Just shut up and ride this Heat Wave

March 20, 2013

It’s LeBron James and the Heat, so, of course, there are critics of this Heat Wave, which reached 24 games Wednesday night when Miami vanquished a 27-point, second-half deficit and knocked off the Cavaliers, 98-95.

Yep, according to the critics, we shouldn’t regard this winning streak as highly as the ’72 Lakers’ 33-gamer or anything that transpired in the NBA during the ‘80s and ‘90s because the league is watered down by expansion, pampered millionaire players and an injury-riddled, mediocre Eastern Conference.

Yep. Put an asterisk by Miami’s streak. It’s tainted. It’s as counterfeit as Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France trophies, Lennay Kekua’s breast implants and Fox News’ objectivity.

James, Wade and Bosh couldn’t pull this off if they played in the West!

You know what? If my aunt had a pair swinging between her legs, she’d be my uncle.

More than that, the critics and skeptics poking at the Heat’s amazing winning streak lack a fundamental understanding of high-level athletics. And, yes, I’m well aware that many of the people quietly bitching about the Heat Wave and the Heat Hype go by Hall of Fame basketball names and/or coach in the league right now.

Just because you played or coach in the NBA doesn’t mean you have an accurate perspective on what signifies greatness. Michael Jordan played the game at the highest level. He also drafted Kwame Brown.

What the critics fail to comprehend about the Heat Wave is that Miami isn’t playing against the mediocre Eastern Conference. The Pacers, Knicks and Bulls get to fatten up on the mediocre and injury-riddled Eastern Conference. The Heat get every team’s A+ game, and it’s far from a mediocre performance.

Wednesday night the Cavs played without their All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. So, with LeBron and the Heat in town and a packed house at Quicken Loans Arena, Wayne Ellington pretended to be an All-Star, scoring 20 points — 13 more than his season average. The Cavs jumped on the Heat in the first half, building a 21-point halftime advantage. Cleveland pushed its lead to 27 five minutes into the third quarter.

It was a replica of Miami’s game against Boston two nights earlier. In a bid to stop the Heat Wave, Jeff Green stepped in for Kevin Garnett, tossed up 43 points and led the Celtics to a 13-point fourth-quarter lead.

In back-to-back games, Miami withstood the emotion of a hostile crowd and near-perfect play from an opponent and survived and advanced March Madness.

The Heat have had bull’s-eyes on their backs ever since James and Bosh hit South Beach three years ago. The bull’s-eye got bigger in the aftermath of winning a title last summer. Thanks to this streak, social media and the ever-expanding sports-media industrial complex, the bull’s-eye is enormous now. There’s a bounty on the head of the Heat. Opponents are taking the court with the mindset of making history, leading SportsCenter.

Digger Phelps never won anything at Notre Dame. He’s famous because he stopped UCLA’s winning streak.

Beating LeBron can make you famous.

When you reach the professional level of sports, everyone in uniform can play. They’re all really, really good — even Kwame Brown. What separates them beyond ever so slight differences in raw talent is their ability to consistently summon the energy, focus and discipline to play at their optimum level on a nightly basis.

You ever see some guy come off the bench and score 40 points one night and wonder why he doesn’t play like that every night? There’s a damn good chance that that guy has a drinking problem or a weed habit or baby-mama drama in five different cities — hell, he might have all three issues — and he just can’t get up mentally to go hard three nights a week. Some guys have escorts/bimbos running in and out of their hotel rooms right up until the bus leaves for the arena.

Right now, when the Heat come to town, it’s all business for the opponent. Guys roll one less joint. They go to bed at midnight and get a good night’s sleep. They turn off their burner phones. They take a day off Facebook/Twitter creeping. They read their scouting reports and listen to their coach. They lock in on beating the Heat.

The Cleveland no-names who almost upset the Heat are really good basketball players when they take care of the details, make a few sacrifices and concentrate.

Don’t listen to the Heat critics. Ignore the negative spin, the wet-blanket throwers. This Heat streak is incredible.

When the ’72 Lakers rattled off 33 in a row, no one cared about the NBA. I’m not going to denigrate their accomplishment. But Wilt and the Lakers didn’t face the kind of pressure, scrutiny and hostility that are the constant companions of the Heat.

The Pistons get the next crack at the Heat on Friday in Miami. Don’t look for Greg Monroe or any of the Pistons at King of Diamonds or Tootsie’s late Thursday night. Until this Heat Wave passes, Miami opponents prefer room service the night before games.