What a month to forget.
March has been just shy of disastrous for the Miami Heat (46-20), having lost 6 of 11 games including Wednesday’s lackluster performance against the Boston Celtics. It’s getting harder to figure out exactly what – if anything – motivates the Heat at this point and whether the regular season may be practically over in their collective opinion.
But the reality is that the top spot in the Eastern Conference rankings is still up for grabs and there are 16 games left before the playoffs even start.
Miami’s Friday-night opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies, are all-too-aware that the postseason is still weeks away. But, in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, every game is a fight for your basketball life. Memphis (40-27) has clawed and scratched its way into seventh in the Western standings, winning two in a row and 8 of their last 10. And they’ve done it in their unique and predictable fashion; through the Grit n’ Grind.
That’s the label given to the Grizzlies’ style of play – low-scores, physical defense – that has resulted in regular season success in recent years. Memphis is led by Mike Conley (17 points and 6 assists per game), Zach Randolph (17 points and 10 rebounds per game) and Marc Gasol, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year. And while a deep playoff run has eluded them, a new contributor has some experience with postseason success:
Mike Miller, the veteran swingman that spent three years with Miami, returns to the AmericanAirlines Arena for the first time since rejoining the Grizzlies last summer. Miller was released by the Heat via the amnesty clause and has provided Memphis with – what else?- great shooting, timely rebounding and solid all-around play. He’ll be presented with his championship ring before the game, a well-deserved honor for a player that fought through numerous injuries to contribute to Miami’s success in any way possible.
I’ve long maintained that releasing Miller was a bad move for Miami, because they’ve sometimes lacked specifically what he can provide – namely outside shooting and heart. But, moreover, letting him go to save some money just felt like bad karma. Maybe it sounds silly and overly-emotional, but having Mike on the team just made watching the Heat that much more enjoyable.
And then there’s this:
You just gotta love ‘im.
So c’mon, Heat fans…for at least one more night, make it Miller Time and welcome him back home, loudly and with all your heart.
Just like Mike used to play.
Watch tonight’s telecast of the game beginning at 7:30 P.M. on Sun Sports from the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. Check back with AllUCanHeat for a recap after the game.