What hopes do all 16 teams have of hopping in the postseason driver's seat? Take a ride with NBA.com as we outline each team's Keys to Success.
Comebacks are key for the Heat, as key players Eddie Jones
and Alonzo Mourning
recently returned to Miami's lineup. Jones' re-integration should go smoothly, as his role was never really filled. But Mourning's return needs to be handled delicately, as Anthony Mason
and Brian Grant
filled in very well in Zo's absence. If Pat Riley works Zo back into the mix without losing his other frontliners, Miami is deadly.
Jones is a gifted pickpocket, and Bruce Bowen
might be the game's top one-on-one defender, but only Mutombo and Shaq can come close to Zo's defensive presence. Despite limited minutes since returning, he's blocking over two shots per game. More than that, he's a physical presence who makes players think twice, and maybe three times, about driving the lane.
Key In the Key:
Pick your poison. Miami's Mourning-Grant-Mase frontline is positively scary. They're a throwback to the great bruising frontlines -- Laimbeer and Mahorn in Detroit; Oakley, Ewing and Mason in New York -- that used to give the East its postseason swagger. All three can score down low, all three go after rebounds like starving dogs, and all three are physical defenders.
Key Distributor: Tim Hardaway
KEY WIN, KEY VID: Any win over the Knicks is a big win. When Miami tops New York at home on NBC with a recently-returned Alonzo Mourning in the lineup, then it's a key win. Such was the case on April 8, as the Heat topped the Knicks 81-76 on national TV. Tim Hardaway was on fire, and torched the Knicks for 25 points. Sweeter still for Miami was the ejection of Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, the first ejection in his career. Miami built on the win to hold off the Knicks and grab the third seed in the East.
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is a streaky shooter, but jump-shooting isn't the reason Riles is high on Hardaway. The 6-0 point guard is one of the game's best halfcourt distributors. The comfort factor is also in effect, as this is Hardaway's fifth season running Miami's offense. And T-Hard has a knack for nailing the big shot.
Zo Good to Be Back: Mourning's return has the Heat ready to pounce on a Finals appearance.
Gary Dineen/NBAE Photos
More will be asked of backup point guard Anthony Carter
due to a late-season injury to Tim Hardaway that could slow the vet guard. Carter doesn't have Hardaway's range, but he's careful with the ball and is a good penetrator. He also brings youthful athleticism off the bench, a commodity in the Heat locker room.
Key Long-Range Gunner:
Defenses are well aware of Jones and Hardaway's ability to hit from long range. The guy who should get a lot of open looks is Bowen. B.B. certainly has the ability to hit from downtown, but he's streaky. He hit six three-pointers in one game against the Bucks in November, but shoots just a shade over 33 percent for the year. If Bowen can connect, then Miami's opponents are in trouble.
Key Individual Performance:
Nine points on 3-11 shooting? Six rebounds? Nineteen minutes played? That would hardly seem to constitute a big game, but the fact alone that Zo was even able to set foot on the court after being diagnosed with a career-threatening kidney disease was cause for celebration in Miami. The Heat went on to lose the game in question to the Raptors on March 27, but the final score was secondary to the big guy's emotional return.
Mase made the All-Star team. Grant made up for Zo's absence in the post. The Heat wouldn't be the third seed if both didn't come on board this season. Choosing between the two is like being asked to pick between Run and DMC. You'd be illin', indeed.
Bruce Bowen's favorite movie is "The Color Purple." The Heat are hoping they can replace the colors of purple and gold as NBA champions in 2001.