Monday was sensational, but there’s an even crazier upset in Heat franchise history

Monday’s 105-102 upset of the Golden State Warriors was one of the most shocking victories in Miami Heat history and it provides the blueprint for Erik Spoelstra for defeating the league’s best as the season continues.

First, forget about getting Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson back in the lineup. Obviously, the Heat don’t need them.

Dion Waiters of the Miami Heat poses for photo media during Heat Media Day at American Airlines Arena, September 26, 2016. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post
Dion Waiters of the Miami Heat poses during Heat Media Day at American Airlines Arena, September 26, 2016. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post

Second, get a subpar performance from Hassan Whiteside. His meager 10 points in 35-plus minutes on Monday were well below average but clearly vital in distracting the Warriors from their pregame keys.

Third, tell Goran Dragic to dial it down a bit, too. He made just 5-of-14 Monday from the field and was pretty lousy from the foul line, too, missing 5-of-13. Again, brilliant subterfuge.

Fourth, take a kid who has barely played in the NBA and give him significant minutes. Okaro White, who prior to Monday was 0-for-3 in a grand total of two career games, contributed five very necessary points to the win over the Warriors.

Fifth, get Dion Waiters and Luke Babbitt to combine for 9-for-12 from three-point range. Now there’s a game plan that should be easily repeatable, right?

All kidding aside, there’s only been one Heat game more ridiculous than this one was in terms of overperforming. That was Miami’s easy 113-104 win over Michael Jordan’s invincible Chicago Bulls on Feb. 23, 1996.

Chicago was on its way to a 72-10 regular season, a record that stood until Golden State went 73-9 last year. We’re talking about MJ, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and the boys, plus Steve Kerr, the current Warriors coach, off the bench.

Defeating them that night was a Miami team coached by Pat Riley but stuck in a disastrous roster limbo. The 24-29 Heat had just made a trade for Tim Hardaway, Chris Gatlin and two other players but those fresh troops had not yet arrived. Consequently, there were only eight Miami players dressed and ready to play against the Bulls but it hardly mattered.

Rex Chapman, who averaged 14 points per game that year, went off for a season-high 39 against the Bulls, hitting 9-of-10 from three-point range in the process.

“He reminded me of Jerry West,” Riley said of Chapman.

Don’t know about that, but Rex did outscored Jordan that night by eight points.

Here’s an excerpt from the Palm Beach Post’s deadline story on the upset, written by Tom D’Angelo. Of course, Tom was there. He’s everywhere.

“Some nights are hard to explain. Friday was one of them.

Playing with eight players and against the team some are touting as the best of all time, the Miami Heat submitted their most impressive performance of the season.

The Heat – relying heavily on three-point shooting – shocked the Chicago Bulls 113-104 at Miami Arena. Miami showed emotion (and outside shooting) rarely seen this season less than 24 hours after the team was gutted by three trades involving 10 players.

“You see it all the time in sports,” said Heat guard Rex Chapman, who equaled his career high with 39 points. “A team that’s undermanned on paper, and has no chance at all…Nobody is more surprised than we are, I’ll admit that. But if we had come out and laid down, we could have been beaten by 100.”

That’s just a flavor from D’Angelo’s complete story, and here are a few last notes I’ll throw in, too.

In the two games prior to that monumental upset, Miami scored 70 points in a loss to Cleveland and 66 in a win over Philadelphia.

What’s more, they didn’t get a monster game from Alonzo Mourning in beating the Bulls. Zo turned in his usual strongman numbers of 19 points and 12 rebounds but made just 8-of-22 shots.

The funniest part to me, looking back, is how angry Zo was after the game. He couldn’t believe how many in the sellout crowd were cheering loudly for the visiting superstars from Chicago and actually looked forward to going on a road trip in a couple of days.

“I’m kind of happy we’re getting out of this city and away from these fans,” Zo said. “The fans here are so hypocritical, it’s ridiculous. It makes me sick.”

[Gators are a touchdown shy of college football’s per-game scoring average]

[Wondering if Dolphins’ No. 22 draft position is haunted]

[Steve Shepherd and ‘Dangerous Dave’ Lewter join Florida Boxing Hall of Fame]

For the record, the Bulls got their revenge, dismissing Miami 3-0 in the opening playoff round that year and going on to start a new string of three consecutive NBA championships.

Better remember these amazing nights when they come along, however. It’s why any game ticket could wind up being the one you keep forever.

 

Back-to-back nostalgia nights as Heat face LeBron and Dwyane

 

Through a cruel twist of the NBA schedule, the Miami Heat are going up against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade this week. On consecutive nights and on the road.

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 05:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Chicago Bulls puts up a shot over Meyers Leonard #11 of the Portland Trail Blazers on his way to a game-high 34 points at the United Center on December 5, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Trail Blazers defeated the Bulls 112-110.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO – Dwyane Wade of the Chicago Bulls scored 34 points on Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers, one point off his season high. The Trail Blazers defeated the Bulls 112-110. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Friday’s game at Cleveland is Miami’s first against LeBron without any hint of the old Big Three alliance in the Heat lineup.

Then, on Saturday, it’s on to the United Center for a second try against Wade and the Bulls. Chicago won the first meeting between the teams 98-95 on Nov. 10 at AmericanAirlines Arena, with Wade struggling to score 13 points and concluding “I’m glad it’s over with.”

Awkward reunions are going to keep coming up like this for LeBron and Dwyane. Teamed with Chris Bosh in Miami they were terrific, winning two NBA titles and reaching the Finals a few more times.

Since LeBron broke up the band and returned to Cleveland two years ago, it’s been fun to see how they do against each other. The results, at least to me, have been fairly satisfying, since Wade is far more the favorite.

In his final two seasons with Miami, Wade went 4-3 against LeBron and the Cavs. There were two games in there where one or the other did not play. In the five where they both did, Wade averaged 23.8 points and LeBron averaged 26.8.

Since Wade signed with the Bulls in the offseason as a free agent, there has been one meeting between the two.

The Bulls beat the Cavs 111-105 last week to give Wade a head-to-head record of 5-3 against LeBron since the end of the Big Three era. In that game Dwyane scored 24 points and LeBron turned in a terrific performance with 27 points and 13 assists but came up short.

[Lamar Jackson’s Heisman Trophy campaign follows Tebow’s pattern in 2007]

[FSU keeping Jimbo is program’s most vital move since hiring Jimbo]

[Here’s one recent Dolphins head coach who made a big impression on Gase]

Everybody knows that LeBron will continue to do just fine where he is, but the question now is whether Wade will thrive in Chicago more than he might have by staying in Miami another year.

So far, neither team is tearing it up but Miami is in a tougher spot as far as rallying for playoff contention.

Wade, meanwhile, is scoring about like he did last year with the Heat, in the neighborhood of 19 points per game. He’s playing just a little more, 31 minutes plus per game, and making a higher percentage from three-point range.

Altogether, not bad at all for a 34-year-old guard, turning 35 next month, who changed his game when LeBron joined Miami and continues to adjust now that both have moved on.

 

 

Heat and Raptors challenging NBA record for most overtime games in series

Three overtime outcomes in four playoff games puts the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors on a pretty crazy pace, but it’s not the record for bonus time in an NBA postseason series.

Yet.

In 2009 the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls met in a first-round series that should have left both teams unwilling and unable to advance to the next round due to the beginning symptoms of rigor mortis.

Seven games. Four made it to overtime, including a double session and a triple OT. That’s an average of one overtime period per game.

Miami Heat forward Amar'e Stoudemire (5) and Miami guard Dwyane Wade (3) defend against Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo (8) during the first quarter on Monday, May 9, 2016, at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS)
MIAMI – Amar’e Stoudemire (5) and Dwyane Wade (3) defend against Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo on Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS)

Strangest of all, Boston won Game 7 without much drama at all, 109-99. The Bulls, seeded seventh in the Eastern Conference after a 41-41 regular season, simply ran out of gas. They scored 11 points in the second quarter. Can’t blame them. At that point lacing up sneakers was a chore.

Asked immediately afterward if it was the greatest playoff series ever, Boston coach Doc Rivers said “I didn’t see great. I just saw hard.”

In 2014 Oklahoma City and Memphis matched the record of four overtime games in an NBA series. That series gets bonus points, too, for having four OT games in a row, though none of them went more than one extra period. The Bulls and Celtics of 2009 have the edge in total bonus time.

It would be fun if Miami’s Luol Deng had played in that 2009 series for the Bulls but a broken tibia had him down for the count. There are some other intriguing ties, however, between Miami’s ongoing struggle with Toronto and the events of even postseasons ago.

Zooming in on the Celtics and Bulls, each team earned a split on the road to open the series 2-2. (Boston had home-court advantage, as Toronto does now, and the Bulls couldn’t get another win at TD Garden).

Zooming out to view the rest of the East, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were on an intimidating roll in 2009. They swept Detroit and Atlanta, just like this year, and had more than a week to rest before the conference finals, again familiar. (Orlando wound up knocking off the Cavs just the same, which proves once more that anything can still happen).

No real conclusions to draw from any of this, except that the Heat and Raptors seem bound for a second consecutive seven-game playoff series each. The sloppiness in play reflects that, with only one example of a team reaching 100 points so far in the series in spite of all the overtimes. That was the Heat’s 102-96 win in Game 1.

[Winslow and Richardson bring Heat a rare boost from the NBA draft]

[Gil Brandt not sure Laremy Tunsil will make immediate impact for Dolphins]

[QB Doughty well worth a seventh-round pick for Dolphins]

One more example. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Miami’s 1-for-15 success rate from three-point range is so rare for a winning team that it’s only happened one other time in the last four postseasons. Memphis also hit just one three-pointer in a first-round closeout win over Portland last year.

Dwyane Wade may be fit enough to handle all this physical and psychological stress, but the rest of us are flagging, and there’s still a best 2-out-of-3 finale to go.

At this point, I’m rooting for a record number of overtime games. At this point, nothing less can draw America’s attention away from Steph Curry for more than a few seconds.

 

 

 

Hoping that Warriors finish the job and top Bulls’ 72-10 record

 

The Golden State Warriors are through pretending it doesn’t matter that much. They want to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 regular-season wins and will bust a gut trying.

“I’m not going to shy away from saying we want the record,” Draymond Green said following Saturday night’s loss to San Antonio. “Absolutely we want it, and we’re going after it.”

SAN ANTONIO,TX - MARCH 19: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden States Warriors is defended by Danny Green #14 of the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on March 19, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO,TX – Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors is defended by Danny Green of the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on March 19, 2016. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

This does my heart good, and not because of any dislike for Michael Jordan or the Bulls or anything else to do with Chicago.

There’s just something admirable about striving to be the best at everything, the way Jordan always did.

The Warriors, for instance, already have an NBA title and are favored to win it again this year. They have the league’s best record, a haughty 64-7 following Wednesday night’s win over the Clippers. They have 11 games left before the long playoff grind begins and no requirement to overuse their starters or risk injury.

Still, if Steph Curry and company can plant the Golden State flag atop the NBA’s highest regular-season mountain, they will expend a ridiculous amount of energy to complete that mission.

“Now we’re right there,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday. “That’s pretty enticing.

“It’s really the players’ record. I know they want to get it. So we’ll act accordingly.”

My former colleague here, award-winning columnist Greg Stoda, used to pick at me good-naturedly on topics like this, primarily at the end of each college basketball season. As the top teams headed into conference tournament play, he would tell me that it probably would be better to go out in the early rounds, let somebody else win the ACC or the SEC or the Big Ten title, get rested up for the real deal of March Madness, the games that count the most.

He was probably right, but I would spark and spew about the value of hanging any banner that you can whenever you can. Only one team can win the NCAA title, after all. The rest need things to celebrate, too, and to remember forever.

[Adam Gase already showing signs of openness that Joe Philbin didn’t]

[Mario Williams is better than Olivier Vernon, at any price]

[Try Jack Nicklaus’ weight-loss plan by running between shots]

The Warriors, a fairly buoyant group, seem to get that. They went hard earlier this season at the NBA record streak of 33 regular-season wins in a row, eventually coming up five wins short of the 1971-72 Lakers led by Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. They’re going hard now after the 72-10 regular-season record set by Chicago with Michael and Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.

It won’t change a thing if they come up short. They’ll still have a battle on their hands with San Antonio in the Western Conference playoffs no matter which team is seeded where. They’ll still be the team that everyone else is trying to be even as every team is trying to beat them.

To finish 73-9 or better, though, that would be something that no one has ever done.

That’s something worth having, and Kerr won’t get in the way of players going after it the way all-business Gregg Popovich might do if placed in the same position.

Really, why would Kerr? The Warriors went 39-4 to start the season without him, while their head coach was rehabbing a serious back issue and assistant Luke Walton was filling in.

They’ve kind of got this winning thing down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sooner or later a college coach is going to work out in the NBA

If the Chicago Bulls close the deal on Fred Hoiberg as their new head coach, it won’t be the first time the franchise has turned to Iowa State for leadership.

Fred Hoiberg will leave Iowa State University to become head coach of the NBA Chicago Bulls, according to published reports June 1, 2015. This would be Hoiberg's first head-coaching job in the pros. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Fred Hoiberg will leave Iowa State University to become head coach of the NBA Chicago Bulls, according to published reports June 1, 2015. This would be Hoiberg’s first head-coaching job in the pros. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Tim Floyd jumped right from coaching the Cyclones to running the Bulls in 1998 and it was a disaster. In four seasons of trying to win with a stripped-down roster minus Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and other championship pieces, Floyd was cut loose with a record of 49-140.

Among the other busts in making the leap from college coaching to the NBA are John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Jerry Tarkanian, Lon Kruger and Leonard Hamilton. Tark the Shark only lasted 20 games as coach of the San Antonio Spurs because he got sick of ownership trying to set his lineup.

So why the trend among NBA franchises to dip back into the college ranks with increasing frequency?

Billy Donovan to Oklahoma City makes some sense because he won a couple of national titles at Florida and was a Final Four regular but still it’s a gamble.

Brad Stevens, meanwhile, is gaining some traction with the Boston Celtics. He made the playoffs in his second season after making the jump from Butler. That’s encouraging, and follows with his pattern of efficiency in twice reaching the NCAA championship game with a mid-major team.

Hoiberg never advanced beyond the Sweet 16 in his five seasons as Iowa State coach but he did play 10 seasons in the NBA and later served as a vice president with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Put it all together and it looks as if NBA owners increasingly want coaches who are still willing to learn, who have sharp technological skills and who are willing to bend.

That means giving in to management in ways that Tom Thibodeau didn’t believe he should have to do after earning a .647 winning percentage in five seasons as the Bulls’ coach. It means giving in to veteran players on occasion, too.

The players, remember, are the real celebrities here. That’s how two rookie NBA head coaches – David Blatt and Steve Kerr – could wind up in the 2015 NBA Finals this week. That’s how Erik Spoelstra won two NBA titles in Miami.

__________________________________________________

Dan Jennings’ step from the front office to the dugout in Miami can still go in any direction. It was the same with Jim Fanning, who late in the 1981 season became the manager of the Montreal Expos after previously serving as the team’s general manager and director of scouting.

Fanning, whose easy manner and courtesy made lots of friends back when the Expos trained in West Palm Beach, didn’t bother giving a pep talk when he first stood before the team as manager.

“I gave them a fact talk instead,” said Fanning, who shockingly replaced Hall of Famer and

Generated by  IJG JPEG Library
Generated by IJG JPEG Library

two-time World Series champion Dick Williams. “I told them they had 27 days to win it.”

That’s how many games remained in the regular season and Montreal won 16 of them. How much or how little Fanning had to do with that is difficult to tell. He was, however, the only manager in Expos history to reach the playoffs, losing in the 1981 National League Championship Series when Rick Monday of the Los Angeles Dodgers hit a home run in the ninth inning of the fifth and deciding game.

Fanning, who died April 25 at the age of 87, had managed 20 years earlier in the minor league system of the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves.

Jennings’ story is still being written, but if he can match Fanning’s 116-103 record as Expos manager, that would be far more than anyone expects.