Mr. Royal covers today. Mid-postseason NBA review. I also concur and also hate my picks.

NFL Side Note: My Mock Draft didn’t happen last week. I started a couple times, and just ultimately copped out. In a world where Blake Bortles gets drafted ahead of Sammy Watkins, I know nothing about football.

NFL Side Note #2: Say what you want about Johnny Manziel, the Browns are an absolute mess. Any organization that tells one of their players to “start acting like a backup” is absolutely ass-backwards. I don’t know much about sports, but I want every player on my team in any sport to treat every practice, every rep, every minute of every day preparing to be a Hall of Fame starter. But, I guess that’s why you’re Cleveland and you suck. 

That Super “Secret Stuff”

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It was touch and go there for a bit, but here we are in mid-May and it appears our two NBA Eastern Conference superpowers are on a collision course for a seven-game series. If you told me two months ago that the Heat and Pacers were leading in their series against mismatched opponents I would have simply responded by saying, “duh.” Two weeks ago? I would’ve responded with a bit more trepidation.

I told Filler before these playoffs that one of three things I was absolutely sure of is that the Miami Heat were done winning championships. Maybe it would be the Spurs, maybe the Pacers, maybe OKC, maybe even the Clippers would dethrone them, but there’s just no way they could do it again.

The Heat disposed of the Bobcats the same way they disposed of the Bucks in last year’s first round when Dwayne Wade gave us this gem (I realized I’ve shown it before, but it’s just too funny).

https://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/dwyane-wade-reaction-brandon-jennings-bucks-6-prediction-191146177–nba.html

They once again demonstrated that they can easily “hit that switch” and get in playoff mode. Not surprising. What is surprising – or at least, interesting – is how they’re doing it. In last night’s loss to the Nets, Lebron James led the Heat in points, rebounds, and assists. Lebron James has led the Heat in scoring in all eight of their playoff games thus far, and led in all three major statistical categories in four of the eight games.

If all of that confused you, suffice it to say that Lebron James is once again doing it all.

In fact, Filler got to watch their loss to Brooklyn in Game 3 and pointed out to me that Lebron looked more “smoked” than he has ever seen him since his days in Cleveland. You remember those days. Back when we liked Lebron.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzDk6x0_dsM

I was a kid when MJ was in his prime. I recorded all of his Finals games on my VCR and watched them over and over because I worshipped the guy. But I was a kid. I couldn’t fully appreciate the game of basketball like I can now. And I’ve never seen a player take over a series like Lebron did against Orlando in ’09.

Game 1: 49 points

Game 2: 35 points

Game 3: 41 points

Game 4: 44 points

Before you know it, Lebron accounted for (scored or assisted) 108 of 184 made shots for his Cavaliers team in their 4-2 series loss against the Magic that year. The ends of those games were remarkable to watch. Mike Brown would call timeout, they’d inbound the ball to Lebron, put four guys on the perimeter and clear out the lane for Lebron to play 1 on 5. And it seemed like it worked every time. He was that good.

So no we couldn’t blame him for wanting out of Cleveland. We just hated how he wound up in Miami. We hated the way he went about it. And we hated that Miami was a super team that even guys like Ray Allen would sell out to go play for.

Here we are and after a game where Brooklyn smelled blood and Lebron looked beat, he drops 49 in regulation (one shy of 50 if he hit his last free throw… WHAT A LOSER, AMIRIGHT!?) on a night where no one else on his team scored 15 points to make sure the Heat get some off time before facing Indy.

In the same game where Brooklyn had the momentum and a future Hall of Famer called out Lebron and asked for the exclusive right to try and lock him down, Lebron beat the Nets virtually by himself. And for the record – coming from a guy who isn’t Lebron’s biggest fan – he actually got really bad calls against him for once. I mean, if he’s not 6’9”/240 with biceps that are bigger than my shoulders, I counted at least two layups that should’ve been and-1’s last night.

Oh, and by the way, Miami sans-Lebron are a marginal playoff team at best. Who/what/where is Dwayne Wade? I don’t get it. Last night in the postgame he said he they wanted to “just get out of Lebron’s way.” Umm, it’s not like Miami was up by 20. That game went down to the wire. I mean it was tied with under a minute to go! And still, Miami adopts the old Cleveland strategy of “well, let’s just hope Lebron figures this out.” Apparently Chris Bosh has decided that Miami doesn’t have enough role players who jack up threes, because that’s exactly what he’s reduced himself to. He’s playing on a team that has no big man, no interior presence and he’s basically said, “Hey, we need another Mike Miller.”

What’s my point?My point is that in a year where the Heat are collectively the worst they’ve been since the formation of the big 3, they’ve won 7 of 8 playoff games because Lebron James is better than I’ve ever seen him before. I have nothing negative to say about him. He’s taking the big shots he used to shy away from – and yet, he’s balanced that with the ability to still be a distributor (cue the pass to Chris Bosh last night to put the dagger in Brooklyn). He’s not getting calls he used to get – and yet, still dominates defensively and manages to stay out of foul trouble. He’s not settling for jumpers and fadeaways, he’s aggressively driving the ball to the basket – which I’ve been saying for years is his best asset with his body type and athleticism.

My point is **sigh** I don’t know what to make of it. The best player in the league is turning in the best postseason of his career with an underwhelming supporting cast against under-talented/overmatched opponents. Maybe it’s the chicken, maybe it’s the egg, maybe that’s not the right saying… I. Don’t. Know. Sometimes you just have to look yourself in the mirror and say, “When in Rome…”

Meanwhile in Indiana, Roy Hibbert went from being quite possibly the most disappointing and embarrassing player in the history of the NBA Playoffs and has morphed into the NBA’s X-factor. Hibbert had 3 games – I repeat for emphasis, THREE GAMES – in which he scored 0 points and snagged 0 boards before breaking out for 28 points the other night against the Wiz. Now, he’s smiling, laughing on the court, and swatting shots like its back before the All-Star Break again.

What happened?

Remember that fist fight that broke out between Evan Turner and Lance Stephenson a couple weeks ago before the Atlanta series? Well the rumor goes that during a practice that wasn’t going well, Lance Stephenson got defensive when an unnamed teammate accused him of being their problem and said, “y’all need to look at Roy’s ass, he’s been off ever since he found out PG was f****** his b****” Allegedly, Turner got mad at Lance for putting that out there in front of everyone and started swinging.

Woof. I mean, true or not, just the fact that there are rumors out there are enough to build distrust and animosity between teammates.

But all became better because David West had a come to Jesus talk with Hibbert in the locker room and then Paul George took him fishing. Next thing you know, Roy Hibbert looks like Patrick Ewing and drops 28 on Washington.

Fishing. That’s right. The secret recipe to unlock Roy Hibbert’s full potential is fishing trips. I’m sorry, but I can’t believe that. I think what really happened is that the Monstars came down from their alien planet and robbed Hibbert (and pretty much everyone else on that team except for West) of their talent. (Or maybe as Filler suggests, he swapped talents with Greg Oden…)

I mean, seriously? Am I watching Space Jam? Remember that scene during halftime when the Loony Toons are getting beat down and Bugs Bunny convinces them to drink MJ’s “Secret Stuff?”

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Is that what fishing is to Roy Hibbert and the Pacers? Is this team that emotionally fragile?

Look, Roy Hibbert gives a great interview, he seems to be a perfectly nice dude, and I don’t say this lightly but the guy is so soft. If all it takes is a stupid rumor to shut you down to ZERO points and ZERO boards and ZERO blocks in playoff games, and then all it takes are a little pep talk and a fishing trip to get you to drop 28 the next night, I don’t know what else to call it. You’re emotionally fragile, a.k.a. “soft.”

Again, what’s my point? My point is, I don’t know how to trust the Pacers. Oh I’m picking them to beat Washington. I don’t care how badly they got spanked in Game 5. The Wiz just don’t have enough to beat them three times in a row. But picking them to beat the Heat is another story. I’m not reneging on my picks just yet – let’s hash this out.

How do you stop this Heat team? Stop (– err, contain?) Lebron James. I’m not afraid of Bosh, nothing really scares me about Wade anymore (he’s dangerous in like, 5 minute spurts).  Battier/Jones/Chalmers/Cole can heat up but they’re just four different versions of the same player if you ask me, Anderson deserves some credit for his defensive presence, and Ray Allen is a slightly less-efficient version of the Ray Allen we saw last year. No, outside of Lebron, no one on that team is any better than they were a year ago and they were seconds away from losing to San Antonio in 6.

Quick, give me a list of players in these playoffs you’d feel somewhat comfortable guarding Lebron in a crucial playoff game:

Tony Allen (already gone)

Kawhi Leonard (Spurs)

“Chip-on-the-shoulder” Paul George (Pacers)

“Pissed-off” Lance Stephenson (Pacers)

So what you’re left with is the harsh reality that there are only two teams that can stop the Heat from 3-peating this year: The Pacers and The Spurs

The Clippers are exciting and OKC is electric, but both teams have glaring holes and matchup kind of poorly against Miami in my opinion. Neither team has a defender for Lebron (no, MVP KD cannot guard angry Lebron), OKC has Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde (Russell Westbrook), and the Clippers defend outside jump-shooters very poorly.

But, the Spurs matchup poorly with the Thunder. In light of the Spurs recent play, I’m somewhat inclined to change my mind on this, but I think OKC is way too athletic in each position 1 through 5 for the Spurs to overcome 4/7 times.

No, it’s starting to look like us Heat-haters have two options:

  1. The Clippers upset OKC and the Spurs beat them in the West.
  2. The Pacers get very, very angry and start playing very, very angry.

The Pacers “Secret Stuff” is emotion. Raw, unfiltered emotion. They seem to be fueled when they face extreme adversity, when people don’t believe in them, when they are disrespected, when they can play angry. But, when they have a 3-1 lead at home? They get stuffed by Washington.

The next week will be very interesting to see how Indiana reacts to all the doubt that surrounds them now. How annoyed do they get with watching Samsung commercials that promote an app dedicated to worshipping Lebron James? Will Paul George snap out of his slumber when he walks into that arena in Indianiapolis and hears his fans screaming, desperately wishing that their Pacers will finally beat the villains of Miami? Will Lance “The Hurricane” Stephenson become so volatile that he actually frustrates Lebron James off his game? And even if they do all these things, will Indiana figure out how to bring that same intensity with them to Miami?

So, my revised predictions from here: OKC figures this thing out vs. the Clippers, and the Spurs close out Portland at home tomorrow. Indiana squeezes by the Wiz in 7 games, and Miami beats Brooklyn in 6. I’m still taking OKC over San Antonio and for some reason that defies all logic, I’m taking Indy over Miami in 7. In the end, I stick with my pick and OKC beats Indy in an underwhelming NBA Finals in 6 games.

I still hate my picks. When in Rome…

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