1. Once Again, Heat Dispose Of East Foe In 5
MIAMI -- Their Eastern Conference peers may not all consider them gentlemen -- some, in fact, think they're straight Hollywood -- but that's how the Miami Heat have handled the East playoffs.
On Wednesday they completed their fourth straight so-called gentlemen's sweep of an Eastern playoff opponent, ousting the New York Knicks 4-1, since the core of the team came together last year. The Game 5 final was 106-84, meaning the Heat outscored the Knicks by 70 points during the series, all four of the wins coming by double digits.
All the proper things were said about it being a "hard-fought series" and it "wasn't easy," which means it was respectful. But it was not close and it hasn't been close for the Heat, at least when playing within their own conference in the postseason. The LeBron James/Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh era's tally in the Eastern Conference playoffs is now 16 wins and four losses.
And they will be heavily favored against their next opponent, the Indiana Pacers, a team they went 3-1 against during the regular season.
"We do not take this for granted," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We feel good about moving on, and it will only get tougher from here."
That is true, but it's not a total slight against the Knicks. From the start, New York never had a serious chance in this series. Its strong finish to the season, going 18-6 after Mike Woodson took over as coach, was undercut immediately and heavily.
From Tyson Chandler catching a flu bug that made him a nonfactor early in the series, to two guards having to be carried from the floor with devastating knee injuries, to Jeremy Lin unable to be ready to play, to the fire extinguisher episode with Amare Stoudemire, the deck was stacked against the Knicks.
The talent disparity was such that the Knicks needed to be firing on all cylinders. Instead, they were throwing rods left and right. The roster makeup is something team's front office will have to take a serious look at during the offseason as they evaluate whether their mix has the potential to compete against a team like the Heat. But this was not a fair fight.
"We fought hard under tough circumstances," said Carmelo Anthony, who was mired in a shooting slump for the series' first three games, further killing the Knicks' chances. "I'm not one to make excuses. We still went out there and competed."
In the end, that was all the Knicks had. Anthony didn't quit; he scored 35 points in Game 5 on 15-of-31 shooting after putting up 41 points in Game 4. Stoudemire didn't either, scoring 14 points before fouling out with his injured hand. But there was no way it was enough, especially with J.R. Smith going 3-of-15. Smith shot 31 percent in the series and had no assists despite supposedly filling in at point guard.
The Heat took some flak for letting Game 4 slip away in New York but their overall play showed why they remain the team to beat in the East. James, Wade and Bosh combined for 67 points in Game 5, and for the series they averaged 63.8 points a game on 50 percent shooting. Between the three, they averaged 23 trips to the foul line per game. Those types of numbers are going to be hard to overcome for any opponent.
This was against a Knicks team that had been playing strong defense over the last six weeks of the regular season. And they pretty much tore New York up, three times cresting 100 points. On Wednesday the Heat racked up 20 fast-break points, the first time they have done that since April 13.
If the Heat and their three All-Stars continue to play at that level, there could more gentlemen's sweeps ahead. The Pacers boast more depth than the Knicks and have a frontcourt rotation that could pose some issues for the Heat, who prefer to play smaller.
"This next series for sure will feel like it's played in a cage rather than on a basketball court," Spoelstra said. "It'll be that physical."
The Pacers, however, will have to deal with a Heat team that's flexing its muscles. After looking only so-so coming down the stretch of the regular season, Miami's performance and numbers against New York resembled the dominating squad that was on display back in February. The Knicks, despite their bad breaks, couldn't help being impressed.
"We were a little undermanned, for one," Stoudemire said. "Two, Miami is a really good team."
2. Around The Association
Recap | Box score
MVP: LeBron James finished off a strong series with another well-rounded game. He had 29 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals. He has now advanced to the second round in all seven years he has played in the postseason.
LVP: J.R. Smith is a streaky shooter, and he was streaky-bad in this series. He finished it off with back-to-back 3-of-15 shooting nights, including Game 5. Smith shot 31 percent in the series.
That was a wardrobe malfunction: Wanting to wear less padding so he could "get lighter," Dwyane Wade changed the material he wore under his uniform for Game 5. He said he tucked his uniform into his "tights" like his teammates do and was immediately uncomfortable. So he went to the locker room after a scoreless shift in the first quarter and put on his traditional padded shorts. Then he came out and scored 12 points in the second quarter.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Marc Gasol started out strong and faded down the stretch due to foul trouble and some strange team decision-making by the Grizzlies, but he was still excellent. Twenty-three points on 14 shots, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, all key in keeping the Griz alive.
X factor: Interior play. The Clippers found themselves forced into a lot of jumpers by the Grizzlies' high-pressure defense. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies built their lead with great first-half post-up action from Gasol and Zach Randolph.
LVP: Coming off a strong first quarter in Game 4, Caron Butler couldn't do much of anything right in this game. He couldn't make shots open or closed (2-for-10 FG, 1-for-5 3-pointers), and was only a net neutral on defense, in my eyes. Tough night for Tuff Juice.
3. Wednesday's Best
Grizzlies frontline: Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol combined for 56 points on 20-for-38 shooting, helping the Griz stay alive in Game 5 over the Clippers. If the Griz get that kind of production from their bigs, we could be seeing a Game 7 in Memphis.
4. Wednesday's Worst
J.R. Smith, Knicks: The swishing of a J.R. shot was not heard enough in the Knicks' Game 5 elimination at the hands of Miami. Smith went 3-for-15 from the field and contributed nothing in the way of assists, steals or blocks.
5. NBA Video Channel
6. Tweet Of The Night
7. Quote Of The Night
"I didn't come here to lose in the first round and I don't plan on doing this in the future."
-- Knicks center Tyson Chandler, after his first season in New York ended with a loss to Miami
8. End Of The Line
9. Stats Check
LeBron James had 29 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists -- all team highs -- in the Miami Heat's series-clinching win over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night. It was the 20th time in his pro career that James led his team outright in points, rebounds and assists in a playoff game. That's by far the highest such total for any player in NBA history. In fact, the only other players who did that in at least 10 games are Larry Bird (13) and Tim Duncan (11).
10. Dunk Of The Night