No one in Miami who watched LeBron James' buzzer-beating three last night to beat the Chicago Bulls realized at the time that his most imposing obstacle was a person you would have least expected — his own head coach, David Blatt.
After the Bulls tied the score at 84 with just a few seconds remaining, Blatt ran onto the court trying to call a timeout. Problem was, the Cavaliers had no more timeouts left, and attempting to call one, by rule, is a technical foul. Luckily for LeBron, assistant coach Tyronn Lue was able to tackle him before the refs noticed and awarded the Bulls a game-deciding technical free throw.
Tragedy was averted, the Cavs retained possession, and — if they were paying attention — Miami fans got another prime lesson in how lucky they are to have Erik Spoelstra as a head coach.
Just seconds after Blatt's near-disaster, with 1.5 seconds left and the Cavaliers inbounding the ball, Blatt drew up a play in the huddle that called for LeBron to inbound the ball. You read that correctly. With the season on the line, the Cavs' coach decided the best play he could come up with would be for LeBron James to stand out of bounds.
Luckily, once again for Cavs fans, someone saved Blatt from himself — LeBron himself. LeBron scrapped the play drawn up by his seemingly drunk coach and instead called for a much more reasonable play that, you know, involved him touching the basketball. The result was a crucial three that saved the Cavs' season and David Blatt's job.
Blatt may be in the same position Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was the past four seasons, but he consistently shows why Heat fans bashing Spoelstra for the team's struggles this season are barking up the wrong tree: It could be so much worse. Playoff games will inevitably come down to last-second plays like the ones Cleveland was faced with Sunday, and Blatt did everything in his power to completely blow them — something Spoelstra never did during King James' time in Miami.
For those who say any coach could just throw a basketball onto the court and win with a LeBron James-led team, these playoffs should be proof enough that not just any coach is capable of handling himself under the sort of pressure the NBA playoffs bring. Blatt may have racked up the regular-season wins with the Cavs, but as the games get deeper into the season, he continues to show how outclassed he is when compared with other proven successful coaches — like Spoelstra.
Blatt will tell you he has 22 years of coaching experience, but the majority of those were in Russia — he isn't equipped to coach a team on this stage, and he should be thankful LeBron James is, because LeBron learned from the best the past four years, Erik Spoelstra. Heat fans should take a long look at the mess the Cavs coach almost made for his team Sunday and realize how lucky they are to have Erik Spoelstra running the show in Miami.
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.