Saturday, June 9, 2012

Heat-Thunder Finals could be heaven for basketball fans

Source :

MIAMI -- There are certain favors you ask at great, great risk. Such as: Borrow large sums of money. Help move a piano. Take care of your dog that still hasn't gotten the hang of housetraining.
And root for the Heat.

This may come off sounding like an anti-Celtics story. But it's not. It's just a simple and direct basketball plea, that's all. A request to the basketball gods to give us Miami vs. Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals, especially after what we've all been through since last summer. Don't you think we deserve it?

Look. The Celtics, at this point, are many things: Noble, for sure. Proud. Fighters. Gamely geezers. Gritty, determined, resourceful. All that.

And they're also something else: In the way.

For the sake of Heat lovers and haters, the Celtics need to step aside Saturday so we can witness a big buildup to an event that just might meet the hype. If the Heat win Saturday, basketball wins. Seriously, after watching LeBron James on Thursday, and Kevin Durant the last week, and knowing how quickly the ball will whisk up and down the floor if these two players and teams met, why would you wish for anything else? What's the alternative?

From a fan's standpoint, these playoffs are playing out perfectly. So far, anyway. Not only did the Thunder reach the Finals, they prevented the Spurs from doing so. Everyone appreciates and embraces the old-school basketball championed by the great Spurs, and how they go about their business, and even the gruff Gregg Popovich has charm. They get and deserve our respect. But when the Spurs reach the Finals, as history proves, the ratings for June baseball games suddenly soar.

And now we get Game 7 of the East finals and James coming off an epic show and saying he isn't "worried" about what he'll bring for the finale. Dwyane Wade called the Game 6 blowout win in Boston "a defining moment" for the Heat, which was a bit premature, because that moment will be Saturday. Win this one, and Miami and especially LeBron get a chance at redemption for last summer. Or lose and deal with another painful off-season of soul searching and cream pie-throwing.

"This is what basketball is all about," Wade said.

Yes, root for basketball, for the potential for big moments and stirring drama and for the chance to see the best players on the biggest stage. The Heat will give you that in the Finals, because this team doesn't know any other way. Miami doesn't do anything quietly. From the time they were fastened together ever so controversially, the Heat have tugged our emotions one way or another, with no in between. Nobody sits on the fence with this team. It's either black or white, and teams like that generate great interest, respect or scorn, cheers or jeers and sometimes both.

Perhaps Game 7 will be an appetizer for what's next. Let's all hope. If so, then we'll get another stirring effort from James, the finest all-around player on the planet, at both ends. And he'll have help from Wade. And these two will hook up on fast-break buckets and lob passes. And Miami will get more minutes and production from Chris Bosh, who's starting to warm up and recover his groove after his abdominal injury.

Yes, Bosh needs to fully mend in a hurry. For his sake, and outs. We need the Heat in the Finals at full strength, because they'll need it against Durant and Russell Westbrook and all that molten firepower.

"Everything is good," reports Bosh.

Quite honestly, until now, it's been a depressing basketball season. Let's admit it. The lockout tested everyone's patience and love for the game. David Stern, once a Teflon commissioner, took heat. Owners and players were slapped for being greedy. Then came a 66-game season featuring flabby players and game nights crammed together. Teams didn't even have enough time to hold practice.

There was the rash of injuries, almost all at once, some devastating, none more than Derrick Rose, Chauncey Billups, Dwight Howard, injuries that seriously damaged their teams and deprived the audience of a better post-season. So we deserve more, deserve better, for putting up with all that mess.

The Celtics are a neat little story of persistence, if nothing else. Kevin Garnett at 36 can still bring it, along with Paul Pierce. Until James went ballistic in Game 6, Rajon Rondo was the best player in this series. Meanwhile, Doc Rivers is confirming what we all knew about him, a terrific in-game coach who knows how to make adjustments and draw up plays. Ray Allen, give the man the hoops version of the purple heart for running around and jumping off one ankle.

They're exactly the team you'd want in a Game 7 of the East finals, and also the team you want to lose, or should, anyway. And we say this with all due respect to Boston.

The NBA Finals needs to be about stars in their prime and placed under pressure. It should be about entertaining basketball played at warp speed, complete with lob passes and full-court sprints that captivate the casual basketball fan. It should give us the MVP and the MVP runner up. It should end the season a whole lot better than the way it started.

This happens if the Heat win Saturday. So bust out your Heat pon-pons. You can burn them Sunday if you wish.

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