Heat complete sweep week full of drama
April, 29, 2014
By Michael Wallace
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Chris Bosh couldn't think of another week in the playoffs that has been as hectic and taxing as the past eight days have been for the Miami Heat during their first-round playoff series.
But just to be sure, Bosh looked over a couple of lockers away Monday night to check with 18-year NBA veteran guard Ray Allen for historical purposes.
"It's been chaotic already in these playoffs, and I haven't seen anything like it," Bosh said. "I was just asking Ray, because he's way older than me, if he's seen anything like it. But he hasn't either. And it's like we've been saying, it's extra incentive for us to make sure we take care of business. Because if you have just a little bit of slippage, it could go anywhere. We want to keep our head down and stay focused on what we're supposed to do."
Monday's 109-98 Miami victory completed a four-game sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats in what was a drama-filled and draining first-round series. Miami advances to a second-round matchup against the winner of the Toronto-Brooklyn series that's tied at 2-2 heading into Game 5 on Wednesday.
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsLeBron James and Norris Cole looked sharp in finishing off the Bobcats.
With the Heat off until Sunday at the earliest, the two-time defending champions will have a full week to exhale from a series that was more difficult than the 4-0 ledger suggests. It was also a set of games that was overshadowed by distractions, frustrations, debilitating injuries and protests every step of the way.
The elements that surrounded Game 4 were symbolic of the entire series. LeBron James and the Heat entered and exited Monday's game having made bold statements. The game started with the Heat taking the court for pregame warm-ups with their shooting shirts worn inside out in a show of solidarity with the Los Angeles Clipppers players who made the same gesture before a day earlier in protest of racist comments allegedly made by team owner Donald Sterling.
The Heat then eventually overwhelmed the short-handed Bobcats, who were without leading scorer and rebounder Al Jefferson because he was no longer able to push through a demoralizing plantar fasciitis left foot injury he initially sustained in the first quarter of Game 1. In a postseason where every other series has been ultra-competitive, the Heat have moved on unbeaten.
But they weren't untested or unscathed, psychologically or physically.
Jefferson's injury was the story of Game 1. In Game 2, the focus shifted to a hard foul Bobcats forward Josh McRoberts delivered when he extended his elbow into James' neck to prevent a layup. James and coach Erik Spoelstra protested to the league, which upgraded McRoberts foul from a common one to a Flagrant 2 and also levied him a $20,000 fine.
Game 3 took a backseat to comments James made 90 minutes before tip-off condemning Sterling and declaring that "there's no room in our game" for a racist owner. Heat owner Micky Arison also issued a statement through the team denouncing Sterling.
Miami's players, coaches and staffers spent the morning of Monday's game mourning the death of Hall of Fame coach Dr. Jack Ramsay, who after retirement spent nearly a decade as a Heat team broadcaster, confidant and mentor to many, from Arison to star guard Dwyane Wade.
Those ordeals made actual games against the feisty and relentless Bobcats a welcome diversion.
"It was a lot going on in our league, obviously," said James, who flexed his leadership muscle on and off the court while averaging 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the series. "I maintained focus and understood what I needed to do this week to help our team succeed. But at the end of the day, I also wasn't going to let some of the things that happened this week just go by."
James said dealing with a difficult week meant standing his ground on what he feels has been a trend of excessive contact that reach beyond the scope of normal basketball plays.
"I had my statement there in Miami," said James, who suggested last week that he would come up swinging in retaliation to hard fouls if this were the 1980s.
James was able to take on Sterling and pay respects to Ramsay while maintaining his high level of play.
"The Donald Sterling issue, I made my statement there," James said. "And the late, great Dr. Jack Ramsay and what he meant to our game, he's got to be one of the pioneers that helped this game get to where it is today. So it's been a lot. But I would say even throughout everything, the game of basketball is still at its highest. I hope that something like Donald Sterling doesn't overshadow what us as players and these other teams are putting into these playoffs, because it's been great."
If any team is capable of tackling multiple issues and coping with adversity without it disrupting its overall performance, it's the Heat. They've endured the spotlight and have thrived through the scrutiny since James and Bosh arrived in the summer of 2010 to join Wade.
They've made the process seem simple: Win a few games, make a few headlines and keep it moving.
"Hard foul? We're used to LeBron being fouled hard," Wade said as he sorted through the issues of the week. "The NBA took care of that, so we didn't have to think or worry ourselves about it. Obviously, what happened in L.A. with the Clippers and everything, it affected everyone around the world and not just us as players. We deal with that. Then we get on the court, and it's about winning ball games."
They've perfected the challenge of compartmentalizing various missions.
"What you try to do more than anything is understand that the basketball court is your safe haven, your sanctuary, the place you can go to get away from all of that," Wade said. "And it's not always easy. But as players, we always try to use basketball as that way to get away from all the noise."
Bosh said there's a familiarity with the turbulence.
"We've all been there before," he said. "It's the nature of this beast. Distractions are going to come from everywhere. We just wanted to have a business approach, come in and take care of business. This is still the playoffs, no matter the situation."
James, Wade and Bosh all admitted the Heat still have to improve as the playoffs progress in order to reach their goal of winning a third consecutive championship.
But if the ultimate outcome of the Heat's sweep week served as any indication, this multitalented team has perfected the art of meaningful multitasking.