Famous quote about statistics: “Then there is the man who drowned crossing a stream with an average depth of six inches “-WIE Gates.
Statistics, while they are useflul as evidence in support of a theory or argument, especially in sports bars, watercoolers and barbershops (“Coming to America scene comes to mind), they are terrible storytellers by themselves. Take Monday night’s game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, viewers got to hear and see this statistic batted around during the pre-game analysis:
2012-HEAT’s record against the Celtics, 1-3 during the regular season. Far from the White Hot mantra they are known for as of late following their recent resurrection as an All-Star Powerhouse.
Then after 48 minutes there was the following result, by the stats:
-Wade-Chalmers-James: 0-10 from 3 point distance, as a team shot 20% on 25 attempts
-Wade-Chalmers-James: 8 turnovers
-Allowed 35 point 2nd quarter to the Celtics
-Bench limited to scoring 14 points during the minutes that counted
-Garnett 23 Points on 9-16 shooting, 10 rebounds
-Rondo 16 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists
-8 Turnovers for the night
Take that opening statistic coupled by the game performances, and this blog is more than likely reporting a tragic end to game 1, with panic alarms sounding in Miami, 800 numbers being handed out to talk fans off ledges, arguments on who to trade from the big 3 next year, whether Erik Spoelstra should have ever been trusted outside the video-editing room, etc. In short, the usual knee-jerk HEAT hate that goes up and down during the post-season with each result contradicting the last, and driving fans into delirium.
Instead of lonely stats, how about some truth (and the truth shall set ye free!): Monday night at the AAA in Miami, there was only one statistic that truly mattered after the smoke cleared. The HEAT never trailed the entire evening, and won 93-79 in such convincing fashion that bench reserves from both sides were used in the final 3 minutes. Some could refer to this statistic by making a single, upwards-pointing gesture that even the most obnoxious opposing fans can understand: “Scoreboard.”
It was the scoreboard, and a couple of individual efforts that proved to be key and enough for the HEAT to prevail again Monday night, extend their post season win streak to 4 games and get another win closer to the goal of XVI. LeBron James continued his 30+ streak, scoring 32 points and getting 13 rebounds, while Dwyane Wade saved the best for last, scorching the Celtics with 10 points in the 4th quarter and finishing with 22 for the night. Shane Battier was the real story though, played consistently excellent defensive ball while posting a double of 10 points/10 rebounds. The Celtics were chasing vapor trails for most of the night, trying to hang close with the pace of the game, always near but never quite-there, leaving the court frustrated after 3 technical fouls were assessed in the first half (more on that below), were out rebounded 48-33 and were out blocked 12-1 by the HEAT. Overall, too little, too late by perhaps a too-worn down, too old, too irrelevant Celtics team. At least until game two, of course.
In the end, HEAT get a W in game 1; Celtics an L. Then it’s reset, recharge for game 2 Wednesday, where these statistics will play host to other speculation on the HEAT’s capabilities to close out the Celtics. Will it be a sweep? Stats exist somewhere supporting this outcome no doubt. Celtics going to push it out to a 7 game series? Stats can hold that as well. For now, the win is sufficient for HEAT Nation, feeling great after a dominant home-team performance and another win closer to the promised land.
A closing word on officiating. There should be some better efforts by the NBA to just-get-it-right the first time, and to stop correcting missed calls on the other end or in a following game. Monday night, it was as if there was a double-secret league meeting setting up a full agenda before the opening tip (probably to call everything/make some up in the first half, call a normal regular 2nd half). End result was Boston getting whistled for 3 technical fouls in the 2nd quarter that in fairness could be argued or supported just about either way you look at it. HEAT fans are not complaining today, but as of late there has been quite a few statements, by several head-coaches checkbook-in-hand addressing officiating and inconsistency of calls league-wide. There’s in-game reviews of flagrant fouls that are being upgraded to ejections after-the-fact; phantom charges, technical fouls that are so small it’s like they are getting called because another call got missed in an earlier quarter. Its’ make-it-up-later officiating that is getting a bit too much to watch as of late, with player safety becoming the real sacrifice. Fans just want fairness and objectivity or as close to either as possible. Players just want to know they can go to the hole and know retaliation should only be a last resort. With many things in life not resembling an equal playing field especially for Joe-NBA fan, the one consistency at times is seen in sports. A strike is a strike, offsides is offsides (most of the time unless its’ soccer), and a foul should be a foul, not in the headlines but from the sidelines. While the rules are ultimately managed by imperfect people, there has to be a greater effort to improve the quality of play-management, period. There’s already an * attached to this season by some accounts, players and fans alike don’t need to question another one during an already-dramatic NBA post season. Just an observation.