Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous: Celebrities at Miami Heat Playoff Games 2014

(Photo Credit: Listed on each individual photo…)

Among thousands of fans gathering inside the AmericanAirlines Arena (and on the road) to watch the Miami Heat try and live out their dream of a three-peat night after night, are celebrities. As the Heat currently lead the Eastern Conference Finals, 3-1, the pressure continues to build; therefore, I thought it might be fun to take a look at who has been coming out to watch the reigning champions play this postseason.

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Have I missed anyone? And who do you think will show up at the finals, should Miami make it there?

Monday Mailbag (On a Tuesday…)

Having celebrated both Memorial Day and a Miami Heat win yesterday, I am technically a day behind on mailbag questions (which I usually like to get to on Mondays). However, as the saying goes, better late than never…

Is there anything LeBron James still needs to improve on, moving forward?

Honestly, not really (you had to have known that was coming…) James has been consistently playing good basketball not only during this series (especially Game 4), but throughout the postseason in general. However, if I have to give an answer, I would touch upon three things. First, he needs to be aggressive from the beginning. Miami fell victim to slow starts in the first three games of the Eastern Conference Finals, making it hard for them to be as effective as they have the potential to be. Like I said, James has been a strong contender in every game so far but life becomes harder on not just him, but his entire team, when he has to play catch-up due to an inefficient start. Second, he may consider improving his free-throws. This has not actually been a problem for James this season or postseason, but if you concentrate on numbers alone (and we all know, numbers do not lie), he is currently shooting at 75 percent, while the league average is 75.6 percent. And third, he must make sure he is consistent on the defensive end. James is a great defender, there is no doubt about that, but recently he seems more focused on scoring points than he does making sure his opponents do not. I have used this cliche many times before but at the end of the day, defense really does win games, so staying on top of that as well as being a lights out shooter creates the perfect balance for success.

Who should the Heat prefer to face in the finals, should they make it…the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder?

Personally I feel as though it may be a little too early to make this call. On top of this, I must admit I have not been paying as close attention to the Western Conference Finals as I have to the Eastern (for obvious reasons). But those two things aside, I think Miami would have a better chance of winning if they played against the Oklahoma City Thunder, than the San Antonio Spurs. Besides the fact that this would be the match-up I would prefer to watch, I make this statement for two reasons. First, although the Spurs may play a slower, more basic game of basketball, they are effective. They know the in’s and out’s of their X’s and O’s, trust each other and know what it takes to win. This actually takes me to my second point; the Spurs have experience. They have four championships under their belts (1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007) compared to the Thunder’s one and only (1979) and are stacked with veteran talent. My answer may change in a few days but for now, my fingers are crossed for a Heat/Thunder finals.

What can Miami do to secure their win tomorrow night?

If the Heat win Wednesday night, they are officially a part of the finals. Although that fact breeds excitement, it can also bring about nerves, especially given their goal of a three-peat. Therefore, it cannot be stressed enough that Miami needs to stay focused. Beyond this, Chris Bosh needs to return from his slump for good. He had a terrific run Monday night, but I am hoping that was not a fluke. His scoring, defensive plays and overall energy helped his team out tremendously, all of which will be of big help again come Game 5. Also, as I said above, the Heat (not just James) need to leave slow starts in the past. I believe a huge reason that they ran away with it Monday night was because of how well they performed in the first quarter. Miami no longer had to worry about catching up (and along the same lines, setting the tone of the game), but instead could focus on their strategies. It would probably also benefit the Heat to have a third-player (or perhaps now fourth, since Bosh has hopefully resolved his issues for good) to count on for big numbers offensively. Ray Allen and Norris Cole first come to mind, but since Allen is questionable for Game 5, my money is on Cole.

Keep the questions coming everyone! Remember, you can also reach me at www.twitter.com/ChitownHeiress as well.

 

Slow Starts No More: Eastern Conference Finals Game 4 Reaction

(Photo Credit: www.rollingout.com)

The Miami Heat held a lead after the first quarter for the first time in this series, taking the win 102-90 over the Indiana Pacers. For a team that struggled with slow starts for three out of the last four games, Miami certainly showed no signs of that habit on Monday night.

In fact, the Heat never trailed. Chris Bosh came out strong, scoring the team’s first eight points, after having totaled only nine points for each game of the Eastern Conference Finals previously.

“I wanted to be aggressive tonight, and I wanted to play good basketball. Sometimes it’s always difficult in my situation to kind of do that, but tonight was a good night,” Bosh explained after the game. 

What his “situation” is, is unclear, but his teammates and fans alike are undoubtedly glad he once again found his way. Bosh finished Game 4 with 25 points and 6 rebounds.

“I told him he was going to have a great game,” LeBron James said during the postgame news conference. “We got off to a fast start because of him.”

Bosh’s less than dazzling performances during the first three games of this series did not necessarily derail the series for the entire team, but his contributions certainly would have been nice.  Without his presence on the defensive end and his scoring abilities, his teammates had to pick up the slack. However, it was more than this fact that led Dwyane Wade to pop in unannounced on Bosh’s late dinner, Saturday night.

“The one cool thing about it was that his teammates were real aggressive to try to get him going,” stated head coach Erik Spoelstra when asked about Bosh’s surge, after Game 4. “That’s nice to see when your brothers are wanting you to be aggressive to get you opportunities.”

Wade did not want to scold Bosh for his shortcomings. Nor did he want to showcase how the rest of the team had been forced to compensate. He simply wanted to let Bosh know that regardless of what happened going forward, they had his back.

“How you can make a guy feel … that can change everything,” commented Wade, on trying to cheer up a frustrated Bosh.

And it worked. Game 4 belonged to Bosh, allowing slow starts for the Heat to become a thing of the past.

But Bosh was not the only one to play phenomenal basketball; James had quite a night himself.

Recording 32 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, James surpassed Michael Jordan for the most playoffs games (74) in which he scored 25 points or more. He was much more aggressive right off the bat on both ends of the court, made sure he got the looks he wanted, and helped set the pace of the match-up. Although James has been consistently strong during this postseason, he showed a whole new level of intensity and desire on Monday night. This is the James that needs to be present from here on out if Miami plans to three-peat.

Lance Stephenson may credit himself for the game the superstar had, claiming that he thought James’ trash-talk was “a sign of weakness” after Game 3, which motivated him to get back at the Pacers. However, James says otherwise.

“I don’t need any motivation, I’m motivated enough trying to get back to the Finals,” James said when asked about Stephenson after Game 4. “That’s motivating enough. Being one of the leaders of this team, I have to do my job and do my part to help us win. That’s what it’s all about.”

James may have enjoyed shutting Stephenson up by showing him what he is made of, but to say that he is more motivated by a competitor speaking out of turn than by the chance to win another championship, is highly unlikely. James has never been one to let another person get inside his head, and I doubt that will become the case anytime soon.

Game 5 is taking place Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. CT on ESPN. Up 3-1, Miami is potentially only one game away from moving onto the finals.

Eastern Conference Finals Game 4: Twitter Recap

The Miami Heat have finally left slow starts behind, playing a strong game for 48 minutes. They now lead the series 3-1 after defeating the Indiana Pacers tonight, 102-90.

 

Eastern Conference Finals Game 4: Halftime Notes

The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are back in action right now for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami currently leads the series 2-1, and if things continue the way they have started tonight, it will soon be 3-1.

Things to Note:

*Chris Andersen is out due to a thigh contusion he sustained late in Game 3.

*Rashard Lewis started in place of Udonis Haslem.

*Chris Bosh finally found his rhythm, starting the game with eight straight points.

*The Heat had zero turnovers in the first quarter.

*This is the first time Miami has led in the first quarter.

*The Big Three have combined for 38 in the first half.

*At the end of two, the Heat are ahead 49-44, despite shooting 47 percent as compared to the Pacers’ 51 percent.

*Roy Hibbert is scoreless after two quarters.

Players to Watch:

*This is certainly Bosh’s game. After a combined 27 points in the first three games, he came out with 17 in the first half of this one. His energy is back, his shot selection is smart, and he is clearly confident; to say it is about time, would be an understatement.

*I am expecting Dwyane Wade to come out stronger during the second half, as right now he has six points, one rebound, and one assist. He has been playing killer basketball lately so it would make sense for him to be fatigued, but I still see some impressive plays (especially with LeBron James) coming our way.

Keys to Success:

*Turnovers need to be kept at a minimum. This will not only help by obviously allowing them to keep the ball, but will also let the Heat control the pace of the game, resulting in less forced shots.

*Bosh needs to keep doing what he is doing. I am not sure even he himself understands how much of a contribution he can make once he gets going, but Miami has certainly missed him.

*Tighten up the defense. Right now the half is once again low scoring but the second quarter was not as strong for the Heat as the first was. Making sure defense is always a priority is something that head coach Erik Spoelstra needs to drill into his players’ heads, regardless of how offensively solid they have been tonight.

Second half starts now.

The Journey Continues: Game 4 Eastern Conference Finals Preview

(Photo Credit: www.dolphintide.com)

After a shaky first half, the Miami Heat were able to come back and win Game 3,  99-87 over the Indiana Pacers. This puts the Heat up 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, and one step closer to their ultimate goal: a three-peat.

In fact, although the Heat have not made it out of this series yet, president Pat Riley has recently trademarked the term, as it will undoubtedly make its way onto Miami’s championship rings, and other such apparel; obviously, the entire organization only has one thing on it’s mind. And as far as motivation goes, it is as good, if not better, than any.

Unfortunately, in order for their dream to become a reality, the Heat will have to stop making slow starts a habit. Although they are known for their clutch shooting and ability to stay calm under pressure, consistent play is what they should be aiming for.

In order for the Heat to take Game 4, two things need to happen.

First, Miami must start off strong. The energy has to be right, egos must be put aside, plays must be calculated, and the tone must be set. As head coach Erik Spoelstra told his squad before Game 3, the Heat need to “impose [their] identity.” Great under duress or not, there is only so much that can be done if a team falls too far behind.

Second, a third power player needs to be identified. Chris Bosh has been stuck on only scoring nine points for all three games and his defensive contributions have not been much to brag about either. Miami fans already know that they can count on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but so far “third best” has been up for grabs, game by game. Norris Cole has been of great help so far in this series in general, and Chris Andersen impressed during Game 2; but it was Ray Allen who really made a difference in Game 3.

Down by 7, Miami had a terrible first quarter, only making their first basket with 10:22 on the clock. After some taunting from Lance Stephenson (who at that point had nine rebounds to match Miami’s 11 total), James finally got going, and teammates Wade and Cole followed suit: they combined for 23 and brought the game back within four at half time.

“…we had no choice but try to re-gather,” said Spoelstra about the matter, Saturday night.

And re-gather they did. By the third quarter, the Heat got their heads in the game. Both James and Wade made crucial three-pointers. Allen stepped up and scored 12 from beyond the arc. Cole and Rashard Lewis (a rare sight these days) held up the defensive end. And by the end of the half, the Pacers scored 45 points while James, Wade and Allen combined for 47.

The so-called “Miami Heat Basketball” played during the first and second half of Game 3 were as different as night and day. And although in this case it happened to be a positive thing, inconsistency is known for getting teams into trouble.

“We looked like we were stuck in the mud in the first quarter,” stated Spoelstra. “That is a big credit to how they dictated the game. We can’t play this series on their terms.”

Although James and Wade finished with impressive numbers, in the first half, turnovers became a problem, forced shots were missed, and the pace was totally out of their control.

Indiana is due for a win, and after collapsing halfway through Game 3, they are sure to come out guns blazing. If Miami does not start off on the right foot, there could be danger ahead. In order to secure a victory, a game must be fluid, start to finish. However, the Heat do deserve credit for not panicking, and a win is a win regardless.

Game 4 is tonight at 7:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.

The Grades Are In

With the Eastern Conference Finals well on their way, I thought it might be fun to switch things up a bit.  There have been standouts, letdowns and the in-betweens so far this series, so let us see how each Miami Heat player ranks.

LeBron James: James has not been perfect thus far, mainly due to slow starts, but I would still give him an A-. He has been putting up consistent numbers, being aggressive and motivating his teammates. Besides starting off on a stronger foot, what I personally would like to see from him is more urgency. Yes, he is currently the best in the league. And yes, the Heat stand a pretty good chance at a three-peat. But in this league you really never know, so being complacent is not an option. Plus, with James being James, I expect the world from him and more. He is doing great without a doubt, but being as gifted as he is, there is always room for improvement.

Dwyane Wade: Although I will admit that James is my favorite player, Wade has impressed me tremendously as of late. He was the lead scorer in Game 1 and Game 2, has been moving the ball well and gives no sign of being plagued with knee injuries. At this point, I give him an and hope he keeps up the good work.

Chris Bosh: I have probably said this ad nauseam already but Bosh has been a major disappointment thus far against the Indiana Pacers. He has scored nine points in each matchup, and was only really effective defensively in Game 2; because of this, I have to hit him with a C+. Whether Bosh is tired, overwhelmed or frightened, I cannot say, but at this point I am sick of complaining about him.

Udonis Haslem: Truthfully, Haslem has not gotten enough of a chance during the Eastern Conference Finals for me to fairly judge him. He has only played an average of 15.4 minutes but based off of what he has brought to the table defensively, and the energy he has displayed, I think he deserves a B-. As a starter for the last two games, I did expect a little more out of him, but he more or less held his own.

Mario Chalmers: Strangely enough, Chalmers (like Bosh) also scored the same number of points (six to be exact) each game. Although scoring has not been his strong suit in this series, he has been creating opportunities for other players. It is also clear to me how bad he wants to advance, which for the most part is a positive thing; however, at times he has let his emotions get the best of him. I think right now, a C+ would be appropriate.

Norris Cole: I have been riding with Cole since before he even got signed by the Heat so I may be a little bias, but I am giving Cole an A. Cole has pretty much done it all so far for Miami, and I only expect his stellar performance to continue. He is great under pressure. He both shoots lights out and creates open looks for his teammates; he is even effective defensively. What more could you want?

Chris Andersen: Andersen is another fellow I have been fond of for a while, but is now competing at an entirely different level. Whether it is the number of years under his belt, the fact that he has been given a second chance, or simply being around superstar talent, Andersen has been quite a pleasure to watch recently. He was a huge help offensively in Game 1, and then conversely defensively in Game 2, when he played more minutes than everyone except James and Wade. All in all, Andersen receives an A from me.

Ray Allen: Allen is playing better at his age than a lot of young athletes currently in the league are. Some nights he is stronger offensively, and others his talent comes out through defense, but regardless he is a solid second-string choice for the Heat. His late Game 3 performance was incredible, and I am amazed at the level of intensity he possesses. The veteran certainly gets an A in my book.

Shane Battier: Just like Bosh and Chalmers, Battier had identical statistics in terms of points in all three games. Battier only scored three points each time and was not strong on the other end of the court either. I could not imagine him not wanting to retire with another ring but as of now, I just do not see the necessary effort: B-.

James Jones: Jones has been a non-factor during this series but I blame that on head coach Erik Spoelstra. Obviously Jones is not a starting lineup type of player, nor does he deserve to play more than someone like Cole, but I do think he is underestimated. When he gets going, Jones has the ability to drain some quick shots, so on his potential performance, I will award him a B.

Rashard Lewis: I know that most people laugh at the fact that Lewis is on the Heat, but not me. I was a fan of his during his time with the Orlando Magic, and for good reason. He has defensive chops, and used to put up big numbers between 2000-2011. He has a beautiful stroke and in terms of this series, helped close out Game 3. Like Jones, I think given the opportunity, he could bring a little something extra to the squad, so I leave him with a B.

Greg Oden: NA.

Toney Douglas: As long as I am laying all my cards out on the table, I did not even know that Douglas was in for even a second, let alone almost a minute in Game 1 and Game 3. Therefore, I would say grading him would be unfair. He too will be placed in the NA category.

Michael Beasley: NA.

Justin Hamilton: NA.

And there you have it. How do you feel about my grades? And what do you think they will look like when all is said and done in the Eastern Conference Finals?