Steve Kerr gave the Miami Heat every excuse in the book. One minute, the layoff had them rusty. The next minute, he thought the rest had them lazy — or in his words, “they looked tired.” You would have thought the announcer was a former Heat player instead of an ex-Chicago Bulls player. Nevertheless, this is a no-excuse league.
Shane Battier couldn’t hit a shot and for most of the game LeBron James refused to take one. Still, Miami’s defense was top notch. They crushed the pick-and-roll and committed to forcing turnovers. That’s their signature. When all else fails, play defense. After all, defense does win championships.
Unfortunately for Miami, this wasn’t a championship and their defense couldn’t babysit a few fourth-quarter leads. That’s where Kerr’s excuses come into play. Every reporter and talking head looked pass the Heat’s season-long tendency to coast and assumed that their mini-vacation bucked them off rhythm.
But the truth is Chicago just beat them. No matter what happened, they beat them — and the Heat didn’t seem to see it coming.
“We didn’t expect to lose Game 1,” Heat center Chris Bosh said, flatly (via ESPN.com). “It’s a kick in the chin. And we’re going to have to get up, dust ourselves off and counter. Playoffs are ugly. It’s been a little bit too pretty around here, to be honest.”
And if everyone is being honest, they know that the Bulls are like bedbugs. You let them hang around and they eventually take over your home — and that’s what they did Monday night at the American Airlines Arena, behind their littlest creature.
“He’s a scorer,” said James of Nate Robinson from in front of his post game locker. “He was born a scorer.”
The win was a total team effort, but Robinson put on another postseason MVP-type performance while coach Tom Thibodeau showed why he should be considered the Coach of the Year, every year. He had his team outworking the Heat without trying to hurt the Heat. They went out, slowed the momentum and killed Miami’s confident smiles.
If the Heat are not careful, it could be 2007 all over again — a Bulls 4-0 sweep chalked up to another championship hangover.
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Richard Nurse is a Miami Heat columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @blackirishpr.