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2012 nba playoffs

The Heat Are in Some Serious Danger (Yay!)

If you're a Knicks fan, there has to be something a little embarrassing watching the Pacers-Heat series, which Indiana took a 2-1 lead in with a 94-75 Game Three wipeout last night. After all, the excuse everyone gave for the Knicks' five-game loss was, "hey, it was our misfortune to face the Eastern Conference's best team in the first round." Well, the Heat aren't exactly looking like the Eastern Conference's best team right now; the Knicks look comparatively more feeble. Not that it should extinguish any of the joy that watching the Heat lose brings.

We actually had a moment, watching the game in the second quarter, when we wondered why we put so much energy into booing the Heat. LeBron drove the lane, split two defenders and then threw down a lefthanded dunk over Roy Hibbert, a play that no one else in the NBA could even dream of attempting. As sports fans, don't we traditionally cheer for talent, for the transcendent, for the people who can do things no other human can do? Why did we expend so much energy, so much bile, hoping the man who is obviously the best in the world at his particular trade, fails? Then he did one of those LeBron flops/whines/mouthpiece bitings that just remind us of this and this and this, and it all comes back to us. LeBron is a villain in the way athletes are truly villains, not humans; we should be cheering more against jerks in real life, like Ben Roethlisberger, and not people who just annoy us on the playing field. But that's no fun, now is it?

Besides, the real bad guy last night was Dwyane Wade, who is having the worst two-game stretch of his NBA career. He barely avoided a suspension in Game Two and then played Game Three like he was suspended anyway, going 2-for-13 from the field, scoring five points and turning the ball over five times. He also had an ugly confrontation with his coach Erik Spoelstra on the bench, telling his coach to "get out of my fucking face" during a timeout. (We are honestly surprised this doesn't happen more in sports. These guys make so much more money than their coaches.) The Heat were already down one superstar with Chris Bosh out; with Wade like this, they're down two. We jeer LeBron, but he (along with Mario Chalmers, who frequently looked like the best player on the court for the Heat last evening, a super-bad sign) is the only one attempting to step up for the Heat right now. Not that it'll make any difference if the Heat lose this series; he'll be the one everyone comes down on, like always. This is what he signed up for.

This shouldn't take away from the work the Pacers are doing; they're peaking at the right time, and they're so much deeper and more versatile than the Heat. Hibbert, in particular, is absolutely dominating; with Bosh out, he's ruling the paint, and he had nineteen points, eighteen rebounds, and five blocks. It was his best performance since helping Jean-Ralphio dunk on Parks and Recreation.

Game Four in Indianapolis is Sunday at 3:30 on ABC. The Heat — the Heat! — could fall behind 3-1. To quote a wise philosopher, get your popcorn ready.

Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images