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.

 

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.

Heated Topics: Game 3

The Miami Heat currently lead the Eastern Conference Finals series, 2-1, but it was not smooth sailing getting here. In fact, I was about ready to call it quits after the first half, sure that the Indiana Pacers had Game 3 in the bag. Clearly, I had forgotten how clutch Miami could be.

Being down 15 is no reason to panic for the Heat.

There was first half and second half basketball played.

Paul George and Lance Stephenson were no match for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Adjustments and modifications are the name of the game.

The fourth quarter belonged to Miami.

The Heat may finally be figuring things out.

There is no time like the present for the Heat.

The playoffs are certainly a good time to shift into high-gear.

If anyone knows how to show emotion, it is James.

Game 4 is tonight, May 26 on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. CT.

Slow Starts and Furious Finishes: Halftime in Game 3

It is currently halftime in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals and I can only imagine what is being said in the Miami Heat locker room. Down by four as the Indiana Pacers lead 42-38, the Heat had a rough start to the matchup, only really finding their footing towards the end of each quarter.

The Heat went on 9-2 and 16-5 runs as the first and second quarters closed out, once again proving that their “clutch” label is there for a reason. However, relying on strong final minutes is not necessarily the best strategy. If Miami find themselves down by more than a handful, waiting until the last minute to really give it their all, will not be enough.

It took two minutes for anything to drop for the Heat, and they never held a lead. The closest they got was being tied, 2-2, with 10:22 left on the clock in the first quarter. To say it was a slow start, would be an understatement.

And frustration definitely showed; CJ Watson and Norris Cole got into it with a little over a minute left in the first, and received double-technicals for their poor behavior.

But after some back and forth aggression between LeBron James and Lance Stephenson, James finally got started, motivating teammates Dwyane Wade and Norris Cole to also kick into high-gear, combining for 23 points and a healthy amount of ball movement.

In order for the Heat to get this series to 2-1, the second half needs to consist of a faster start, better defense, and less confrontation.

Closing out quarters is a valuable skill, even a necessity. However, nothing compares to consistent play, through and through. Slow starts cannot become a habit for the Heat, if they wish to not only make it out of this round, but win a third championship.

Defensively (and otherwise), the Pacers need to be stopped, period. Roy Hibbert is showing nothing but offensive aggression so far tonight, with 10 points at the half. Meanwhile, Lance Stephenson has taken care of the other end with nine rebounds (comparing to the 11 total that the Heat currently possess).

It is no secret that these two teams do not get along. And Stephenson’s comment on his desire to reinjure Wade’s knee is probably just the tip of the iceberg. But winning a championship should be more important than mouthing off to an opponent. Both Miami and Indiana need to focus on the journey ahead and stop letting emotions (and nerves) get the best of them.

One half left. Time to start strong and finish stronger.

 

Welcome to Miami: A Quick Look at the Eastern Conference Finals Game 3

(Photo Credit: www.nba.com)

The Miami Heat are heading back to their tried and true stomping grounds, after tying the Eastern Conference Finals series 1-1. And while the Indiana Pacers have shown promise so far against Miami, no other team feeds off of a home crowd quite like the Heat.

Game 3 taking place in Miami should definitely give the Heat an advantage right from the get-go. They are also coming off of a win, which should be motivation in and of itself. Thanks to a fourth-quarter surge from LeBron James (who scored 12 of his 22 during that quarter) and Dwyane Wade (who scored 10, combining for 22), the Heat were able to pull ahead of the Pacers and finish off strong.

Things to Note:

After taking an accidental knee to the head from Dwyane Wade in Game 2, Paul George was diagnosed with a concussion late Tuesday night. However, it seems he will be ready to go Saturday night. George stated he “feels good, feels great” after a few days off to rest; but of course, whether this means he will play as many minutes and/or be as effective is another story.

Another player who is eager for some time on the hardwood is Greg Oden. Oden has played in only one game out of the last 22 for the Heat, due to pain from a reoccurring back injury. And according to Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra, Game 3 just may be Oden’s ticket back into the mix.

Players to Watch:

As has been the trend in the first two games, James and Wade are expected to lead their squad offensively. So far, they have combined for 52 and 45 points, respectively, and have especially come through at crucial parts of each matchup.

Hopefully Norris Cole will also once again find his rhythm, as he was a key contributor in Game 2. By now Spoelstra should trust his abilities enough to grant him ample minutes, not just as a replacement for a fatigued or frustrated Mario Chalmers. Cole can spread the floor, shoot consistently and stay calm under pressure.

Unfortunately Chris Bosh has not been much of a factor in the Eastern Conference Finals, something that the Heat better pray changes in Game 3 and onward. He has only scored 18 points total so far this series, and although he grabbed six rebounds on Tuesday night, this was an improvement from the two during Game 1.

Keys to Success:

In order for the Heat to make this series 2-1, three things must happen.

First, they cannot underestimate their opponent. Arguably, Miami wants to advance more, as they have a three-peat riding on the line. However, with that said, the Pacers were deemed the team to watch when the postseason first started. They want to prove that they were first in the East this season for a reason. And what better way to do that than to beat the reigning two-time champions?

Second, their defense must tighten and stay tight. Offensively, the Heat have been holding their own pretty well. The team is stacked with talented shooters, and it has been showing. But on the flip side, defensively they have been inconsistent. Whether Spoelstra sticks to having his players blitz Indiana, or he gives Chris Andersen more of a roll, is up to him. But one thing is for sure, a weak defensive strategy could lead to trouble.

Lastly, more players have to be involved. As I just said, Miami’s roster is filled with skill, but problems arise when only a few players show up when it is game time. James, Wade, Andersen and Cole have been great leaders in this series, but a team needs all it’s pieces to survive. Guys like Chalmers and Haslem have to start being more efficient, and not just regarding their individual play; making sure your team is cohesive as a group is also an integral part of being effective.

Game 3 tips off shortly on ESPN.

“Miami Heat Basketball”

(Photo Credit: www.usatoday.com)

The Miami Heat have tied up the Eastern Conference Finals 1-1, after 48 minutes of intensely combative play. What many assumed would be a blowout, turned into a tit for tat battle. I previously predicted that the Heat would finish this series 4-1, but if things continue at such an elevated level of competition, fans may want to prepare themselves for a seven game series.

Defensively, Miami came much better prepared, holding the Indiana Pacers at 40 percent shooting from the field. Udonis Haslem was also thrown into the starting lineup, creating a more equal playing field in terms of size. Offensively, things looked pretty similar for Miami as they did in Game 1. Chris Bosh again scored just nine points while Mario Chalmers only had six. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James combined for 45, compared to 52 the first time around. However, one huge difference came from Norris Cole, who was scoreless in Game 1 but came out with 11 on Tuesday night.

And it was not just those 11 points that made Cole such an integral part of the game. Nor was it necessarily his two assists and one steal. Like I said in an older post, Cole brings a certain something to the table that not many other players possess.

“We’re very versatile when Norris is out there,” stated Wade after the game.

“Norris is about whatever it takes to win,” James chimed in.

Yes, Cole can shoot. And yes, Cole can defend. But perhaps most importantly, Cole creates opportunities for the rest of the team. He is quick on his feet (not just literally), calm under pressure, and plays smart basketball; plays Miami Heat basketball.

This “Miami Heat basketball” turned into the theme of the postgame press conference as Wade was quoted saying “the game turned into Miami Heat basketball,” and James explained, “we got back to playing Miami Heat basketball,” when asked what went right for them.

Even head coach Erik Spoelstra’s first few words were “we have to be who we are.”

On paper, basketball may be a game of numbers, a war of statistics; the deciding factor of a win or a loss boiling down to nothing more than a score. But those of us who really know the game, who live and breathe the game, understand that box scores do not even begin to scratch the surface.

Without confidence, a team cannot be good. Without faith, a team cannot win. Without an identity, a team cannot reach the championships.

“Miami Heat basketball” is what distinguishes the Heat from the 29 other teams in the league. And getting back to that is the core of what changed between Game 1 and Game 2.

“Today was just about how bad we wanted it…it wasn’t about x’s and o’s…we gotta do it our way.”

What Wade meant was the Miami Heat way.

“We were playing the type of basketball we wanted to play,” said James.

The type of basketball the Miami Heat wanted to play.

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As long as the Heat remember who they are from here on out, seven games or not, they should be just fine. There is no such thing as a perfect game, so regardless of the stakes at hand, mistakes will be made. But what is important is for Miami to improve every step of the way, as they have been doing since the Big Three came together in 2010.

If Miami Heat basketball continues to be played, then the Miami Heat will prevail.

 

Eastern Conference Finals Game 2: Twitter Recap

The Miami Heat fought for their lives on Tuesday night but managed to tie the Eastern Conference Finals, 1-1.

Stay tuned for my Game 2 Reaction!