Mar 6, 2013, 1:55 PM EDT
As you may have heard, the Chicago Blackhawks are on quite a roll.
As you also may have heard, so too are the Miami Heat.
You may also have heard some national pundits
yelling at clouds discussing which streak is more impressive — Chicago going 23 games without a regulation loss, or Miami winning 15 in a row.
In the spirit of healthy debate (as opposed to loud noises), I reached out to ProHockeyTalk’s Jason Brough for a pleasant email exchange.
To: Jason Brough, ProHockeyTalk
From: Kurt Helin, ProBasketballTalk
Gentlemen, we have been brought here to discuss what seems to be the sports bar debate of the week — at least in some mythical sports bar where the NHL and NBA demographics overlap — and that is the Miami Heat streak of 15 straight wins vs. the Chicago Blackhawks streak of 23 games in a row earning a point.
The challenge is, this isn’t even comparing apples and oranges. It’s more like comparing apples and barbecue brisket. But because of my giving nature, I’m willing to concede one point from the start — the Blackhawks streak is already historic to its sport in a way the Heat streak is not yet. I think it’s just hard for some basketball (and maybe general sports fans) to get their arms around what the Blackhawks streak means, really. So, what does it mean?
From Jason at ProHockeyTalk: Oh, so that’s how you’re going to play this. Like a respectable human being. I was thinking we were going to argue LIKE THIS and belittle one team’s remarkable accomplishment, because that’s what sports in the modern age is all about. Think of the page views! But I guess if you want to be boring, I’ll just answer your question politely.
Of all the remarkable things about the Blackhawks’ streak, perhaps the most remarkable is this: It’s really, really hard to build a dominant team in the NHL, where unlike the NBA with its luxury-tax system, there’s a hard salary cap. Chicago’s cap payroll is about $67 million. The lowest cap payroll in the NHL belongs to Phoenix, at about $50 million.. And let’s not forget the best hockey player can, at best, play half the game. Nobody sits on the bench all game, except the backup goalie. Oh, and by the way, the ‘Hawks’ backup goalie has been great this season. Have the Heat been getting unexpected contributions, or has it mostly been LeBron?
Kurt: Oh, I’m not going to stay respectable — WE ARE GOING TO ARGUE! I expect we will degenerate into a dozens battle soon.
First though, it’s not just been LeBron James, although he remains the best basketball player walking the planet and that’s a good guy to have on your team. LeBron’s playing at a Jordanesque level right now and while that pisses off people who hate LeBron/want to defend Michael Jordan (as if he actually needs defending) it’s just a fact. But like I said it’s not just LeBron, Dwyane Wade has been great during the streak. In his last five games Wade has been averaging 27.4 points a game on 59 percent shooting. Chris Bosh has had good games. They are defending. It’s a team thing, just with LeBron as the head of the snake.
Here’s where I see the streaks as different — the ‘Hawks streak is meaningless come the playoffs. Last season the eight-seed Kings won the Stanley Cup and got to take it around Manhattan Beach all summer. Playoff hockey and regular season hockey seem largely unrelated, and while Bill James and his stats friends embrace the randomness it means that this streak is dead come the playoffs. It’s seeding and nothing more. In the NBA, only one team outside a top three seed has won a title since going to this playoff format (and that Rockets team traded for Clyde Drexler midseason). What the Heat are doing will carry over to the games that matter. What the ‘Hawks are doing becomes irrelevant. Go ahead, tell me I’m wrong.
PHT’s Jason: You’re wrong.
Not insanely wrong, but wrong nonetheless. It still helps to have home-ice advantage in the playoffs. And in a league like the NHL, where parity reigns, any advantage is worth having. Have you seen the atmosphere at the United Center for ‘Hawks games? Let’s just say, it doesn’t have the same sad, Derrick Rose-less feel as when the Bulls play. Chicago will take as many home games as it can get. As for the Kings, they were far from a typical No. 8 seed. They badly underachieved during the regular season given the players on their roster. (Sort of like another Los Angeles team you may be familiar with, though I’m not sure that one can win a title.) Plus, the Kings got Jeff Carter in a late-season trade. Not sure he had the same impact as Clyde with the Rockets, but he did score eight times in the playoffs, tied with Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar for the team lead.
That said, I will give you this: the Blackhawks are beatable. Do you think the Heat are beatable?
Kurt: If you keep insulting basketball I’m going to bring up how foolish the NHL looked during its lockout. That was embarrassing. The NBA would never… oh, wait. Nevermind.
I heard an interesting thing All-Star weekend from a person with another team, who said the Spurs actually are the team best suited to beat the Heat. San Antonio has veterans who have won, they move the ball very well and move off the ball (which is how to attack the Miami pressure), they have Tim Duncan and the size to score inside, and they have role guys who buy the system. It makes sense. Except I don’t see the Spurs getting past the Thunder (they couldn’t last year and the Thunder are improved). So while no team “can’t be beat” it’s hard to see how anyone beats the Heat if they are focused. And the reason they have won 15 in a row is they are focused.
Speaking of lockout, I’m curious — how are guys holding up physically? The reduced recovery time of a condensed schedule wore down NBA players and, while the NBA is a physical league (just ask Blake Griffin), the NBA doesn’t allow checking and full contact.
(Unless it’s from J.J. Barea, then it’s just cute.)
PHT’s Jason: How are guys holding up? The answer is, not well. Granted, how much all the injuries we’re seeing in hockey has to do with the lockout is impossible to say. But I feel like I’ve written the word “groin” more than usual this season. And not in the “Serge Ibaka slapped one” way.
In fact, if the Blackhawks are going to be stopped, injuries may be what does it. So far, they’ve been pretty lucky in the health department. Dave Bolland and Corey Crawford have missed some time, but that’s nothing compared to what teams like the Flyers, Red Wings, Senators, Blues, and others have experienced. Fingers are always crossed in the NHL, especially when you have key players with concussion histories, as the ‘Hawks do with Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook. But for now, everyone’s enjoying the ride. The Blackhawks host struggling Colorado tonight and get the Avs again Friday night in Denver. Then it’s Edmonton and Columbus, two more bad teams. Which is to say, this streak could go on for a while longer. Jinx!
Kurt: Frankly, we’ve all been typing “groin” too much this season.
So to sum up, you admit that the Heat streak is better than the Blackhawks’ and that hockey is the sport for people who can’t understand the subtleties of NASCAR. At least that’s what I got out of it. Maybe you saw it differently.
PHT’S Jason: Basketball sucks.
Jun 18, 2013, 8:50 PM EDT
It is elimination game time — welcome to the PBT Live Blog for Game 6 of the NBA Finals. San Antonio has the 3-2 series lead now they have a chance to close it out on the road, do that and it builds the legacy of a Spurs team that will challenge the Lakers for…
Jun 18, 2013, 8:39 PM EDT
MIAMI — Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra hinted that a lineup change might be possible in advance of Game 6, but wasn’t going to reveal it until absolutely necessary. “I’ll turn in my card at 45 minutes,” he said. There was no lineup change to be found when the time came, however, as three-point specialist…
Jun 18, 2013, 6:44 PM EDT
Miami has gone very small against the Spurs — and it worked at first, the Heat won a game and forced the Spurs to adjust to them. However a consequence of that has been Chris Andersen has slid out of the rotation. The Birdman’s size was key against the large Pacers front line last series,…
Jun 18, 2013, 5:59 PM EDT
Kansas’ Ben McLemore was pretty much a top three pick on everybody’s board a month ago, but he may be sliding down some boards right now. In part that is because the smooth-shooting guard out of Kansas didn’t help his cause in some recent workouts, reports Chad Ford at ESPN.com (Insider). Multiple sources told me…
Jun 18, 2013, 5:40 PM EDT
I know, there’s some irony to Chris Bosh talking about physical play. But the thing is, he’s right — the Miami Heat have to come out with their best defensive effort they are not going on to a Game 7. They need to stick with shooters on the perimeter, make crisp rotations and stop cheating…
Jun 18, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT
No. The Spurs could lose Game 6 and then win Game 7 to win the title. Previously: Is Game 5 a must-win for the Spurs or Heat?
Jun 18, 2013, 3:24 PM EDT
Although the Celtics would be in a tough spot if they don’t trade with the Clippers, Los Angeles doesn’t face the same pressure. Acquiring Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and maybe Paul Pierce is one option of many. The Clippers will continue interviewing Lionel Hollins, Brian Shaw and Byron Scott, and if they choose the best…
Jun 18, 2013, 3:16 PM EDT
Monta Ellis has told the Milwaukee Bucks he is opting out of the $11 million he is owed next season become a free agent this summer. As noted at the time, it would be interesting to see what teams would go after a volume shooter — he scored 19.2 points a game but shot just…
Jun 18, 2013, 2:28 PM EDT
While the NCAA and its ridiculous rules force American college players to make their draft decisions much earlier, international players and those not in college have longer to make their decision. That deadline was today and 18 players pulled out the league announced. The biggest one we already knew, Dario Saric of Croatia. DraftExpress had…
Jun 18, 2013, 2:07 PM EDT
If the Celtics-Clippers trade is indeed dead – and like Kurt, I have my doubts – the offseason doesn’t get any easier for the Celtics. Boston is obviously ready to move on from Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers, at least if it nets a certain combination of DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe and first-round picks and…
Jun 18, 2013, 1:41 PM EDT
Legacies are always on the line in the NBA Finals. I wrote about that earlier and Kay Adams and I talk about the impact of legacy if the San Antonio Spurs win Game 6 Tuesday night. She also calls me out for that Heat is 6 prediction. As she should.
Jun 18, 2013, 1:24 PM EDT
Danny Green has been on fire, setting a record with 25 three pointers made — he’s passed Ray Allen and has the record for most threes in the NBA Finals. He just doesn’t seem to miss, having shot 65.8 percent from deep this series. What is stunning is the quality of looks he’s getting —…
Jun 18, 2013, 12:45 PM EDT
Trade deals come back to life more often then Freddy Krueger. I’m not willing to believe this deal is dead until I see real evidence. Meaning the Clippers hire another coach (Lionel Hollins, Brian Shaw or Byron Scott) or the Celtics announce they will keep Paul Pierce and not buy him out. Until then, anything…
Jun 18, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT
Only LeBron James could average 21.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2.2 steals a game through the NBA Finals and look like he is being passive and not doing enough. He has for much of the NBA Finals looked like the physically best player on the floor but one that couldn’t impose his will…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:14 AM EDT
And the people wearing tinfoil hats start screaming, “I told you so, the end of the world is neigh.” The NBA has announced that Joey Crawford will lead the crew of official in Game 6 that also includes Mike Callahan and Ken Mauer. This is the second game this series that Crawford — the most…
Jun 18, 2013, 9:54 AM EDT
As a parent, I read these stories and I cringe for the children. They are being used as pawns in the parents’ fights. Yesterday we told you how Allen Iverson’s ex-wife filed court documents that Iverson had kidnapped his children. Those children are now back with his wife and Iverson told the judge he never…
Jun 18, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT
There is no doubt — Danny Green has been fantastic in the NBA Finals Look at his shooting chart, it is ridiculous from three. Green has knocked down 25 threes through five games, the NBA record, shooting 65.8 percent from beyond the arc. He has averaged 18 points a game. He has been key to…
Jun 18, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra asked the most pertinent question about Game 6 just after the end of Game 5: “Can we put together our best game on both sides of the floor in Game 6?” Over the course of a long NBA season the San Antonio Spurs built very good habits as a team —…
Jun 18, 2013, 2:42 AM EDT
Manu Ginobili starts hot, Danny Green knocks down threes, and every time the Heat make a run the Spurs are there with an answer. All series long the Spurs have had answers — they are the best counter-punchers in the league, the best team at forcing you into tough decisions then exploiting your mistakes. And…
Jun 18, 2013, 2:19 AM EDT
The Clippers and Celtics keep inching toward a deal. A much-discussed one that would send Kevin Garnett and the rights to sign coach Doc Rivers to Los Angeles. The Celtics would get DeAndre Jordan and a pick or two. The sides are close but there is no deal yet so they will talk again Tuesday,…
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