CEBU

Quijano: The Miami Heat are for real

Last Round

COACH Eric Spoelstra of the Miami Heat reportedly gets paid around $120,000.00 for each playoff victory based on his current compensation package.

At the rate he’s going, he’ll be laughing his way to the bank en route to another NBA crown.

For the record, Spoelstra is 8th on the all-time playoffs wins list among coaches.

EAST. Spoelstra is of course, a household name among Pinoy basketball fans, for after all, he’s the Filipino-American who coached Lebron James to two consecutive NBA titles.

This year, with only Jimmy Butler as a bonafide star, his team is on a 10-1 tear in the playoffs and is currently up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics.

I am rooting for the Celtics as I am pining for the return of the fabled Boston vs. Los Angeles rivalry, but of course it’s hard to unlove Coach Spoelstra and the Heat.

Their achievement after 11 playoff games is equaled only by the 1996 Chicago Bulls and topped by the 2001 Lakers and 2017 Warriors who went 11-0.

But those aforementioned teams were stacked with major stars. In contrast this team is bereft of glamour and glitz.

They are led by a moody, mercurial star unwilling to hog the spotlight in Butler. Duncan Robinson was an undrafted free agent. Tyler Herro is a rookie. Jae Crowder is a role player who has hopped from 4 teams in the last 4 years. Andre Igoudala is a grizzled veteran whose best years are clearly behind him. Goran Dragic is 34 years old with a surgically-repaired knee. Center Bam Adebayo was only the 14th pick in the 2017 draft.

And for those who think this team just lucked out this year with Butler on board, Coach Spoelstra managed to guide the Heat in 3 out of the last 6 conferences to the playoffs in the post-Lebron era. Ergo, all this time even without a legitimate superstar, he has managed to hold the fort and keep this team competitive.

The true hallmark of a great coach is being able to motivate players and bring out their best while at the same time, correctly assigning roles under an effective system. This time around, Spoelstra appears to have all the ingredients and his team is firing on all cylinders.

Is he ready to architect the biggest surprise of them all?

BRILLIANT. In the first round, their switching, sweeping defense allowed them to neutralize the Indiana Pacers and score a sweep.

In the second round against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks team, they slowed down Giannis Antetokounmpo (who recently won his 2nd MVP plum) by building a wall around the perimeter.

They dared him to take the outside shot including the low percentage 3-point shot. Giannis obliged and his team lost badly, getting booted out in the second round by the 5th seed.

In the present series against the Celtics, Spoelsta employed a crippling zone defense in the second half which caught their opponents off-guard.

The zone defense is rarely played at the NBA top level because it is easy to figure out if you put a man in the middle which will allow you to pinch the sides, but this the Celtics failed to do in time- to their utter detriment.

Of course, this series is not over and I doubt if the equally brilliant Brad Stevens will allow himself to be outcoached. But with his team imploding and yelling at each other and throwing objects in the locker room, I won’t be surprised if Spoelstra makes a triumphant return to the pinnacle of NBA greatness.

VERBATIM. “Pissed me off”--Lebron James after not winning the MVP trophy. (www.bleacherreport.com)

LAST ROUND. It’s on Theanna Rayne Zosa-Tan who recently celebrated her 11th birthday. Cheers!


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