If you closed your mouth and breathed in deeply through your nostrils, it smelled a little like Green Bay inside American Airlines Arena as the Heat trounced the Grizzlies on Saturday afternoon.
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You remember the Super Bowl-champion Packers, don’t you? Of course, you do. They won their fourth title a little more than a month ago.
What you may have forgotten is that the rival Chicago Bears had a chance to bury the Packers the last game of the regular season. Green Bay rallied from a 3-0 halftime deficit, won 10-3, qualified for the playoffs, beat the Bears in the NFC Championship and the rest, as you know, is history.
Thursday night, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers had an opportunity to bury the Heat. No, the Lakers couldn’t have eliminated Miami from the playoffs. Every good and mediocre team makes the NBA playoffs. But the Lakers could’ve finished peeling the remaining fingers from the symbolic rope Heat coach Erik Spoelstra keeps begging his players to grasp.
A sixth straight loss would’ve permanently demoralized the Big Three. Instead, the victory over the Lakers reinvigorated the Heat.
Now they smell a teeny bit like the Packers: a dangerous, super-talented team given new life.
Just ask the Grizzlies.
Even with its leading scorer sidelined, Memphis came to Miami playing pretty good basketball, having beaten San Antonio, Dallas and Oklahoma City in the 11 days leading up to Saturday’s game with the Heat.
The Grizzlies (36-31) left Miami in a clown suit.
The Heat throttled Memphis 118-85. They expanded their lead each quarter. The dominance started at the defensive end early in the first quarter, when Dwyane Wade and LeBron James cruelly denied Tony Allen and Sam Young three chances at finishing a fast break. The dominance continued on the offensive end, where the Heat, for one of the few times all season, consistently ran crisp, structured offensive sets that worked.
“Offensively, it was one of our better ball-moving games in a while,” Spoelstra acknowledged.
For the first time since Christmas (Lakers), the Heat pounded a good basketball team and looked like the juggernaut we saw flashes of throughout December.
The Heat looked a lot like the Packers: the absolute last team anybody wanted to face in the postseason.
Did Memphis have a South Beach hangover? It is spring break at South Beach. The Grizzlies hadn’t played in three days. A 3 p.m. tip is not ideal after a Friday evening in South Beach.
The mitigating factors don’t really matter. The only thing that has ever really mattered about the Heat is the mindset of the Big Three and their approach to each game.
“We have to compete against the best teams the right way,” Chris Bosh said, referring to Miami’s Monday night matchup with the San Antonio Spurs. “We want to redeem ourselves.”
Yep, it was just nine days ago when the Spurs put a 30-point clown suit on the Heat and set the table for CryGate two days later against Chicago.
“It feels good to get some wins,” James said. “The expectation of us going out and playing at a high level every night was wearing on us a bit. It was only going to take one win for everybody to let their hair down and relax. We have been able to do that the last two nights.”
I’m not making any prediction for Miami’s latest showdown.
I’m simply saying you can smell bratwurst and cheese in Miami. In just a few days, the Heat recaptured some of their swagger.