HOME IS WHERE THE HEAT IS
As a rule, I don't watch much of the NBA regular season. It's long, it's tedious, and the stakes usually aren't that high. This past season, I watched a little bit more than usual because of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony coming into the league and giving it a much-needed shot of adrenaline. However, when the NBA Playoffs roll around, I start itching and twitching if I miss even one game. I love the intensity and the sense of urgency. There's tension. There's excitement. There's pressure. It's a chess match. It's a war. It's do or die. And never more so than in a Game 7 situation. Tonight is exactly that for the Miami Heat and the New Orleans Hornets. The home team has won each game of the series, and Game 7 is in Miami, where the Heat have won fifteen straight. The Heat earned that advantage by being one game better than the Hornets during the regular season. Now, they have to use it to be one game better than the Hornets in the playoffs. Miami won the first two games of the series on their home floor, the first on a buzzer-beater by rookie sensation Dwayne Wade, and the second in a thirty-point blowout. But the Heat's inexperience and lack of muscle inside showed in two consecutive losses in New Orleans to even the series. In those games, it was readily apparent that the Heat are in fact a tiny team by NBA standards, with an undersized, spazzy Brian Grant at center and rookie Udonis Haslem as his only backup. But, the Heat returned home and squeezed out a Game 5 victory by four points, then were almost run out of the building in Game 6 by the irritating and intimidating Hornets. Desperate to prolong their post-season, the Hornets set out to get inside the young heads of the Heat and for much of the game, they succeeded. P.J. Brown completely outplayed Lamar Odom, outscoring him and dominating him on the boards. Because the Heat are small they need Odom to get in there and rebound, especially on the defensive end. But Brown, who picked up his sportsmanship award during the game, trash-talked and bullied Odom into his worst game of the series. However, the Heat regained some self-respect by attempting a furious comeback at the end that brought them from eighteen down to within four, but no closer. In order to win Game 7 tonight and advance to the second round, the Heat must keep their composure and force the Hornets to play their game on their home court. They definitely need to box out better on the defensive boards and avoid long stretches without a field goal. Baron Davis is going to get his. Besides Davis though, the Heat are younger, faster, and more talented than the rest of the Hornets. Luckily, they seem to remember that in the comforts of their own home.
Let's Go Heat!