FreeDarko's Bethlehem Shoals, a regular contributor to NBA FanHouse and co-author of The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History (visit the FreeDarko store, too!), is keeping a game-by-game diary of the Heat's season — the one you're pretending not to care about.
Result: Heat 111, Jazz 98
I have come to the heartbreaking conclusion that the Miami Heat are, in fact, the worst thing to happen to the NBA since the 2005 Finals. Just not in the way you want them to be. The Heat beat the Jazz, who, while no longer the league's hottest team (that's the Mavs), were a quality opponent that could test our band of longing mercenaries. If the Dallas game caused the Heat to gather 'round in primal scream therapy, it was the Nov. 9 meltdown against Utah that triggered the slump. Largely incapable of resourcefulness or creativity, the Heat were vulnerable if Paul Millsap decided to start hitting threes and engineer a 30-point comeback, which is more or less what he did.
Last night, the Heat were as impassive as ever, except this time, there was no rain of passion from the Jazz, and Miami walked away with the game. The Utah announcers were in fits over LeBron and Wade in transition, a kind of "playground basketball" that they diagrammed unnecessarily with everything short of calipers. Make no mistake, though — as Matt Harpring said, repeatedly, this felt like the Heat coasting. They showed up in Energy Solutions Arena, absorbed the boos, made some big plays, and sauntered back to LeBus, having etched just the headline they needed for this news cycle.
When I signed up for this, I never imagined it would devolve into 33 Ways of Saying That an NBA Team Is Boring. Maybe that's not such a bad thing. Boredom is rich; it's at least as interesting as love or sadness. In fact, that 2005 Finals between the Pistons and the Spurs was a key moment in the explication of man's oldest companion. Detroit was manual labor, with bleeding and fatigue that never quite registered. San Antonio was that oh-so memorable experience of spending a long time in a hospital. (Or, more accurately, what it must be like to perform one of those 24-hour surgeries.) Boring is not the same as blank. We come to sports for something exalted, but sometimes, we wind up learning more about the excruciating commonplace.
Then again, last night might have been a story about friendship. It was Zydrunas Ilgauskas who showed the most spirit, and he stepped up to give the team something they're usually lacking — a center. We can't count on him for this every night, because he is a thousand years old. But damn it, he was there for LeBron when LeBron needed the help. This was a big game, and the least he could do, after James gave him a chance to walk on the sandy shores of Olympus, was return to All-Star form. If only Chris Bosh gave them 16 and 10, with some mischief in his step! Everyone knows that Jordan and Pippen succeeded only because of Cartwright and Perdue, right? That's a lesson James and Wade will have to learn — and we will have to recognize anew. Friends don't just owe you; they make you who you are. Often by letting you put off paying them back.
Lessons in boredom, a story about friendship ... these are your Miami Heat. Less a basketball team than a Godard movie about, say, Outward Bound.
Bethlehem Shoals is a founding member of FreeDarko.com and a regular contributor to NBA FanHouse. You can buy The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History and lots of other stuff at the FreeDarko store.