After the Miami Heat’s up-and-down regular season, it be can difficult to explain the team’s turnaround this postseason.
Not long ago, this team was a fourth-quarter comeback away from losing to the Chicago Bulls in the play-in tournament and being eliminated from the playoffs entirely. Now the Heat have lost just two games through two rounds and enter Wednesday night’s Game 5 against the New York Knicks a win away from returning to the Eastern Conference finals. If the Heat close out the series, they’ll be the first No. 8 seed in NBA history to advance to the conference finals in a non-lockout-shortened season.
This remarkable run has left many searching for answers — some more rational than others.
During an episode of NBA Countdown over the weekend, ESPN’s Jalen Rose provided the surprising analysis that the heat in Miami had something to do with New York’s sub-par shooting in the series.
“We talk so much about the nightlife and joke about it in Miami,” Rose began, “But also, as the road team, you got to pay attention to that weather and that heat because it affects that endurance of your muscles and it causes tiredness. So if you notice the Knicks in particular are making shots in the paint, but they are missing shots outside of the paint, in particular from 3.”
Keep in mind, the Knicks in the regular season ranked 19th in 3-point shooting (35.7%) and still shot 31.3% from 3-point range in two games at Madison Square Garden this series.
That should have been enough to move off the head-scratching theory. But flash-forward to the morning following Miami’s Game 4 win over the Knicks to go up 3-1 in the series, and the that point came up again like bad tuna salad.
Mike Greenberg on ESPN’s “Get Up” on Tuesday referenced Rose’s commentary about, “How hard it is to go down to Miami and play this time of year.”
“I know people will immediately associate that with the nightlife and all of that but, according to Jalen, there’s more than that,” Greenberg said, echoing Rose’s previous comment. “There’s also just the reality of the temperature change, the heat, the geography, being down there for three days. It sort of saps your energy and your strength. We talk about that primarily in football. I know this is an indoor sport. But the Knicks… whatever it is… Jimmy Butler has just destroyed them.”
Of course, South Florida sports fans will recall last September when, after losing to the Dolphins in Miami, Buffalo Bills players commented on how the 90-degree weather impacted their performance and caused players to cramp and even have a hard time breathing. As funny as it was to poke fun at the Bills then, at least that sport is played, y’know, in the sun.
For those pundits having a hard time keeping up, basketball is a professional sport played indoors. It’s also mostly played after sunset — when the sun goes night-night — like it was Tuesday. Tuesday is the day after Monday. It’s also the day before Wednesday. I know that’s a lot to keep track of, but a calendar could help. Here’s an Amazon link to a calendar.
While Rose and Greenberg tried to galaxy-brain their way through a point about how mid-80s, day-time temperatures could be impacting an indoor basketball game, Knicks players themselves blamed the officiating.
“As far as officiating, that was one of the toughest games I’ve been a part of,” said Knicks forward Julius Randle, who fouled out of Game 4 with three minutes remaining. “Usually the physicality in the playoffs is up. I had six fouls and maybe four of them were offensive fouls. That’s never happened in my career. That’s tough.”
Josh Hart spent more of his postgame availability dissecting a specific offensive foul call that went against him instead of how he shot 2-for-6 from the field. RJ Barrett, who had as many turnovers (3) as assists, said the Heat have “got guys falling every possession, getting calls.”
Maybe the NBA’s officials are motivated to keep a popular team from New York out of the conference finals. Maybe it’s the weather. Or maybe the Heat have a strong game-plan, the best player, aren’t turning the ball over and out-rebounded the Knicks in the most pivotal game of the series so far. Who’s to say?
Really, all of those theories are plausible.