Barry Jackson: What network analysts are saying about the Heat and NBA Finals and Miami’s title chances

Tribune Content Agency

Some feedback from network voices on the Heat and the matchup against Denver in the NBA Finals:

— ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins (and he said this after just one game of the Celtics series): “They are a legit championship caliber team. When you look at how they play, they play with an agenda-free basketball, they’re disciplined on the defensive side.

“What makes up a championship team? Let’s go down the check list. They have shooting: Max Strus, Duncan Robinson, Gabe Vincent, Kyle Lowry, Kevin Love.

“When you talk about interior defense, Kevin Love taking charges, Bam Adebayo blocking shots, being able to defend out on the perimeter.

“When you talk about leadership, they have that in Udonis Haslem, Kevin Love and Kyle Lowry. Those guys are champions. Jimmy Butler is leading on the floor.

“They have the best coach in basketball. They have one of the best defensive teams in basketball. They lead the league in charges taken. What else do we need to see out of them?

“They have everything and more to go out and win the championship and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. When you look at this team, where are they lacking? They’re not lacking in shooting. They’re not lacking in coaching.”

And Perkins says: “Denver hasn’t seen a team like the Miami Heat. We don’t give the Heat enough credit for all the misdirections and multiple actions they run offensively, especially when Duncan Robinson is in the game.”

— ESPN’s Tim Legler, on how the Heat is accomplishing this: “I would start with Erik Spoelstra and how connected the team is on both ends, particularly defensively. They just don’t make mistakes. They follow game plans, they protect each other, they’re on a string on that end of the floor. Everybody competes.

“Whoever is on the floor, they get absolute maximum effort out of everybody who plays. You don’t have questions about where guys went like you have with a lot of these teams. Guys don’t typically disappear for them because they’re very comfortable in their roles.

“Spo empowers people, really gets the most out of role players because he makes them feel confident in who they are. I just can’t say enough about what he is, who he is, what they represent and the fact he can do this again with a team coming from where they had to come from. It’s amazing.

“I feel Spoelstra is the best coach in the NBA in my mind. The thing he does defensively for his team is to mix up coverages. The way he teaches the zone, and they play more of it than any team in the league, and it’s a hard thing to do at the NBA level. He pushes the right button on who he’s going to play.”

— ESPN”s Zach Lowe: “This is the most improbable run to the Finals in NBA history. There was no evidence there was a great team hiding in plain sight here. There was no crescendo toward the end of the season. All they wanted to do was catch Brooklyn for the sixth seed to get out of the play-in tournament, and they couldn’t even do that. And here they are.

“You know who never wobbles? Who’s never tight as a drum? Who’s never overwhelmed by the moment? The Miami Heat. The Heat just shows up and play when all these other teams wobble and fracture and get nervous. They just keep playing. They don’t get rattled. Sometimes that’s enough. So far, that’s been enough.”

Still, Lowe picked Denver to win in five or six games, adding “If the Heat goes zone, [Denver] will tear them apart. They were the best zone offense in the NBA this season.”

— ESPN NBA studio host Mike Greenberg, who had insisted that Boston would rally from an 0-3 hole to win the series, said: “I will go to my grave saying [Boston is] the superior team, but they didn’t play like it. I will never again say the team with the best players wins in basketball. It has always been my belief but is no longer true. No one will ever be able to say the Celtics didn’t have the best players.”

When TNT’s Charles Barkley also insisted after Game 7 that Boston has the better team, Shaquille O’Neal and Ernie Johnson corrected him and said Boston has the more talented team but not the better one. Barkley – like Legler and most national pundits – pick Denver in the series.

— ESPN’s Richard Jefferson: The Heat “have a level of determination whether things are good or bad or whether they’re the second or eighth seed, their approach doesn’t change. They have a determination that is very tough to break.”

— On the Bam Adebayo/Nikola Jokic matchup:

Lowe: “This has been tough cover for Bam over the years. Jokic is just so big and so strong and has been able to get to his spots pretty comfortably against Bam. He’s maybe the best zone buster in the NBA. And that’s a plot that looms large. Would the Heat start Kevin Love again and would they even start Love on Jokic and have Bam on Aaron Gordon as a rover? I don’t think that’s a great answer, either. That would let them put Butler on Jamal Murray a little bit.”

Perkins: “After seeing Bam [offensively in the past week against Boston], I’m concerned and we all should be. He has to play better. When Bam tries to get the ball in the post, that’s a problem. When Bam is going into dribble hand off actions and rolling to the basket and being in the short mid range area, that’s when Bam is at his best. Throwing it to the low block and saying to Bam, ‘make a play,’ that’s not who he is.”

— Kevin Garnett on Twitter: “Kill the undrafted player talk with the Heat like they’re a bunch of nobodies! They’re the biggest dogs with the most adversity faced than anybody.”

— Magic Johnson, recently: “The Miami Heat are the best defensive team left in the playoffs, have high basketball IQ, and they are fierce competitors. They outwork teams and are mentally and physically tougher. Pat Riley created a culture of winning and team and family first. The Miami Heat organization develops players better than any other organization in the NBA…. [They have] the best coach in the NBA.”