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Hoop it up all week with SI.com's writers in the NBA Playoffs Blog, a daily journal of NBA commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
10:25 PM ET, 5/14/06

Heat coming together at right time

Posted by Ian Thomsen
You know the Pistons are paying close attention to the sudden unification of the Heat, who have now won five of their last six playoff games including three straight on the road. This 102-92 win in Game 4 Sunday at New Jersey was especially impressive, because the Nets were desperate to equalize the series.

Instead, they're hopelessly down 3-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinals because Dwyane Wade set the agenda by going 6-for-7 in the first quarter, assuring Miami of a strong start. Then Pat Riley watched as the vision which compelled him last summer to import a new supporting cast came together in a most dramatic way, with Antoine Walker (20 points on 11 shots) and Udonis Haslem (ditto) exploiting the seams of attention devoted to Wade (31 overall) and Shaq (16). Walker was 5-of-8 from the 3-point line, and if he can do that in at least four games over the next round his team will have a chance at frightening Detroit. With James Posey scrambling the Nets defensively off the bench and Gary Payton hitting the clinching three on a drive and kickout from Wade with 56.4 seconds left, the Heat have suddenly divined roles for all of their bigtime players. "Earlier in the season we didn't have that, but now we believe and trust in each other," Walker said. "It's happening at the right place and the right time."

At any previous time this season, the heretofore underperforming Heat would have squandered the benefits of Friday's Game 3 win in New Jersey. But they acted the part of true contender by soberly holding the Nets to 42.9 percent shooting in Game 4. "The defense has improved over the course of the playoffs," said Riley, clearly elated by his team's newfound attention to detail.

The only good news for the Nets was the revival of second-year big man Nenad Krstic (20 points, 14 boards), who awoke from his recent shooting slump when the Nets were most in need. He showed a lot of integrity with this performance, and at the very least they'll go into the summer knowing that he is a potential All-Star on their frontline.

One thing that made no sense: Down by just seven points after Payton's three, half of the audience went running for the exits even though their team had possession of the ball, almost a full minute to spend and several shooters capable of bombing them back in. A comeback wasn't out of the question, and after investing hours in attending the game, these fans would have felt like idiots had they missed seeing their Nets string together a winning run in the most important game of the season. This I'll never understand.

Regarding the Heat, they remain a fragile team that could very easily return to form by frittering away Game 5 at home on Tuesday. It would be a surprising turn, but the bottom line is that they can't be considered a real threat to Detroit until they prove they're serious by finishing off New Jersey efficiently and coldly.


Posted: 11:10 PM   by Anonymous
Don't you know that Nets fans are really just bored Knick fans. They have no one to root for and they attached themselves to the Nets.

Juts like those bored Connecticut "Yankee fans" They have no one to root for since CT isn't a good enough state to get its own team.

By Devils, and we will see with the Heat
Posted: 11:19 PM   by Anonymous
i think it's funny that everyone's talking about miami facing detroit in the east finals when detroit does not have a commanding lead on the cavs , who despite not getting any of the calls in this series are down 2-1 and could easily tie the series regardless of sheed's retarded comment, lebron and verajao are gonna make him eat his words
Posted: 12:38 AM   by Anonymous
Okay, I think it's pretty safe to say that the Miami Heat will be on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year. Vince Carter thought that hoisting up jump shot after jump shot was the answer to New Jersey's offensive troubles.

Hey, is that really true; are New Jersey Nets fans really closet Knick fans. If so, then perhaps Larry Brown's potential buyout is a result of those fans defecting to the Meadowlands instead of supporting Lieutenant LB and his army of little soildiers who went to General Thomas and whined about all the bad things Lieutenant made them do. What a mess in the big apple. This is definitely not the 1990's. Where's Charles Oakely, Anthony Mason, John Starks, and Patrick Ewing when u need them?
Posted: 9:26 AM   by David
Antoine Walker made me eat some words this time. I still think he's flaky, but when he's on, he's good. They did a nice job of using everyone.

Carter was bombing 3's too much I think. He needs to go inside. I'm still hoping for the Nets, but it's looking bleak. The West actually has the interesting teams. I'm at - "anybody but Detroit and S. Antonio (and Miami)" - at this point.
Posted: 9:36 AM   by Anonymous
I agree with your statement that this Heat team is fragile. What will happen Tuesday if Walker's 3's are dropping but he keeps hoisting? I strongly believe the Nets will not go quietly but will stun the Heat on Tuesday.

Also, really what the fans did was weird. In my mind, the Nets should have come back just to spite those fans.
Posted: 9:52 AM   by Anonymous
Focus...focus...focus...If the Heat win one more and the Cavs make it a series tonight, can a rested Miami team made up of 'veterans' dethrone Detroit? I say Heck Yes! They don't flop like Collins does. So focus Heatsters. On an aside, have you noticed that according to the Pistons, they have never EVER committed a foul this year! 'Sheed and Tayshaun seem incredulous everytime one is called on them!
Posted: 10:07 AM   by Eddie
I agree with Mr. Thomsen, unless the Heat squash the Nets on Game 5, they will still not be seen as a viable threat by the Bad Boys II (Pistons). The role players MUST always play big time if Miami hopes to keep it's Championship dream alive.
Posted: 10:11 AM   by Anonymous
I hope the Cavs do make the Pistons eat their words.....it will just make the road to the finals easier for MIAMI!!
Posted: 12:29 PM   by Merz79
Dream on, detroit is by far the best team in the leauge and the cavs are just a bunch of pretenders. the only thing we are all witnesses to is lebron and his cavs getting rolled by the pistons in five.
Posted: 1:03 PM   by Anonymous
It's wishful thinking that Cavs could do more than take two games from Detroit. Yes Detroit has underestimated them, but this will not be a 7 game series. The question mark for the eastern conference is... Is "Will Miami be disciplined enough to stick to their complete inside/outside game?" If Miami plays to their potential, it can be another seven game series...except D Wade and not Damon Jones will be handling the last play of the game in Game 7 this year.
Posted: 3:49 PM   by Anonymous
what happens if one of detroits starting five gets hurt? detroits bench is ordinary and gets seemingly zero minutes in most games. how much confidence do you have in detroit basketball if there is no billups or no prince? how about no wallace (either of them). I dont think detroit is going to be the next chAMPION
Posted: 3:55 PM   by Kevin
You can tell Vince Carter is nervous on the floor. Pat Riley made big mistake when he sign Brian Grant, but he is not affraid to fix his mistake. One thing i like about Pat, he signs tough players from Morning to Walker, Posey, and he still coaching on the floor not sitting on the bench.
Posted: 8:00 PM   by Anonymous
the cavs have shown that detroit is beatable. If the cavs series goes seven games and the heat series ends early. we could see the championship trophy in south beach.
Posted: 8:33 PM   by king leo
all the heat haters out their i want you all to know the heat are built to beat the pistons in you will see all my prediction have been on point so far these playoffs the heat in 6 sorry pistons fan they dont match up well against the heat shaq in wade are going to get all the attention in walker and payton are going to step up because they know this is their best chance to win a championship you will see
Posted: 2:44 AM   by Anonymous
The MDE is due for a big game. He can't do it often anymore, but a close out game, at home, with all the attention on D-Wade and Co., the stage is set.
Nets will be fishin'...Vince is a glamorized gunner. D-Wade is the best in the game. 31,7,8,and 2 while making it look routine is Jordan-like. People wake up and recognize what we're seeing from this guy!!!
Posted: 6:52 AM   by Jon C.
I guess merz79 is actually Rasheed in disguise :-). This series goes back to Cleveland and will be played to a minimum of 6 games. Have to hand it to the Cavs despite the loss of Larry H.

I root for the Heat, so if the predictions are going to become a reality, I hope they always play the same way they did last night. They would really give the Pistons (or the Cavs) a good fight.
Posted: 4:23 PM   by Anonymous
Know all that has been said is said... Miami is no joke and are getting better, remember, Mr. Riles brought players that were a proven for a reason on board. If all are on watch out, if Shaq and Wade are on your in trouble. But, agin remeber Riles method of thinking, I trust five, I play seven. And for all those in the know... we do know (7) seven is the sign of completeness... I'm going with the HEAT, not just in the Eastern Conferece but rather ALL THE AWAY!!! Make Way cause they are coming. Choose your posion Ladies and Gentlemen.
Posted: 10:25 AM   by Anonymous
Besides the fact that most of you can't spell or construct sentences, I love the "sure pick" mentality you all have. Heat beat the Nets, Cavs are up 3-2. Late post I know, but I just couldn't resist.