5-at-10: Reasons why the Heat are rolling, Soroka’s big-league return, LIV-PGA playing together?

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, left, and Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin reach for a rebound during the first half in Game 7 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals Monday, May 29, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa )

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Game 7

What a total dud from the Boston Celtics.

That was hard to predict.

Sure Jay's Plays on Monday put you on the proper side of the line, but I thought Miami would lose a close game.

Not sure anyone had Heat in a blowout.

But the anatomy of an 8 seed getting to the NBA Finals is more interesting to me than the springboard that sent the Heat to their bloodbath that awaits against the Nuggets. (Side note: Seriously, I would lay 15 in Game 1 of the Finals and it's hard not to put future money on Nuggets in 5 or fewer.)

Bearddawg earlier this spring challenged me on my "Not Xs and Os but Jimmys and Joes" reference to the old cliché about the importance of recruiting talent.

This series clearly had BD's back. Despite the Celtics' three-game rally to flirt with a historic comeback, Erik Spoelstra proved himself to be elite.

That said, Pat Riley may have stamped his name right behind Red Auerbach as the greatest coach/executive "total package dude" in NBA history. Consider what Riley has done on the sideline in L.A., NYC and Miami and now what he's done as an executive with the Heat. He has constructed three different cores — one built around Wade and Shaq, one built around LeBron and the Big 3, and now this version of the Butler and the rest of the help — that have made the NBA Finals in less than two decades.

Now look at the futility that consumes most of the league and read that last sentence again.

Jimmy Butler is one of those dudes. Like Brady. Like Jeter. Like MJ. Like Tebow in Gainesville. The guy in the huddle who make his point clear, and everyone in that huddle knows if you bleep it up, you got to answer to Jimmy. Hard to put a value on dudes like that and the intensity and competitiveness they bring to your operation.

Because there's a difference between folks who love to win — we all really enjoy winning — and the folks who flat simply hate to lose so much it makes them violently angry and ill.

Lots of all-time greats — guys with more talent and/or skills than the names listed above — embrace the desperation for the validation of winning it all and that's a strong motivating factor, too.

But not like Butler and those cats above. Those guys are storming off after a paper football loss and will foul to the ends of the gym if it's "next bucket wins" at a Tuesday night church league.

And that transcends across and permeates through the organization. Because a lot of folks are making a lot of noise about how the Heat have so many undrafted contributors, and that's certainly noteworthy since the Heat players that no one wanted when they could have plucked them averaged a combined 56 points per game in this series. And that's what they scored last night in Game 7.

(Side note: It also points to a real issue in the NBA draft process, that ignores red flags and drafts on potential more than production, picking a player with the tools to offer an extreme ceiling and ignoring the flawed floor. For example, everyone clearly would have picked Zion first, but his injury concerns are real. A decade previous, in 2011, Klay Thompson went 11, Kawhi Leonard went 15 and Butler went 30. Yeah those turned out. Sure the 7-foot-5 Frenchman is the clear 1, but from there where do you go, and how do you find another knife fighter like Jimmy Butler? And no Brandon Miller being a gun-runner is not the same thing.)

The Celtics had the better roster. The Celtics had home court. And heading into what would have been a historic Game 7 story line, the Celtics had the momentum.

Miami had the coach, the exec, and the baddest dude in the building.

And it's clear which was more important.

Braves puzzle

So the bats went flat against an Oakland A's starter who had stuff more like Craig McMurtry than Craig Kimbrel.

And yes, the MLB travel planning — Braves played Sunday night in Smyrna, hopped a flight to Oak-town for the rare Hammering Hank-to-MC Hammer rivalry to play a 5 p.m. West Coast start — certainly was no one's friend.

But the A's are lousy. They are now 11-45 after last night's 7-2 win over the Braves, who arrived red-eyed and leading the NL in winning percentage.

We can bemoan the bullpen, but that's not the story that matters.

We could discuss the soaring number Ks from a lineup that swings and misses more than a blind boxer pointed in the wrong direction.

But the true question, and the only one that matters big picture for a team with World Series aspirations losing to a team with a world-class chance to be playing elsewhere in 18 months is simple:

What did you think of Mike Soroka's effort returning to the mound after a hiatus of almost three years with multiple Achilles issues?

He got the loss, one bad inning putting a major damper on his first time in an Atlanta uniform since August of 2020.

He pitched six efficient innings — needing only 83 pitches to record 18 outs, despite a game-changing three-run homer to one of the forgettable A's in the lineup — and for the kost part his go-to sinker was effective.

Even on the fifth-inning homer down the right field line, A's first baseman Ryan Noda golfed a Soroka sinker out of the park.

I thought he looked good. Rusty too, but good, for the most part. Still, losing to the A's no es bueno.

Interesting idea

So an unnamed LIV executive told Sports Illustrated that they believe there is a chance the LIV and the PGA could work together moving forward.

Hmmmmmm. Is that even doable? Not in the current climates of contentiousness, and not if Phil Mickelson continues to give interviews.

(Side question: If that anonymous source is not Greg Norman, would you even trust that to not be propaganda at this point?)

Still, in a sport where made for TV drama has been OKed for years with the various "The Match" set-ups, if the LIV-PGA did figure something out, man, that would draw eyeballs.

At least initially. Would you care more about the Presidents Cup or a match-play duel between the LIV guys and the PGA stars?

Yeah, it's not even close right?

This and that

— Mick Mulvaney was once Donald Trump's acting Chief of Staff. So he's got opinions. And this one — sadly — feels clairvoyant. Mulvaney in an interview with Australia media said Donald Trump is a "turnout machine" and gets fans and haters to the poll. Mulvaney also predicted Trump would win the GOP nomination and then lose the general election. Again, if we get to November 2024 and our last three elections for the leader of the free world have comprised of exactly three candidates — Hillary, Uncle Joe and Donald Trump — at some point we have to examine the process that offers such tragically bad choices, right?

— No mincing words on this one. Here's a sign outside of Rick's Repair Shop, a Tallahassee business, that, well, click on it and see for yourself.

— Here's Paschall with a forecast on the scheduling dilemma at the SEC meetings, which start this week. You know the rules. Also know this: No matter what they decide, a) someone's going to complain, b) someone will think they are getting the shaft and c) as an Auburn grad (and Tennessee fans) having secured guarantees of playing the two best teams in the country over the last half-decade-plus every season has not been a ton of fun.

— Speaking of the SEC, man you can't sling a dead cat and not find an SEC team hosting an NCAA baseball regional. Eight of the 16 first-round sites are at SEC stadiums, and 10 of the first of 64 are from the SEC.

— Tough break for NASCAR this weekend. The Coca-Cola 600 is normally one of my favorite regular-season events. Or at least it used to be. With the uncooperative weather dragging the event well into Monday evening, I'm not sure who other than J-Mac was watching until the end and does anyone know who actually won the race? That said, the off-the-track drama feels 100% old school in a lot of ways, it's just that I don't have a connection to any of these drivers any more.

Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday. Morning Ernie.

True or false, you hate losing more than you enjoy winning.

True or false, at some point LIV and the PGA Tour will work together, and then yes it's true it will make tight-wad Brandel Chamblee's head pop off.

True or false, the Braves bullpen is your biggest worry at this point.

True or false, you prefer nine league football games for SEC teams.

True or false, Nuggets in 5 or less over the Heat.

True or false, if LeBron was wired like Jimmy Butler he'd have 9 titles by now.

You know the drill. Answer some T or Fs, ask some T or Fs.

As for today, May 30, let's review.

The first Indy 500 was held on this day inn 1911. The average speed of the winner? A cool 74.6 mph.

Gale Sayers would have been 80 today.

Rushmore of football players with names that could also be the name of your best friend's mom growing up? Gale Sayers makes it right?