Heat hunting: OK, Mike Brown, Stan Van Gundy, Doc Rivers and Mike Woodson, we will handle this anonymously.
Which team would you least prefer to face in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs?
Figure on a 4-0 ballot, as in 4-0 not wanting to face the Heat.
And it's not solely because of Dwyane Wade, although that certainly has a lot to do with it.
Instead, quietly, Jermaine O'Neal is having one of his best seasons in years. He is hitting the fadeaway again, actually exerting what it takes to rebound, taking charges.
Yes, we know, it's a contract year, and Jermaine long has had a way of maximizing that aspect of the ledger.
But for the first time since Shaq cared, the Heat has the inside element to balance Wade's outside effort.
It is why Michael Beasley remains a third option.
And it is why, after working his way out of Indiana and Toronto, there is an embrace in this locker room.
Having won only three playoff games, not series, since its 2006 championship, the Heat well could be one-and-done again. But it could be a one-and-done that creates concern at the top.
The maneuvering for matchups could prove fascinating these final six weeks.
Bucks boost: John Salmons again is the annual gift that keeps on giving.
Last season, he provided a needed boost to the Bulls, who pushed the Celtics to the distance in the opening round.
This year, he may present an equally difficult challenge for whoever lands the Bucks in the first round.
And Milwaukee, amid the inspired play of Andrew Bogut, will be there.
While much has been made of Cleveland's addition of Antawn Jamison and Dallas' pickup of Caron Butler, it can be argued that no trade-deadline acquisition is impacting the playoff race as much as Salmons, whose off-the-dribble isolation scoring provides a consistent element Milwaukee has lacked under Scott Skiles to this point.
The irony is Chicago traded Salmons because it was concerned Salmons might invoke his $5.8. million player option for next season, thereby cutting into its cap space.
Now, Salmons is playing so well, Milwaukee's concern is he might walk.
Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Y! Sports: For Roy Hibbert, a sense of ownership means knowing he should have fought to get in the game with two seconds remaining in overtime, when his absence allowed LeBron James to hit the winning lay-up.
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Reason for optimism after Game 1 loss?
PBT Extra: The Heat snuck past the Pacers in the final seconds of overtime in Game 1, and PBT’s Kurt Helin breaks down where the Pacers can go from here. Paul George had a monster game, and Helin believes the Pacers have a real chance at upsetting the top-seeded Heat.
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