.