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ASK IRA: Are Heat inconsistent, limited or merely a great unknown due to injuries?

Q: Ira, I enjoy watching the games, but by no means would consider myself an expert. What I don’t understand is the way they played Friday and the way they played Sunday. The coach said his team played hard both games. But it was the same players. Does that mean it was the coaching or the strategy? – Sid.

A: As with all such examples, you also have to factor in the opposition. The Pelicans, even with Brandon Ingram out, arrived with a higher-quality roster on Friday than the injury-decimated Cavaliers did on Sunday, But, no, it was not as if the Heat had a lousy game plan on Friday and a terrific one on Sunday. Part of it is the old saw of it being a make-or-miss league. The Heat missed on Friday and made on Sunday. But there also was more energy and commitment from the Heat on Sunday. To me, the problem is that the Heat all too often this season have been a “sometimes” team. This Heat roster is not good enough to be a “sometimes” team. And oftentimes, the result is where the Heat currently stand, as a middle-of-the-pack team. That said, sometimes can turn into all the time, as happened with the Heat in last season’s playoffs.

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Q: Ira, please tell me with all these injuries that Jimmy Butler won’t be taking anymore time off this season. – Raul.

A: Based on the Heat’s precious postseason positioning, the hope would be such is the case. But the Heat still have a pair of back-to-back sets left, which could lead to decisions regarding having Jimmy Butler at his best for the postseason. Next week there is a Thursday home game against the 76ers that could be a critical tiebreaker, followed by a Friday game in Houston. Then, the final week of the regular season, there is a game in Atlanta followed by a home game against the Mavericks the next night. In each case, the conference game holds far more weight toward tiebreakers.

Q: Hi, Ira. I read with interest your story about legalized gambling in the NBA. I despise it and think it dehumanizes the players; turns them into pills in a roulette wheel and fosters gambling addiction. I wonder how Adam Silver would feel if thousands of people were betting on the NBA’s quarterly profits and holding him accountable. – Ray, Deerfield.

A: The 30 owners basically are. But where it has gotten out of hand are the proposition bets, where fans aren’t even rooting for a team or even an income, just that a certain player makes two or more 3-pointers. That is what has blurred the lines, with the NBA a willing partner to the blurring.