Star-studded Heat hard to figure out

I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest NBA fan as I don’t usually start watching games until the playoffs, but a really interesting storyline so far this season has been the relative struggles of the Miami Heat.
When the Heat first brought in LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play alongside Dwyane Wade, for many an NBA title was all but wrapped up as talk of the best NBA season ever was being bandied about.
But at 6-4 and sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference, that chatter have subsided.
The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls hold the all-time best regular-season mark at 72-10, so with the Heat almost halfway to the losses total not even an eighth of the way through the campaign, the record may have to wait until next year.
It’s not like the Heat have been blown out this year. Their biggest margin of defeat was an 88-80 loss to Boston on opening night. But coupled with another defeat at the Celtics’ hands, it looks like the defending Eastern Conference champs aren’t keen on relinquishing the title of “Beast of the East” without a fight.
The other two losses—to Utah and New Orleans—were by margins of two and three points, respectively, and to good teams to boot.
But when the Heat have been on, they’ve been on. Their smallest margin of victory was a 109-100 win over Toronto this past Saturday, with half of their wins coming by 23 points or more.
In recent losses, the Heat seem to be done in by a star looking to prove himself on a big stage. Utah’s Paul Millsap dropped 46 points on the Heat in a 116-114 Jazz win in OT on Nov. 9 while Boston’s Ray Allen drained 35 two nights later.
It’s certainly too early to start worrying about the Heat just yet. They still need time to gel as a team, which certainly was acknowledged going into the season.
However, my definition of “gel” heading into this year was “win nine out of the first 10, even if it’s just by a point or two”—certainly not “lose four of the first 10 and twice to the Celtics.”
As well, the Eastern Conference isn’t exactly home to powerhouses like in the Western Conference. After Boston and maybe Orlando, the rest of the East really isn’t even in the same stratosphere.
A combination of any three teams would lead to an excellent Eastern Conference final, and even if a second-tier team like Atlanta or Chicago sneaks through, they’ll deserve the spot.
As always, the West is a crapshoot, with 10 or 11 quality teams fighting over eight playoff spots. Whoever comes out of the West certainly should impress.
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Local puckster Joe Basaraba recorded his first career NCAA Div. I goal for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in a 5-3 home win over Michigan Tech on Friday night.
The goal, which also was the 18-year-old’s first NCAA point, stood up to be the winner as the Bulldogs used a pair of wins over Michigan Tech to improve to 6-1-1 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association this season.
UMD’s early-season success has rocketed them to No. 1 in both the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine rankings—the first time that the Bulldogs had been in the top spot of a national poll since 2004.
Basaraba, drafted 69th overall by the Florida Panthers this summer, is in his first season at UMD.
• • •
Mitch Cain had a breakout game Saturday for the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers. He tallied twice and added an assist as the Buccaneers dumped Waterloo 7-2 to extend their winning streak to six games.
Cain, 19, was named the game’s second star as he upped his season totals to three goals and two assists.
Des Moines is off to a 7-1-2 start, good for third in the Western Conference. The Buccaneers also have games in hand on the two teams they’re chasing.
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Goalie Ryan Faragher is doing his part to help the NAHL’s Bismarck Bobcats defend the Robertson Cup title they earned in the spring.
Faragher, 20, sports a 10-5-1 mark so far this season and boasts numbers similar to last year’s with a 2.29 GAA and .920 save percentage while facing about three more shots each game.
The Bobcats are tied for the Central Division lead with an 11-7-1 mark.
• • •
Also in the NAHL, Devlin’s Jordan Davis sits second in scoring for the Topeka Roadrunners with four goals and 15 assists.
With an 11-5-2 record, the Roadrunners sit fourth out of six teams in a tough South Division.
With a goal and two assists, Davis was named the first star of a 6-3 win over New Mexico on Saturday.
Davis, 20, also isn’t afraid to get physical as he sits third on the team with 54 penalty minutes.
• • •
Switching from the ice to the pool, local swimmer Heather Dutton is making some noise in her first year at the University of Ottawa and her fifth year overall in the CIS.
Dutton set a new school record in the 100m fly (1:05.41) as she finished second in the event at the Enyon Division Championships at Brock University this past weekend.
Dutton also was second in the 200m fly (2:24.30) and third in the 400m I.M. (5:07.80), and also was a part of the Gee-Gees’ 4x50m medley relay that finished third (2:04.94).
The only individual event in which Dutton didn’t medal was the 50m fly, but that was a near-miss as she finished fourth (30.75).
Lastly, she also was on the Gee-Gees’ ‘B’ squad in the 4x100m freestyle relay, which finished sixth (4:12.45).

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