Thursday , Apr , 23 , 2009 C.Y. Ellis

Heat make it a series; surprised?

Heat make it a series; surprised?

What did I tell you.

 Sometimes, fans have a tendency for the ever-so-popular knee-jerk reaction. Why? Because we’re armed with very short memories.

 Almost everyone saw the Game 1 debacle by the Heat in Atlanta and failed to realize – or didn’t feel like remembering – that this is a 4-5 matchup.

 And there’s a reason for that.

 The Heat aren’t as bad as they showed on Sunday night, and, frankly, the Hawks aren’t that good. And it showed in Game 2, when Miami pulled a complete 180 en route to a 108-93 thrashing on Wednesday night.

Haslem comes up big

 A lot of good things came out of this game for the Heat – the 3-point shooting was phenomenal, Dwyane Wade was, well, Dwyane Wade again, and the defensive intensity really picked up (when you have a near-fight on your hands after a foul, it’s a sign you’re at least playing playoff basketball).

 But I’m going to go directly to the most important point of the game.

 That’s when Flip Murray drew an and-1 on Wade to give him his fifth foul and, after the free throw, make it a five-point game. At that point, Wade went to the bench, the Phillips Arena was rocking, the Hawks had all the momentum, and it seemed like the game would slip away from Miami in the final four-and-a-half minutes.

 Somebody simply had to step up.

 And that person was Udonis Haslem, who hit critical back-to-back jumpers to give the Heat some comfort and eventually lead to the blowout.

 Going into this series, and especially after Game 1, everybody I spoke to said Michael Beasley needed to be the starting power forward ahead of U-D. But those fans made another big error – they read too much into the numbers.

 Here’s something that you won’t find in the box score for this game: playoff experience.

 You don’t teach that, but Haslem has it. If he didn’t, the Heat could be looking at an 0-2 deficit heading back to South Beach.

Setting the tempo early

 D-Wade came into the Phillips Arena early on Wednesday to do some shootaround, and while getting some work in an empty gym, he looked up at the scoreboard and saw that it still read “90-64” from three days before.

 Think that didn’t motivate him?

 Flash hit three 3-pointers in about a two-minute stretch towards the end of the second quarter, finished 6-for-10 from behind the arc, and led all scorers with 33 points (nobody on the Hawks even had 20).

 But I don’t think the biggest difference was Wade’s play. It was that of those around him.

 Especially Cook.

 The former Ohio State guard’s struggles since winning the 3-Point Shootout have been well documented, but on Wednesday, he finally showed up, making 6 of his 9 3s as the Heat totaled 15.

 Thanks to that, the Hawks’ defense wasn’t able to double hard on Wade, they couldn’t clog the paint on a posting Jermaine O’Neal – who, after demanding more touches, put up 19 points, six rebounds, four blocks and was very active defensively – and they were never able to take control of the game.

 Then came the dagger.

 Wade was dribbling at the elbow from a few feet beyond the arc, trying to cross-up Joe Johnson – who was in foul trouble all night, missed two critical free throws and scored just 16 points – and, with the shot clock about to expire, made a fadeaway bank shot from well beyond the 3-point line to give the Heat a 10-point lead with 2:36 remaining and pretty much ice it.

 Said Wade to TNT sideline reporter Cheryl Miller immediately after the final buzzer went off: “When you hit a shot like that, that’s game.”

 Darn right, Dwyane.

 On to Game 3.