A: The fact that they were joined hours later by the Spurs, as the only teams at this point to advance, says plenty about teams that have far greater designs than merely a first-round series. Yes, the Heat had a few uneven moments against the Bucks, but there never was doubt at the end of any of the four games. Right now, Heat-Spurs is looking like where this all is headed. Figure both coaches actually will play their regulars if that happens.
Q: Ira, I live near Chicago (unfortunately) and have to deal with nothing but obnoxious Bulls fans year-round. My worst sports nightmare would be Chicago upsetting Miami in the second round. What do you think is the possibility of this actually happening? -- Jake.
A: I would never, ever assume anything against a team coached by Tom Thibodeau, who not only gets his players to run through walls, but commands respect to the point where his players then would stay to clean up the mess. And then there is the whole Derrick Rose thing. Even if Rose is limited, he and Nate Robinson would at least give an offensively challenged team a pair of potential streak scorers.
Q: Once again, Udonis Haslem quietly does his job. -- Steve.
A: When he's hitting that midrange jumper, it opens up so much in the offense. And he was very aggressive in the paint against a Bucks roster with plenty of length. Keeping him in the starting lineup proved prudent by Erik Spoelstra.
APRIL 28, 2013
Q: What has the Heat-vs.-Bucks series proved? That the NBA can figure out how to collect revenue for four extra playoff games? Does the NBA ever worry about putting out a product that isn't compelling? You have to admit these games have been hard to watch from an excitement standpoint. -- Steve.
A: As has been the case for much of the Eastern Conference playoffs, save for Saturday's Nets-Bulls epic, a triple-overtime thriller, albeit with its share of uneven moments. The West long has been known for its more creative play, and that certainly has been the case in the wonderful, visually appealing Nuggets-Warriors series. But the slog in the East, I agree, has been almost painful to endure. And that might not change, with the physical style the Bulls and Pacers are expected to deliver to the second round.
Q: I guess Jason Terry will be having drinks with Brandon Jennings soon. They can talk about their predictions. -- Stuart.
A: To Terry's credit, he at least has a championship ring to back up some of the boasts. But anyone who thought he could serve as a replacement for Ray Allen in Boston had a rude awakening this season. When your highlight moment of a season is getting posterized by LeBron James, well, it hasn't been much of a season. As for Jennings, I give him credit for his gumption. At least his Milwaukee-in-six prediction got someone to notice the Bucks. Now whether Jennings' play in the Heat series costs him on the free-agent market this summer is another story.
Q: Ira, will Dwyane Wade be worth a max deal in 2014? Wade's knees are shortening his career by the day and the Heat have to look at the future. With LeBron and Chris Bosh as free agents in 2014, do you believe they want to play three or four more years with a player who may not be able to play over 25 minutes in the future? -- John, Ocala.
A: Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg have been very creative with contracts and I believe that will be the case with Dwyane when he comes to the end of his current deal (with an increased possibility now that he does not opt out in 2014 or 2015, but rather allows the contract to expire in 2016, knowing he may not get the annual salaries he already has in place).
APRIL 27, 2013
Q: Ira, this is the worst playoff season ever, at least eight of the top 30 NBA players are out with injuries. -- Omied, Los Angeles.
A: Well, in some cases, like with Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Danny Granger or even Kobe Bryant, it has nothing to do with the playoffs. And while there have been plenty of freak injuries along the way, from Russell Westbrook to David Lee, it doesn't seem out of the realm to question whether the NBA season is too grueling, just as NFL players have fought a longer season in their sport. Sure an ACL or Achilles can go at any time, but the pressure to play in so many games well may be exacerbating injuries. Joakim Noah, in his diminished state, certainly is an example of that. As the 2011-12 lockout schedule showed, there simply don't have to be 82 games. Now if only the players would agree to a commensurate salary rollback.
Q: With Russell Westbrook out, who do you think will face the Heat in the Finals? -- Carl, Kapaa, Hawaii.
A: Well, "if" the Heat again make the Finals, you'd have to figure San Antonio now holds the upper hand in the West. But I wouldn't count out the Clippers, who have a depth of talent, if not necessarily a playoff-level halfcourt offense.