Canada Markets open in 9 hrs 15 mins

Miami’s state-of-the-art franchise? Zero doubt as Heat routs champion Bucks in opener | Opinion

·5 min read

There is reason for celebration, as much for reflective appreciation, as the Heat launches its 34th franchise season.

They walloped the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks impressively in their opener here Thursday night in the downtown bayside arena. It began with an early 19-0 run and ended 137-95, Tyler Herro leading the way with 27 points off the bench.

Milwaukee of course swept Miami from the playoffs last year.

“Last year we felt like we got embarrassed being swept in the first round,” said Herro. “To bounce back and get revenge in a way, it feels good..”

The decisive win provided the immediate joy but had competition as the cause for the feel-good.

Some of that giddy vibe might be this season opener as a touchstone and symbol of our collective return to normalcy. After two straight seasons shortened and otherwise held in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021-22 NBA season opens as the first in three years with a full 82-game schedule and full arenas in most places including Miami.

Some of the happy occurred when Udonis Haslem, 41 and in his 21st Heat season, twice appeared ready to go in late in the game — the definition of either a very special occasion or a very big rout. (He didn’t end up playing, but it still gave fans a chance to cheer.)

But perhaps the main reason to appreciate the Heat — that goes deeper. It is the relentless winning — more, the relentless faith this club knows the way to win. This is our best, most well-managed and expertly run professional sports franchise of any we have had. And it isn’t close.

Look around. Start with the Dolphins’ glory days being almost 50 years past, and 20 years past the Fins’ real relevance in the NFL. And don’t stop there.

Then arrive at the Heat, and smile. Maybe say thanks?

“We know we have a very, very competitive team and a culture players want to come to,” said club president Pat Riley.

That’s Culture with a capital C in the Heat’s case, the distinction earned.

Miami has made the playoffs 20 times in 26 seasons under Riley’s watch as head coach and then executive.

For coach Erik Spoelstra, it is 10 playoff appearances in his 13 seasons entering this one.

Not surprising that five players who’ve worn a Heat uniform were named Thursday among the NBA’s all-time 75 best players: Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Ray Allen and Gary Payton.

The latest player drawn to the Culture here: All-star guard Kyle Lowry, the NBA’s biggest offseason prize in an otherwise tepid year for free agency.

Lowry had a quiet debut with only five points, not scoring at all until late in the first half, before limping off after tweaking his left ankle. He dished six assists, though, the pace he created a big reason Miami dominated in both points in the paint (56-36) and fast-break points (22-2).

“Definitely a blessing to share the court with him,” said Jimmy Butler, who scored 21 points. “My daughter’s birthday is tomorrow. I want a real expensive gift from Kyle. $100,000!”

Spo and the Godfather together have seen three championship parades along Biscayne Boulevard.

Whether this season approaches those heights, you know it will be a fun, winning ride, with Lowry joining the nucleus of Jimmy Butler (21 points Thursday) and Bam Adebayo (20) along with the jacked-up Herro, off a 5-1 preseason full of big offense from him, and the newly enriched Duncan Robinson.

“We’re ready. Hell, if you go through training camp you’d better be ready, man!” Butler said before Miami became the next-to-last team to tip-off its regular season. “The real games are here. And we’re ready for it.”

Milwaukee was missing two injured starters who didn’t play Thursday. There’s that caveat. Still, it was an impressive show, one that featured 15 threes from Miami, and defense that limited the Milwaukee Boinks to 38 percent shooting.

It was 40-17 after one, ending on a 32-foot Herro three at the buzzer. It was 72-43 at the half. And 105-69 after three. Such lopsidedness is so rare — let alone against a reigning champ, even one missing two players — it bears noting.

Spoelstra had said, “There’s nothing like facing the champions to start your season” — but he surely didn’t envision such a waltz.

This is the third season in the three-year trilogy of Bucks-Heat, never a real rivalry until two seasons ago, when, in a pandemic bubble, Miami upset and eliminated Milwaukee in the Eastern semifinals. Last year brought Bucks revenge with a first-round playoff sweep of the Heat.

Chapter 3 began on an opening night that announced the Heat intends to compete at the top of the Eastern Conference with the champion Bucks, the betting favorite and starry Brooklyn Nets, and Philadelphia. Milwaukee had begun its season two nights earlier with an impressive 23-point win over the Kyrie Irving-less Nets.

The Nets are dealing of course with their Irving/vaccine mess and the 76ers with their trade-demanding Ben Simmons nightmare.

No such controversies in Miami. Just the latest iteration of solidity and consistency and bulldog competitiveness marking the long ownership reign of the Arison family.

“We’re trying to learn each other,” Butler had said before the game.

If so it was a first test rather gloriously passed.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting