Sunday night, the Miami Heat returned to the NBA playoffs for the first time since losing that guy who left for Cleveland but somehow can’t stay away from the 305, and proceeded to step inside the Charlotte Hornets’ asshole in a 123-91 Game 1 rout. And, perhaps more to the point, the Heat showed that where it lacks a certain guy who left for Cleveland but is probably not sticking around again, it more than
For Game 1, the Hydra would be in the form of one Luol Ajou Deng: Lord of the Dance, Wielder of Magic, Slayer of Monsters, and Lover of Women.
The same Luol Deng who spent the majority of his first season with the Heat running around the court like he was being chased by a bee. The same Luol Deng whose three-point shots looked like someone indiscriminately tossing ziplock bags of piss into the air. The same Luol Deng who looked like he should’ve been slapping price tags on cat towers at PetSmart rather than playing for a professional basketball team. The same Luol Deng most Heat fans wanted so desperately to trade away, even if only for a sack of Obama Halloween masks and a player-to-be-named-later.
Yet in Game 1 of the first round of the 2016 NBA playoffs, it was Deng who would flex his nuts with his towering acts of ball-demolishing acuteness.
Entering Sunday, no one was quite sure which Heat team would show up — the competent Heat team that would look to bludgeon Charlotte in the face with Hassan Whiteside blocks and Joe Johnson iso jumpers all night, or the Heat team that had a meltdown against the Celtics a mere four days ago, squandering a 26-point lead. It was all very precarious.
So when none of his teammates could be fully trusted heading into this evenly matched series, it was Deng who had the sack of nuts to step up. And he wasn’t gonna let something like being really very shitty for the better part of his Heat tenure stand in the way of performing towering acts of heroism.
Deng started the post-Lebron Heat playoff era with a corner three and proceeded to punt Charlotte’s balls into Biscayne Bay the remainder of the night, going four-for-six on threes on route to a 31-point night.
Deng was an absolute pain, not only murdering the Hornets in the face from beyond the arc but also drop-kicking them in the throat on back-door cuts, getting to the foul line, and forcing turnovers. Deng was like one of the X-Men, everywhere at once and yet not at all. It must have annoyed the shit out of Charlotte fans.
Best of all, Deng’s masterful play inspired his teammates to get their asses in gear. And it didn’t take long for guys like Whiteside, Josh Richardson, and Justise Winslow to begin bringing the pain with their respective basketball prowess.
Like when Winslow ended fellow rookie Frank Kaminsky with a sick Dwyane Wade-like Eurostep that left the former Wisconsin standout a heaping pile of smoldering flesh.
Then there was Whiteside, who finished his first career playoff game with 21 points on just nine shots, while grabbing 11 boards. Going into the series, all eyes were on Hassan to single-handedly wade into Charlotte’s defense and lay them to waste.
And that he did, being Robin to Deng's Batman all night.
Batman: Let's wreck some Hornet ass, Chum!
Robin: [Screams, flexes]
Whiteside ripped rebounds from out of the sky and flushed down vicious dunks so hard he had his teammates throwing a flex party on the bench in his honor.
FLEX PARTY, HAYYYYY!
And while the Hornets were well aware Hassan is a head-crushing behemoth in the paint, they were sucker-punched by Deng so badly they had forgotten to account for Wade morphing into Three-Time NBA Champion Guy, and Goran Dragic the Slovenian Ass-Wrecker obliterating their paint defense.
It feels like the glory days of the Big Three assaulting the rest of the NBA’s anus with overpowering performances was eons ago. And that’s fine. Because, though it’s only one game, the message is quite clear: On any given night, the Miami Heat can devastate a team with any one of its guys — or all of them at once.
One night it’ll be Whiteside; another it’ll be Joe Johnson. D-Wade will show his Hall of Fameness in several
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Sunday it was Luol Deng bringing the ruckus.
Next time, who knows?
Be afraid, Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat has arrived.