Five Players The Miami Heat Should Target

Miami has become the new sexy pick for best free agency destination after the Heat’s run at the NBA championship in the bubble this season. With the new-found popularity, the Heat will have some tough decisions to make when looking to improve the roster.

5. Demarcus Cousins

Despite being injured for the better part of the past two seasons, when healthy, Boogie Cousins is one of the most skilled big men in the league. His ability to shoot, pass and be a presence in the post should all be attractive lures for Miami. If Cousins buys into the now famed Heat culture and improves his fitness level and conditioning, the Heat could grab a steal. A year in the Heat organization could also help Cousins recoup some of the value he has lost due to injuries. He was in line for a max contract that never materialized after he ruptured his Achilles in 17-18 while playing for the Pelicans.

 

 

4. Victor Oladipo

Oladipo has made it apparent that he wants to win now. He has also expressed, albeit less overtly, his love for the city of Miami. At his peak, Oladipo is an all-star level two-way player that adds scoring, defense and some playmaking ability to a team. However, according to Ethan Skolnick on the Five on the Floor Podcast, Oladipo’s behavior in the bubble has raised some eyebrows about whether or not he is a winner. His injury history is also an area for concern — returning from a torn quad tendon in January. He averaged 14.5 PPG on 39 percent (32 percent from 3) shooting in 19 games.

3. Christian Wood

Brady Hawk has already detailed everything I wanted to in his article on Wood’s fit with Miami. Over Detroit’s final 13 games as the starting center, he posted numbers of 22.8 points and 9.9 boards on 56.2 percent shooting and 40.0 percent from three. Prying Wood away from Detroit will not be an easy task considering his breakout season following the trade of Andre Drummond. However, there is a chance and that is all Miami can ask for.

2. Jrue Holiday

Point of attack defense has been an area of concern for the Heat dating back to the beginning of the season. Holiday is an immediate upgrade in that area and many more. Not only is he an elite perimeter defender, but also a capable combo guard that can both facilitate the offense and score the ball. The 30-year old’s averages of 19.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists will fit in nicely with the current Heat squad. Holiday has also recently been recognized by several of his peers on various platforms as one of the most underrated player in the league. We all know where those types of guys can find a home.

1. Giannis Antetokoumpo

The reigning back-to-back MVP is at the top of every team’s wishlist. Rightfully so. His gawdy averages of 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game and recent earlier-than-expected playoff exits (you’re welcome) have GMs around the league salivating at the opportunity to acquire his services. Miami is believed to be amongst the frontrunners to land him should he decide to part ways with Milwaukee, along with Dallas, Toronto and Golden State. What the Heat offer Giannis is a ready-made championship contender that fits his style of play. In turn, Giannis gives the Heat another star to pair with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

 

Royal Shepherd (@RoyalAShepherd) has written for several major newspapers, including the Tallahassee Democrat and the Augusta Chronicle, and now contributes to Five Reasons Sports.

Pressure Point: Can Miami Dolphins follow upward trend of Heat, Marlins?

In a year dominated by disease, division and disaster, the unexpected runs of the Miami Marlins to the playoffs and Miami Heat to the NBA Finals have been most welcome diversions for beleaguered South Florida fans.

OK, so the magic ran out. Both fell to earth with a thud. It doesn’t take away from the collective high.

And what happened Sunday in Santa Clara, California, sure felt like the possible passing of a torch for another improbable development that just might carry us through the rest of this godforsaken year, at least from a sporting perspective.

Dolphins 43, 49ers 17: Who saw that coming?

Sure, one can point to some notable 49ers injuries (premier pass rusher Nick Bosa out for the year), particularly at cornerback. Richard Sherman and K’Waun Williams are on the injured reserve. Fill-in Brian Allen, just up from the practice squad, was roasted alive by Ryan Fitzpatrick — much like Dolphins rookie corner Noah Igbinoghene was a few weeks back by Bills QB Josh Allen.

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, coming back from an ankle injury, was clearly not right and was pulled at halftime.

But the 49ers did come within a quarter of winning the Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in this calendar year before the world went on lockdown. Sunday, they still had players who got them there, like All-Everything tight end George Kittle. The Dolphins, who have struggled against tight ends for years, limited him to four catches and nothing longer than 12 yards.

And every prediction I saw going into the game had the 49ers winning handily.

Long time since Miami Dolphins . . .

Consider that the 43 points were the most by a 49ers opponent at Levi Stadium since it opened in 2014.

The Dolphins hadn’t scored 43 points on the road since 1986.

It was certainly unlike anything we’ve seen in 21 games of the Brian Flores era.

“I think it might be right at the top and I think if we just continue to practice and prepare the way we’ve been doing been, hopefully we’ll string some of these together,” Flores said.

Difficult to foresee where this Dolphins season will go from here, but it is instructive to see how far they have come in the past year.

Five games into 2019 they had scored a total of 42 points and allowed 180 while going 0-5 on the way to an 0-7 start before winning four of the last nine.

So this season, in which the objective is to show this roster reconstruction is making measurable progress, is trending in the right direction at this stage.

The other thing Sunday showed is that Tua Tagovailoa is going to be waiting a still-to-be-determined amount of time before he gets the reins to the offense.

Tua Tagovailoa stuck on hold

I was among those advocating the change after last week’s loss to the Seahawks, though I was correct in predicting that Flores would decline and say that Fitzpatrick gave the team the best chance to win.

He’s certainly not going to change his tune — or the quarterback — after Fitz posted a near-perfect 154.5 passer rating while leading an offense that generated 436 net yards and averaged 6.9 yards per play.

So we’ll just have to accept that it’s not Tua time yet.

Tough to argue when FitzMagic is the joy ride he was Sunday — unlike the FitzFlop of the previous week.

Meanwhile, other newcomers are making an impact, particularly on the offensive line, which has been as big of a struggle for this franchise to achieve as the quarterback travails of the past two decades.

Notably, rookie Robert Hunt, in his first start at right tackle, thoroughly compensated for the injury absence of impressive rookie left tackle Austin Jackson (Jesse Davis moved over to the left side). Hunt joined with guard Solomon Kindley, yet another rookie, in showing the Dolphins could have the making of a dominant right side for years.

Credit the additions of solid veterans Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras, plus holdover Davis, for a lot of the line’s success along with the three rookies.

Dolphins starting to jell

The much-maligned Miami defense turned in its best effort with five sacks and two interceptions. The secondary benefited from the return of cornerback Byron Jones, and Xavien Howard had an interception for the third consecutive game.

Second-year linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel continues to have an impact (sack, forced fumble) and Zach Sieler had a sack and stood out on the defensive front.

Overall, the Dolphins appear more cohesive than earlier in the season. Understandable, considering the absence of preseason games and the numerous newcomers playing key roles, that it would take a few weeks to begin to mesh.

It would be foolish just over a quarter of the way into the season to suggest the Dolphins might ride the coattails of the Heat and Marlins to a South Florida playoff trifecta.

But with the winless Jets up next, a .500 mark is within reach Sunday. There are some winnable games among the six that follow before the schedule turns treacherous again in December with the Chiefs, Patriots, Raiders and Bills.

There are signs the Dolphins are trending upward — such as, their plus-23 points differential.

Sunday’s Santa Clara stunner will only matter, though, if the Dolphins build on it. Who knows, if recent results of other local teams are a gauge, they just might surprise us.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Fiver demo pull

We, Heat Fans, Just Want Our Damn Respect

First, I would like to congratulate the Miami Heat organization on a marvelous season. The run made by this team should go down as one of the more remarkable displays of maximizing talent that this league has ever seen. It should. But it won’t.

 

The three reasons it won’t: 

 

  1. LeBron won another title. That will always be the story.
  2. The NBA was robbed of two potential matchups they’ve been pushing because Miami eliminated those teams ahead of schedule (Giannis vs. LeBron and Lakers vs. Celtics).
  3. It’s the Heat.

 

These things all point to the same conclusion — despite the temporary praise, the Heat will return to its all too familiar comfort zone of being underrated. Not by players, who watched as the Heat embodied what most of them believe is the right way to play the game, but to the general public that only listen to the Nick Wrights, Mike Greenbergs and Colin Cowherds of the world. 

 

All of that leads me to as a simple question. Is it too early for Heat fans to feel slighted? 

 

The reason I’m asking is because it hasn’t been 24 hours, but casual basketball fans and the national media are already trying to bury one of the greatest accomplishments in the Miami Heat’s history. In an effort to cheapen this team’s accomplishments, several commentators have credited our wins to the shortcomings of other teams. Conversely, talking heads have also used Miami as a punchline to try and poke fun at the validity of this championship.

 

Skip Bayless discredits Miami, per the usual, by claiming Miami should have been swept. 

 

He isn’t alone. CBS NBA reporter Sam Quinn predicted that Miami won’t return to the Finals again during the Jimmy Butler era because the circumstances surrounding the run aren’t sustainable. He doesn’t take into account the roster flexibility Miami will have with the number of free agents we have coming off the books or the amount of cap space the Heat will have to be major players in the 2021 market. 

 

In other tweets, he suggests Milwaukee and Dallas are more attractive free agent destinations because the Luka Doncic/Kristaps Porzingas duo is better than Bam and an aging Jimmy Butler.   

 

 

 

 

And then we have ESPN and their way too early Power Rankings where they have Miami listed 9th. 9th?!?!? There are some things in the world that cannot be explained. The placebo effect, Alf954’s uncontrollable hatred for Tony Brother’s eyebrows, Hassan Whiteside and this shit. How are the NBA’s first runner up behind two teams they beat (Milwaukee and Boston), a fully healthy team that didn’t push the Lakers nearly as hard as Miami with injuries (Denver), one of the biggest super team disappointments in recent memory (Clippers), a team that lost in the first round (Dallas), a non-playoff team (Golden State) and THE FUCKING 76ers.

 

 

Whatever, some things will never change. But some things do, like the trajectory of this franchise moving forward.

 

Royal Shepherd (@RoyalAShepherd) has written for several major newspapers, including the Tallahassee Democrat and the Augusta Chronicle, and now contributes to Five Reasons Sports.

PrizePicks

Week 5 NFL: Players to Watch in PrizePicks DFS

Week 5 of the NFL slate is here and PrizePicks has a ton of options to get you in the win column.

 

Offense is king in today’s NFL and the 2020 season has taken that to another level. Teams are putting up ridiculous totals each week and the defenses have yet to catch up. Will Week 5 finally be where the scales balance?

With many divisional matchups this week there are a lot of teams that know each other very well. This could lead to some surprising results, particularly with players not hitting their projections.

Ezekiel Elliott (Under 23.5)

Dallas is an 8.5 point favorite and should be able to pick up their second win against a Giants’ team that cannot score points. New York has a decent defense but Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott has been lighting it up this year. The G-men will try to take away something, and that could be Elliott. If the Cowboys are up big in the second half they could perhaps rest Elliott which would lower his chances of going over his projection.

 

Miles Sanders (Under 14.5)

The Eagles travel across the state to face an undefeated Steelers squad that has not allowed more than 21 points in any game this season. Meanwhile the Philadelphia offense has yet to eclipse 25 points and rank 28th in the NFL in yards. The Eagles pass defense is also an issue and this one could get ugly quick. If Philadelphia falls behind early that could take Sanders out of the mix somewhat, at least in terms of carries. Sanders is 4th on the team with 19 pass targets, but has only hauled in nine receptions this year.

Zach Ertz (Over 11.2)

 

While Sanders may be underutilized due to the score, Zach Ertz remains one of the few healthy receiving options on the Eagles. DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey will be out, so Carson Wentz will be looking in Ertz’s direction early and often. Ertz has not seen the volume of red zone targets (2) so far, but has caught both thrown his way and converted one into a touchdown. I expect him to at least double his red-zone target share in this one alone and is due for a solid outing.

Go to www.prizepicks.com and sign up with promo code: five.

 

Nesta Jade Silvera Miami Hurricanes

Five Reasons the Hurricanes can Shock Clemson

The Miami Hurricanes prepare for their biggest regular season test in years when they travel to face No. 1 Clemson.

Momentum is such a subjective thing to interpret.

Does it carry over, or slowly fade as the days become weeks in between competition?

After a thorough dismantling of Florida State 52-10 nearly two weeks ago, the Hurricanes must regain it in a hurry.

Clemson sits at the summit, where Miami has been before and could (perhaps) be on the precipice of reaching again.

We have sat here, waiting for The U to be “back”.

The quarterback question seems to be answered, and slowly the Hurricanes have built a team with both elite skill and improving depth.

What does it mean against a Clemson team that is the new standard.

Can the Hurricanes compete?

Clemson has separated themselves not only from the ACC pack, but most of college football as well.

There are very few weaknesses on the Tigers roster.

They probably have the two best players overall in Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne.

So how can Miami not only punch above their perceived weight, but land a knockout?

Here are five reasons for Hurricanes fans to have hope Saturday.

King and the offense limit mistakes

In order for the Hurricanes to pull off the upset they will need to play a near perfect game.

Virginia hung with Clemson despite two early turnovers and it was a 27-17 game in the third quarter.

Miami has a far superior team and D’Eriq King so far has taken care of the football.

 

The Hurricanes will need even more out of the running game as Clemson allows just 90 yards per game on 2.3 YPC.

For Miami to have a chance they will have to try and control the clock in order to keep Lawrence and the offense on the sidelines.

King must stay calm under pressure and take what the defense gives him, if he does so then…

Big plays could be there

If Clemson does have one area of concern it may be giving up big plays on defense.

They don’t give up a lot in terms of yards-per-game, but have allowed 13.89 yards-per-completion so far which ranks near the bottom of college football.

Miami has plenty of weapons and Clemson will have to guard sideline to sideline against the speed of the Hurricanes.

Look for Will Mallory and Brevin Jordan to be involved early, especially if King sees pressure from the Clemson front seven.

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is as aggressive as they come, Miami will have opportunities on the outside against single coverage.

 

Miami can actually run the football

So far Clemson has faced Wake Forest and Virginia in ACC play, two of the worst rushing offenses in the country.

Not surprisingly the Tigers held both in check, especially Wake Forest who managed just 37 yards in their matchup.

Miami offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has leaned on the ground game when necessary and may do so again.

The Hurricanes rank 12th in the nation with over 232 yards rushing per game, and 6th with a 5.86 YPC average.

 

Clemson has not seen a running game anywhere near what Miami brings, and the Hurricanes have three backs that can lead the effort.

The Miami offensive line is much improved and will need to bring it for 60 minutes against a tremendously deep Clemson defensive front.

If the up-tempo Hurricanes’ offense can keep Clemson from rotating in certain situations, perhaps they could wear them down some as the game progresses.

As long as the game is close in the second half, there is no reason to abandon the run game.

Pass rush and containment

One thing all quarterbacks hate is pressure, especially from the middle to collapse the pocket.

Trevor Lawrence has elite arm talent – accuracy and strength.

What may be nearly as difficult to contain is his ability to scramble and throw outside the pocket.

Miami has the athletes on the defensive side to set the edge but must remain disciplined at all times.

Lawrence has been sacked five times in two ACC games and was able to move the ball with his running ability against Virginia.

The Miami pass rush must be a factor and defensive coordinator Blake Baker will need to be aggressive like his counterpart Venables.

Clemson has not faced a defensive line that can do this:

 

One or two appearances by the Turnover Chain are a must for Miami to keep the game within reach.

Lawrence has yet to throw an interception this season, Miami has to force him to rush his decisions and make him feel the heat.

Hurricanes have nothing to lose

Miami enters the game as a double-digit underdog and if they can play a competitive game with Clemson it will not tarnish their standing much.

Manny Diaz has shown early in the season that he can have the team prepared and energized for big games. Rhett Lashlee has unleashed a high powered offense that balances the scales and the Miami special teams unit is much improved.

The Hurricanes are not expected to win by many and the pressure of victory is squarely on the Clemson side. Both Lashlee and Baker need to put the players in position to succeed and the team has to remain focused. Penalties have been an issue in their last two games that Miami was able to overcome, they cannot afford many mistakes Saturday.

Photo credit miamihurricanes.com.

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We will have a preview show for Miami and Clemson Thursday night at 7:30PM EST.

Follow us on Twitter @5ReasonsSports @5ReasonsCanes @DavidWEversole.

Houtz Special: ‘Tua Time’ on hold as Dolphins keep Ryan Fitzpatrick starter

Dolphins name Ryan Fitzpatrick the team’s starting QB vs. San Francisco. But how much longer must fans wait before it’s Tua Tagovailoa Time?

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play is better than a year ago, but the team expects more out of the grizzled veteran.

Through the first quarter of the 2020 NFL season, the Miami Dolphins currently sit with a mediocre 1-3 record.

Some might find the good in losing by 10 points to New England, 3 to Buffalo, and 8 points to Seattle. Yes, the team is probably better than its record leads us to believe. But at the end of the day, your record is everything. The Dolphins realize their hopes of being a playoff contender are slowly slipping away. We can definitely talk about the different issues with the secondary and pass-rush, and I’ll do that another day.

But Miami’s offensive woes currently fall on the shoulders of two individuals: Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. And the team’s 37-year-old gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick.

If you’re someone that likes to look at numbers, Fitzpatrick’s stats in 2020 are as follows:

98/142 completions for 998 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions

Those numbers are not good. But when you compare them to his stat line through four games last year, where he was benched for Josh Rosen off and on, we can all say; statistically, he’s playing much better. We also need to take into account the whacky offseason these players have had to deal with. But for a guy that knows the offense as well as anyone, he needs to play better. And Ryan Fitzpatrick would be the first person to admit that.

 

Whether or not he has the same velocity he once had and can make the same throws as The Left Arm of God is a discussion that needs to be had sooner rather than later. But I don’t think anyone believed heading into Sunday’s game vs. San Francisco; Brian Flores would make a change at quarterback.

Although, for a second, it did seem like it was possible.

Brian Flores is asked about the Miami Dolphins Quarterback situation after Monday’s loss to Seattle.

The very first question the Miami Dolphins head coach was asked at his Monday press-conference was simple. ‘Who’s going to be your quarterback on Sunday?’

“We’re still going through corrections of the game from yesterday. As a staff, we normally start talking about this this evening. ‘Fitz’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick) – I thought we moved the ball pretty efficiently yesterday. Look, I understand where everybody’s coming from with Tua (Tagovailoa). I get all that. At the same time, he’s a young player, he’s coming off the injury. So we’ll make the decision on the starter, but I would presume it’s going to be Fitzpatrick.”

Flores was later asked why he paused when asked the vital question about the team’s looming quarterback controversy.

He said this.

The pause was – we haven’t even gone through the corrections from the game. We’re actually in the middle of that right now, so it wasn’t based off of anything in the game. I hope you guys don’t take that the wrong way; but every week we come in on Monday evening after we make all the corrections. We’re a quarter of the way through the season now, so we’re going to obviously do an evaluation of our team from that standpoint. We try to play the guys we feel are going to help us turn this thing around and play better in situations that like red zone and two-minute and the fourth quarter; and that’ll be at all positions. So that was kind of a conversation we just had as a staff, so I guess that’s what gave me some pause. Not something from the game. We just talked about reevaluating everything – every position, every grouping and we always do that after every quarter, let’s say, and try to, moving forward, do the things that we’ve been doing well and try to continue to build on those and obviously improve anything where we haven’t had as much success.”

And then at 8:56 AM, before I even got to take a sip of my morning coffee, the Miami Dolphins official Twitter account answered the burning question.

BREAKING NEWS: Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the Miami Dolphins’ starting QB vs San Francisco

 

This news isn’t really a surprise to anyone.

I mean, look around. Things aren’t exactly normal. No one knows what’s going to happen over the next month. And at 1-3, Ryan Fitzpatrick shoulders the blame for 2/3 losses. But he also had a lot to do with Miami’s lone win of the season. We always knew it was a story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde with Fitzpatrick. One week he’s making unbelievable throws, like a magician. The next week he’s throwing two picks as the offense snails along to five field goals.

In Flores’ eyes, Ryan Fitzpatrick earned another chance to prove he gives the Dolphins the best chance to win. But for how much longer?

Before I go on my soapbox about Tua Tagovailoa, we need to address how wreckless Fitzpatrick has been when running the football. We all realize when Tua is eventually the starting QB, his success depends on his ability to stay healthy and elude hits. So, WTF is Fitzpatrick teaching Tua? You’re paying Jordan Howard a nice chunk of money to be your short-yardage back, let him take a beating.

Tua Time is right around the corner.

Some fans and analysts might be upset with Flores’s decision to keep Ryan Fitzpatrick, and that’s okay. I do think Tua gives this team the best chance to win. But once you hand the keys over to Tagovailoa, there’s no turning back. Fitzpatrick has put his ass on the line every opportunity he’s got in Miami and appears to be the perfect teacher for Tua. Maybe he does deserve another chance against a San Francisco team with injuries throughout the roster.

But what if Fitzpatrick starts the game with two costly mistakes? What if the team has no choice but to make a change at halftime. They sure AF are not going to call upon Jake Rudock, right. That would mean Tagovailoa isn’t healthy and according to Brian Flores himself, Tagovailoa has checked all the boxes from a medical standpoint.

No. He’s checked all the boxes from a medical standpoint. He has. Look, the honest thing from me is if he was my kid and he had a serious injury like that, I wouldn’t want his coach to be in a rush to throw him in there because of media pressure or anything like that. That’s kind of how I approach this situation and really all situations, the players. Essentially they are my kids. No one is going to pressure me into doing anything. When we feel like he’s ready to go, we’ll put him in.”

Final Yard

I know we’re all excited because we see what Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert are doing with their new NFL teams. And we are eager to see what Tua Tagovailoa can do not only for this offense but for this team. The entire franchise is relying on Tagovailoa to be the star quarterback he was at Alabama. The fanbase, everyone has waited 20 years for the Dolphins to have a QB with this type of talent; this type of ability to move around in the pocket. His pinpoint accuracy.

Tagovailoa has the potential to be the next great quarterback for a team that has had nothing but hope since #13 rode off into the sunset.

We’ve waited 20 years, what’s another week(or two) going to hurt?

***********************************************************************

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Check out this week’s episode of Yard Work with Alfredo Arteaga: 

https://youtu.be/6mjcL7fgBeE

It is time for Tua Tagovailoa to start at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins.

Pressure Point: Time for Miami Dolphins to turn to Tua Tagovailoa

Staying reasonably competitive with the Seattle Seahawks and MVP candidate Russell Wilson in a 31-23 loss Sunday is of little consequence for the Miami Dolphins.

It only served to set back the time table of their mission.

The 1-3 Dolphins are no playoff contender. This season is about the future, and it is time to take the next vital step in that direction.

Yes, it is time to take the wraps off Tua Tagovailoa.

I say that knowing full well coach Brian Flores doesn’t agree. He will say Ryan Fitzpatrick gives the Dolphins the best chance to win, despite plenty evidence on Sunday to the contrary.

Three promising drives deep into Seahawks territory in the first half netted only three field goals because Fitzpatrick wasn’t sharp. He couldn’t make the money throw when he needed it.

Unlike Wilson, who after the Dolphins pulled within 10-9 with 24 seconds remaining in the half, took the Seahawks 75 yards in four plays in the span of 21 seconds for a 17-9 lead.

Can’t win with field goals

There would be two more field goals in the second half before Fitzpatrick scrambled for Miami’s lone touchdown in the final two minutes with the Seahawks firmly in control.

Flores’ displeasure was evident: “For the most part I felt we moved it well. Fitz ran it, threw it, but at the end of the day you’ve got to finish in the red zone.”

Keep in mind, the Seahawks came in ranked 32nd — dead last — in pass defense and total defense. That’s right, worse than the Dolphins’ porous defense, which ranked 25th in both categories. Seattle was allowing 28.7 points a game, and their defense was banged up.

Yes, give the Miami defense a gold star for a commendable job against Wilson and keeping the Dolphins in the game until the final minutes — until Fitzpatrick threw the game-sealing interception.

But you’re not beating playoff-caliber teams with a flurry of field goals, as Flores also pointed out.

It is abundantly clear at this point what the Dolphins need.

They need to see if Tagovailoa is the talent he is touted to be.

Let’s see what Tagovailoa can do

Some intriguing footage appeared on Instagram last week of Tua scattering pinpoint completions around the field during Dolphins practice.

Right, it was practice. It proves nothing. But it sure whets the appetite to see what Tua can do in a game.

And for him to begin acclimating to the NFL, like Justin Herbert, taken one pick later in the draft, is doing quite well with the Los Angeles Chargers.

For those keeping track, Herbert was 20-of-25 for 290 yards and three touchdowns with a 137.9 passer rating in a 38-31 loss to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

By every indication, Tagovailoa is fully recovered from the serious hip injury that made it possible for the Dolphins to draft him with the No. 5 overall pick in April. Being active as the backup quarterback in each game so far verifies that.

The other vital question going into the season was whether a rebuilt offensive line would be adequate to protect a franchise quarterback. The play of the line has been the most positive development on offense for the Dolphins.

Rookies Austin Jackson and Solomon Kindley are not exhibiting the growing pains that generally come with first-year players immediately thrust into the starting lineup.

Rebuilt line passes early tests

Considering the line has newcomers at four of five positions — veterans Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras were also offseason additions — it is impressive how quickly it has messed as a unit, and with no preseason. Pass protection has been solid from Week 1 and run blocking has improved the past two games.

Now the line needs a playmaker working behind it. Fitzpatrick has served the Dolphins remarkably well, but FitzMagic isn’t taking this team anywhere meaningful after a 1-3 start.

This is not a knock on Fitzpatrick, who has been everything that could have been asked of a veteran leader and bridge quarterback for a rebuilding team.

He is a delightful personality and an inspiration with his daring dashes for first downs and touchdowns. Really, a marvel as a 37-year-old starting for the eighth team in a long career.

The bottom line on Fitzpatrick’s performance Sunday was no touchdown passes, two interceptions and a 66.4 passer rating.

“Red zone execution really falls on the quarterback,” Fitzpatrick said. “For me, I walk out of this game feeling terrible in that. I felt like there [were] a lot of guys on our team that played well enough to win and I, unfortunately, was not of them. When that happens and your quarterback doesn’t play up to his ability, then you’re not going to win a whole lot of games in this league.”

That sums up the frustration of the present. Plenty of reason to get started on finding out if Tua can change the narrative as soon as possible.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

 

Dolphins Stock up, Stock down vs Jaguars

Welcome back to another installment of Stock Up Stock Down. In Week 3 of the NFL, your Miami Dolphins traveled north to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in a clash of in-state rivals. On primetime television, we took care of business and got our first win of the year with a score of 31-13. There were a lot of positives as well as some things to work on. Let’s dive in and see who raised and who lowered their stock this past week.

Stock Up

 

Draft Class:

It’s getting to be a regular occurrence when we finish the game and see how impressive some of our rookies have been, but this past week it felt like they were of importance to the victory. Without understating how impactful both Austin Jackson and Solomon Kindley have been, I also want to give a lot of credit to Noah Igbinoghene. He, after getting torched all last week,  bounced back with a shut-down game where he didn’t let a pass completed to his intended receiver.

Robert Hunt continues to rotate and has solidified a role on the goal line, and finally, Brandon Jones, who has, from the first game, been impressive and continued his solid play by flying around everywhere. The fact these rookies are biting at such an early juncture of the season is very indicative of what we have uncovered because, as Bill Parcells famously said, “if they don’t bite when they’re puppies, they usually won’t bite.”

Team’s Response:

One thing I wanted to keep an eye on is how the team would respond to a close defeat the previous week. The team came out as a unit and from the opening whistle, dominated. The first offensive drive had a script which included a plethora of runs to Myles Gaskin, passes to DVP, Gesicki, Jakeem, and then a touchdown to Preston. Starting strong has not been a strength of ours under Brian Flores, so it was good to see the team play and execute to perfection. It’s up to the team to continue this momentum and prepare for a formidable opponent in the Seattle Seahawks.

Myles Gaskin:

Coming into this year, I think most people following the Dolphins assumed a rotation of Jordan Howard, Breida, and Laird/Gaskin but boy has Gaskin proven us all wrong. Myles got off to a scorching start on Thursday night when he got 50 yards on the opening drive. Gaskin took a stranglehold on the backfield carries this week, ending up with 22 carries for 66 yards and also tying DVP with five catches to lead the team for 29 yards. In total, we gave Myles 27 touches, which he turned into 95 yards from a player we expected little to no contributions from.

Ryan Fitzpatrick:

Fitzmagic is back, baby! Fitz did his thing all night long. From running the ball 7 times for an average of 5.8 yards per carry to only having 2 incompletions, Fitzpatrick seemed to be firing on all cylinders. At one point, he started the game 12 for 12, so he was locked in from the opening drive. One thing that is undeniable about Fitz is the amount of love and passion his teammates have for him. It’s never more apparent when you see Christian Wilkins running to celebrate with the offense after every TD.

After another solid week, it seems tone-deaf to even mention Tua, but that’s what happens when you draft a QB at five, and as much as I would love to see Tua play, he will have to earn it and prove to everyone he’s better than Fitz because just going to him for the heck of it, might not sit right with the team as a whole.

Stock Down 

Run D:

This has become too much of a regular occurrence for me to think it only falls on the players. Some may be thinking well the Jaguars did not crack 100 yards rushing total or even got close, and while that may well be true, it doesn’t show that with a 2/3 score lead throughout the game, the Jags had minimal opportunity to run evident by the 42 passes Minshew threw up. Unfortunately, on the few times, they did run, they gashed us each chance. Minshew carried three times for an average of 7.3 yards per carry as well as James Robinson getting 2 touchdowns and averaging 4.2 yards on just 11 carries. Eventually, Coach Flores will have to take a personal interest in fixing this because he was hired as a defensive guru who cannot improve our defense.

High Priced Free Agents:

It is looking more and more likely that this part of the article will stay here throughout the year. Elandon Roberts looks as lost as any rookie I have seen play. We brought him in as an LB/FB, but with Cox owning the FB position and getting next to nothing from the LB, what did we sign him for? Shaq and Ogbah also have to take some heat because the 2 things they were brought in to do was No.1 rush the passer and 2 stop the run, and after each passing week it feels like those 2 things are next to impossible to ask of them. They have shown nothing through 3 weeks of the season, and eventually, we will have to look at younger players such as AVG, Raekwon, and KGH. FYI KGH and AVG both got sacks.

Situational Football:

After the positive response the team gave this week, I did not want to bash the coaching staff too hard, but it still needs to be done. We had an opportunity at the beginning of the 3rd quarter at the Jacksonville 40-yard line, where we had a 3rd and 7 where Myles was only able to get 6. So, on 4th and 1, with the ability to all but end this game by putting it up to four scores, we decide too late in the shot clock run out the offense to line up with 2 seconds left not to run a play but get the delay of game penalty. Some might say I am too aggressive, but when will we begin to see our Return on Investment for all these picks and money we have spent on the o-line. Eventually, we have to believe we are the tough, physical team that Coach Flores wants us to be and go and get that 1 yard to ice the game. 

Overall this team grew in the four short days in between the Bills game and the Jags game. We need to continue to work on the things we struggled with and continue what we have already mastered. With ten days to prepare against a tough opponent like Seattle, we will need to be firing on all cylinders to hope to steal one from Russell Wilson and Pete Carrol. Till next time, Fins Up!

 

Drink It In, Heat Nation: Your Giant-Ass 2020 NBA Finals Preview

The Ultimate Miami Heat Playlist To Get You Ready For Game Time: Compiled By You, Heat Twitter

I asked and you delivered. Put this playlist on while you read this. Then put it on repeat every game day and get ready to run through a god damn wall. LET’S FUCKING GO.



The Block And The Importance of Being Cultured

Every NBA playoffs has a series-defining moment. And for the 2020 Miami Heat, it was The Block. The one where Bam ripped Jason Tatum’s soul directly from his body while sealing a Game 1 victory for the Heat and setting the tone for the rest of the series. Not only did Bam block the ever loving shit out of Tatum’s potential game-winning-oh-my-gahhh-Jason-Tatum-is-the-next-Kobe-hurrr-durrr dunk, he utterly wrecked everyone’s expectations of how this series would and should go. It was a block that woke up the basketball-watching to the fact that Bam Adebayo has arrived: fully armed and operational. It was a block that quieted all the Colin Cowherd mouth breathers of the world, not to mention alleged NBA scouts that called Bam’s matchup with Daniel Theis a wash (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA), and every single member of Celtics Nation — as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

If you could bottle #Culture, or at least encapsulate it with one image — it’s The Block.

The Block is a loaded cornucopia of how and why Miami Heat Culture works: A largely unknown and dismissed young player taken middle of the first round and cast off by the so-called experts taking on a highly touted Future Star one-on-one.

Jason Tatum, the Next Guy Up, the Celtics’ Golden Boy Chosen One Danny Ainge Is A Genius And Supposed Heir to Kobe Bryant, takes off towards the basket for a supposed monster dunk that would have made all of ESPN collectively climax into their pants. But he is suddenly and violently met by Bam at the rim. Bam, showing impossible strength and apparently a wrist made of hard rubber, emphatically blocks the attempt.

Clean, strong, with authority.

A nation cheers.

A world watches in awe.

The image is forever burned in our collective brains.

Holy and shit what a play.

And with that, all of what Culture is supposed to be — hard work, dedication, sacrifice, defense first, blood, sweat, courage, ego-aside, badassery — flashes before the NBA’s collective consciousness. The Block was more than just a brilliant defensive play, it was a message to the rest of the league that Heat Culture is open for business and, brother, business is A-BOOMIN. Heat Culture is the cure to what ails all your losing ways. Tired of losing? Come take up the Culture. Want to be the best player you’ve ever been? Come take up the Culture. Want a real shot at winning a title and upping your legacy? Come take up the Culture.

It’s why Andre Iguodala told reporters on Tuesday, “Every young guy should experience what Heat Culture is like because it sets them up for success their entire career.”

ARE YOU NOT LISTENING, GIANNIS? DO YOU NOT SEE, BRADLEY BEAL? HAVE YOU NOT WITNESSED, KAWHI?

Every kingdom LeBron James has ruled over has turned to sand upon his exit. The Cavaliers in 2010, the Cavaliers again in 2018, and we can only guess once he leaves L.A., and Anthony Davis goes too, how that will all turn out (history says: Not great, Bob!).

But the Miami Heat have remained.

The Miami Heat is the Infinity Stone.

Even after a few bad years wandering the wasteland of the Hassan Whiteside Era, bad contracts, and early playoff exits, the Heat still managed to right the ship by unloading bad players, refilling the coffers with young up-and-coming future All Stars, undrafted badasses who shoot lights out from downtown, and attracting top disgruntled talented vets like Jimmy Butler. The Heat are steady even as teams with once promising futures like the Cavs, Sixers, and Thunder all fall by the wayside.

Not only did Bam’s block usurp all other moments during these playoffs (and there are many “fuck yea!” moments, including the Heat dismantling Giannis and the Bucks, the sweep of the Pacers, Butler morphing into Playoff Jimmy), it sent a clear message:

Yes, we’re a fifth seed.

No, we weren’t expected to have gotten this far.

Yes, you can take your expectations and Vegas odds and roll them into a PVC pipe and shove them into your shit-hole.

The sheer impossibleness of that block is mind boggling. Bam, with his WEAK HAND, had to contort his body mid-air to not only contest Tatum, but meet him at the rim without putting a body on him as to not get a foul called by the shit-for-eyes officials. On the strength of an explosive hop and leap, Tatum brought the ball down full force, as he has a million times before in his career. And Bam somehow met all ball and pushed it back (again, with his WEAK HAND), stuffing the dunk and ending Tatum’s quest to be The Hero. It’s a block that needs to be sent to labs at NORAD and studied for decades to come.

Watch this nerd’s breakdown of how it was even better than we all think:

Things were never truly the same for the Celtics after The Block. Sure, they took two games in the series, but they also imploded in a locker room ruckus, wilted under the oppressive Heat zone defense, succumbed to The Baby Goat, and lost yet another Eastern Conference Finals, falling short of expectations and making ESPN very sad about the death of the dream of televising a Lakers-Celtics Finals where they could show more riveting images of Deuce Tatum on the sideline watching cartoons on an iPad.

And all of the experts’ insistence that Boston would storm back and take control of the series, and all of the hopes heaped upon Gordon Hayward’s Antebellum MAGA mustache, and all of Marcus Smart’s gritty-you-wish-he-was-on-your-team-flopping, and all of ESPN turning the camera on Jason Tatum’s kid every two minutes, could not and would not put it back together again.

Bam Adebayo’s block announced to the world that Culture is open for business, even as it takes care of business.

Bam’s block broke the Celtics.

Bam’s block made Paul Pierce shit his pants again (probably).

And it was all very beautiful.

And now we’re here.

Why This Whole Thing Matters

The Miami Heat are back in the Finals (!!!) And it matters. It matters because holy shit nuggets is it hard to get to this point. I mean, stupid hard. Never mind winning it. Just getting here is ridiculously difficult. Like, solving the Collatz Conjecture while someone taps you in the nuts with a ball-peen hammer difficult. So, let’s drink it up and enjoy every moment. DON’T TAKE OUR GREATNESS FOR GRANTED, DUMMIES.

Here’s the thing: Since 2000, only 14 NBA teams have reached the Finals. At the top, the Los Angeles Lakers (thanks to Kobe and Shaq and now LeBron and The Brow), getting there eight times. Know who comes in 2nd? YOUR MIAMI HEAT FUCK YEAH.

The Heat have now reached the NBA Finals six times, thanks mainly to Dwyane Wade and Shaq and then Dwyane Wade and his Two Amazing Friends (feat. Ray Allen). The Warriors have been there five times, as have the Spurs, and the Cavaliers (there’s LeBron again), then the Mavs (twice), and Celtics (also twice LOLOLO), and Pistons and Nets (twice). After that, we’ve seen the Raptors, Thunder, Magic, 76ers, and Pacers (remember Rik Smits? What a weird time that was) all getting there once each. That’s it. Out of 30 teams, 14 of them have Tenzing Norgay’d their way up the NBA mountaintop. And while the Heat have gotten there the second-most times (which in and of itself is fuckin bananas when you think about it), it’s really tough to get to this point.

Finals Appearances Since 2000
Lakers 8
Heat 6
Warriors 5
Cavaliers 5
Spurs 5
Mavericks 2

 

Celtics 2

 

Pistons 2
Nets 2
Raptors 1
Thunder 1
Magic 1
76ers 1
Pacers 1

The NBA Playoffs are a gauntlet-crammed crucible filled with rage-fueled barbarians in leather-and-spike thongs hurdling spears and tridents at your throat. It’s filled with collapsing ancient booby-trapped temples and man-eating sharks and giant boulders rolling down hills from secret chambers. You have to not only be gifted at putting the ball into the hoop more times than the other team, but you have to have the mental toughness of a Shackleton and the physical dexterity of that guy in the meme with the giant cock (don’t Google it, trust us, let’s just move on) to get through it unscathed.

Point is, this moment right here, right now, is a rare one. It’s never guaranteed. And it can never be taken for granted. The moment we start thinking “oh we’re going to be here every year” is the moment we all collectively become the 2008 Celtics. Fuck that.

10 Most Important Miami Heat NBA Playoffs Moments Ranked

1. Dwyane Wade Announce His Presence With Authority In the 2006 NBA Finals: The franchise’s first ever trip to the Finals, which culminated in their first-ever title. There was old Shaq, acquired via a trade with the Lakers a season ago, trying to win one without Kobe. And there was Alonzo Mourning, fresh off his kidney failing him, staring at the eternal abyss that consumed other Greats To Never Win A Title Like Barkley, Malone, Ewing, and countless others. And there was Coach Pat Riley, telling his guys to pack only one suit and dunking his head into a vat of ice water until he almost died to show his guys what it took to win (Pat Riley is fucking crazy!) And there was young Dwyane Wade who, when facing an 0-2 series deficit that included the city of Dallas already mapping out the championship parade route, said, “Fuck this! I’m not going out like that!” and then proceeded to ram his fist into the Mavericks’ collective chests and pull out their spinal cords and skulls like Predator to add to his trophy case. Wade basically singlehandedly won the ’06 Finals, becoming the youngest player to win Finals MVP since Magic Johnson, and the first shooting guard to win Finals MVP since Michael Jordan. This was the Finals that put the Heat on the map as a world class organization. The Finals that announced to the world that D-Wade had joined the chat. The Finals that cemented Riley’s promise of a parade down Biscayne Blvd. This is the one that started it all.

2. The Shot: When you have a play that can be instantly recognized by its own name, you know it’s fucking iconic.

3. Young Dwyane Wade Takes Down the New Orleans Hornets: “Stan Van Gundy went to the rookie and he delivered! Haha! Listen to the crowd, baby.”

4. LeBron’s First Title: LeBron James’ legacy as one of, if not the, greatest players in NBA history has already been cemented. And when they do a career retrospective whenever he decides to hang em up, the first clip they’ll inevitably show is his chase-down block on Andre Iguodala in the 2016 Finals. Followed by all the hoopla about him bringing a championship to a title-starved city of Cleveland, followed by other frivolous bullshit. But never forget — his very first title was with the Miami Heat. This is where he learned how to win. This is where he’ll have won the majority of his career titles. This is where it began. They can hate and hate and hate all they want. But that doesn’t change this one irrefutable fact: This is where LeBron James broke his Larry O’Brien cherry.

5. LeBron’s Cobradick Game 6 vs The Celtics: With the Heat facing an embarrassing elimination and the certain avalanche of shit to come from fans and media alike in the wake of failure, they traveled to Boston where it was win-or-end the grand experiment. The stakes had never been higher, for him or the Heat. So, with Boston fans breathing down their drunken assholery all over the team at the Garden, and no one knowing how shitty the Heat role players might be on this particular night, one man had the coal fire nuts to make a stand against the sea of green douche and obliterate their hopes and dreams into a fine powder: LeBron Raymone James, aka COBRADICK. 45 points, 15 rebounds. An underly devastating performance. The game would catapult the Heat into a Game 7 win and an eventual Finals win. This game also gave us the most iconic LeBron image ever, which the internet insists on using to plaster other people’s faces on because the internet is filled with fucking hacks.

6. The Block: Bam Adebayo serving up rectum sandwiches to every dipshit who thought he was just some guy. And against that team, of all teams. Somewhere Bill Simmons is walking his dog, sad texting his dad and his buddies Sully and Bean-O. No matter what happens from here on out, The Block is a seminal moment that lives in Heat Lore forever.

7. Purple Shirt Guy: It was 2016 and Dwyane Wade, post-Big Three, wasn’t considered the spry young warrior he once was. The Heat entered a slugfest with the Charlotte Hornets that went seven games. The Heat dropped Games 3, 4, and 5 to a team lead by Jeremy Lin and his manbun. To make matters worse, at every Charlotte home game, some doucher in a purple shirt sitting court side endlessly taunted Wade and the Heat from the opening tip. He became a media darling, because he was rich and wore a purple shirt and because he actually took credit for those three Charlotte wins. So when a win-or-go-home Game 6 on the road rolled around for the Heat, there he was — Purple Shirt Guy, choosing to once again taunt Dwyane Wade. He chose poorly. Wade went on to personally kick any hopes of the Hornets taking the series headfirst into a ditch and then promptly introduced Purple Shirt Guy’s asshole to his foot a few dozen times. Not only did the Legend of Dwyane Wade successfully murder the shit out of Purple Shirt Guy’s bullshit, sending him away into obscurity, forever banishing him into The Forbidden Zone, the Heat went and won Game 7 as well, taking the series from Charlotte’s cold dead hands. Dwyane Wade was awesome, in case you didn’t know.

8. The Other Block: Fuck a Danny Green. CB Forever.

9. Dwyane Wade’s Dunk On Kendrick Perkins: Look, I know he’s suddenly our friend and coined the nickname Dem Goons From Dade. But he’ll always be Moose Pussy to OG #HeatTwitter. A big menacing oaf who only knew how to hack players and run his big dumb mouth. So when D-Wade took it to him on this ridiculous dunk in Game 1 of the 2013 Finals, leaving Perkins a heaping pile of ash under the basket, it was one of the most satisfying moments in Heat Finals history (Edit: The video above is from a regular season game but we’re keeping it up because, fuck Kendrick Perkins)

10: Mike Miller’s Shoeless Three: Remember how Mike Miller ran around like a mix of the Scarecrow and Tin-Man, all flailing injured limbs, held together with duct tape and gum? And then remember when he came into the game and turned the tide with his 3-point shooting prowess WITH ONE SHOE. Mike Miller is fuckin awesome.

 

Erik Spoelstra Is the Best Coach in the NBA Right Now, or How I Learned To Hate The Analytics Nerds’ Unearned Love For Brad Stevens

Ever since the Celtics hired Brad Stevens back in 2013 and all throughout the time since, we’ve had to deal with the ceaseless yammering of a million whining gravy-stains-on-their calculators analytic nerds about how Brad Stevens is supposedly the best and brightest coach in the NBA because he likes math and defense or some such horsecockery. And that Spo, for all his winning, was only successful because he had the luxury of having LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh suit up for him. Because Brad Stevens only coaches sock puppets and not an actual NBA team filled with All Stars and big-play guys, apparently.

So, as these things go, it was time to settle this nonsense once and for all in this year’s Eastern Conference Finals. Stevens and his team of really good players versus Erik Spoelstra and his Wade-less, LeBron-less seemingly less-talented, grungy-ass dog squad.

And then Spo proceeded to make things bad for Stevens and worse for the pasty basketball podcast nerds.

In just six games, Spo settled the argument by reaching into Brad’s high-waisted mom jeans and tearing out his proverbial heart through his proverbial asshole with his beautiful basketball mind.

Spo has always had the “disadvantage” of having coached Wade and LeBron in terms of those things counting against whether he’s an elite coach or not. Never mind that these same people consider Phil Jackson the greatest coach ever even though he’s never won a title without Jordan or Pippen or Kobe or Shaq, and never mind that LeBron had his most dominant years in a Heat uniform. Spoelstra finally had a chance to show the world his meddle. And he showed them the shit out of his meddle.

So enough already with crowning a guy as the best when he hasn’t won jack dick in the NBA.

Erik Spoelstra is the best coach in the league. Period. Done. Shove your unearned love of Brad Stevens into an Elon Musk billion dollar fart rocket and shoot it directly into the sun.

 

2020 Finals Storylines Ranked


1. LeBron vs Riley: Everyone talking about this series say that this is the main narrative of these Finals and they’re damn right. The Heat getting here six years after LeBron left, showing up with a rag tag group of hard-working Culture-fueled warriors built in the mold of a Pat Riley team. LeBron versus the team that gave him his first two rings. A dog fight shall ensue, and LeBron knows it. The LeBron-Riley breakup has been mired in messiness, pettiness, and bitterness over the years. There’s mutual respect, to be sure. And the two men are cut from the same competitive cloth. But LeBron left Pat hanging high and dry when he left, not alerting the team of his intentions of going back to Cleveland, and reportedly treating a World Cup game on TV more important than a one-on-one meeting with Riley. In turn, Riley threw shade at LeBron, making comments about guts, and agendas, and not leaving when things get hard. Two GOATS. It’s great.

2. Riley vs Lakers: Pat Riley cut his teeth with the Lakers. Lakers fans love him. Wild that, after all these years, they’re finally facing each other in the Finals.

3. Jimmy’s Collective Fuck You To His Doubters: It’s crazy that just a little over a year ago, Jimmy Butler was introduced as the newest member of the Miami Heat. Everything that transpired to get him here is amazing. From Dwyane Wade leaving us after things turned sour with Pat Riley and he signed with the Bulls where he met Jimmy and proceeded to plant the seeds of Heat Culture into Jimmy’s brain, to Jimmy having to endure an awful time in Minnesota, to him then being traded to a championship contenting Sixers team, to having a balls-out playoffs series performance against the Raptors that was lost by an improbable shot made by Kawhi Leonard, to the Sixers deciding he was the problem and shipping him off, to Riley pouncing on all that, to the experts saying Jimmy whined his way out of Philly to go to the wrong team — a team that would only end up being a pathetic first round exit to…… well…… HERE. THE NBA FINALS. Holy shit what a ride. And now Jimmy Butler is where he belongs. And no, he did not suffer a first-round exit with the wrong team. He led that team into the NBA Finals.

 

6 Reasons The Heat Can Win

1. They Can Be The 2011 Mavericks (or the 2004 Detroit Pistons): The Heat are once again entering a series as an underdog and it’s appropriate that this run ends with the Final Boss Battle against LeBron and Anthony Davis. So, the Heat have their work cut out for them. But, as we’ve seen against the favored Bucks and again against the favored Celtics, it’s not an impossible task. We’ve seen Davids take down Goliaths in the NBA Finals before. The 2004 Pistons shocked the world when they defeated Kobe, Shaq, and the mighty L.A. Lakers. And then there was the heart-wrecking pain that was the 2011 Finals when the Mavericks beat LeBron and the Heat. If the Heat can key in on the Big Two, clog the paint and force L.A. to shoot, and muck things up with their vaunted Zone defense, knock down their threes, stay aggressive in attacking the rim, they have a puncher’s chance. We’ve seen LeBron get outplayed and man-handled by a scrappy JJ Barea. Now he has to face a full squad of scrappers. It’s very possible the Heat can do this, especially if they can frustrate LeBron and defuse the Anthony Davis bomb.

2. Jimmy Buckets Turns Into Jimmy Cojones: Jimmy has been ferocious in these playoffs. He’s also had moments where he’s vanished. Those moments usually meant a Heat loss (only 3 of them). So we have Jimmy Buckets, which consists of heady plays and drive and kicks and whatnot and that’s all good and fine. But to have a chance against these Lakers, we need more than Jimmy Buckets. We need Jimmy Cojones. Jimmy Cojones flexes his nuts and rescues his team from certain doom. Jimmy Cojones just doesn’t set up his teammates, or dive for loose balls. Jimmy Cojones takes shit over. He attacks the basket, he makes threes, he knocks down jumpers, he plays suffocating defense and causes turnovers. Jimmy Cojones incinerates his opponents into a fine powdery ash. Jimmy Cojones doesn’t do pushups, he pushes down the Earth. Jimmy Cojones is a badass motherfucker. We need Jimmy Cojones.

3. Tyler Herro Unlocks BABY GOAT Mode and Fucks Shit Up Good And Proper: The stage has been set for young Tyler to show the world that he belongs in the conversation of Future Ball Wreckers of the NBA. From Magic to D-Wade, the Finals have had their share of young players announcing their greatness with championship performances. Tyler has shown he can go all NBA JAMS ON FIRE and take over games. With all the talk about Luca and Booker and Tatum being Next Up, it just might be 20-year-old Tyler Herro that gets there first.

4. MECHA BAM: Remember when Godzilla fucked up all of Japan and then they had to build a mechanical Godzilla to keep the original Godzilla for wreaking more havoc? Mecha Godzilla was the baddest monster on the block. That’s what we need from Bam in this series. We need more than Bam. We need MECHA BAM. Expect the Lakers to throw all of the big men at Bam. AD, Howard, JaVelle — they’re all going to get a crack at him. But, just as he showed against Boston, Bam has the ability to turn on the thrusters and take the fuck over. We’re going to need more Game 6 Against Boston Bams to win this series, and we believe he has it in him.

5. GORAN BEING DRAGON: Goran Dragic has been playing out of his Slovenian mind in these playoffs. He’s the engine that makes this thing go, and you know he’s going to come out ALL DRAGON in his first-ever Finals appearance. We’re going to need The Dragon more than ever. It’s his time.

6. The X-Factors: Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder were brought here because of their defensive prowess, to be LeBron stoppers. They came through big in the Eastern playoffs. Now it’s time to sweep the damn leg. Then there’s guys like Kelly O, and even Solomon Hill. Shit we might even see Meyers Leonard. All hands on deck. Aside from Jimmy, Goran, Bam, and Tyler, someone else is going to need to make their mark — the kind made by Shane Battier and Mike Miller and Birdman before them.

Prediction

Heat in 4.

Why in 4?

Chris Joseph (@ByChrisJoseph) is a host of the Five Reasons comedy and politics podcast, Ballscast. He’s written about sports and movies for Deadspin, Miami New Times, CBS Sports, and several other outlets.