The Heat is On!
By Khendra Murdock aka DunkinDurant35
After a first half of the season that didn’t quite live up to many people’s expectations, yet was still better than most other teams, the Miami Heat have experienced a huge slide lately. This is a really terrible time for them to be having such a slump because competitiveness is rising as the playoffs near, and the players and coach Erik Spoelstra really should be on the same page by this point. They’ve had more than enough time to gel as a unit, but they’re falling apart instead of coming together when it really matters. After all, when a team’s coach says guys are literally crying in the locker room after a game, something is obviously wrong.
In examining their problems, there are some stats that are easy to point to and are quite revealing. One is their pathetic record against the other top five teams in the league this season: 1-9. This stat takes into account the whole season, too, not just the more recent woes, so even when the team was winning more games, they still weren’t putting together their best efforts against the top clubs. Another interesting stat is their record against any team with a .500 or better record: 15-19. Miami, then, not only has troubles against the most elite teams, but against any team that is currently winning more games than they are losing! Such stats should worry Heat fans, because it’s a rare case when a team makes the playoffs with a record below .500. How will this team win a playoff series when they can’t even win most of their games against teams with records better than .500?
One reason good teams are beating up so much on the Heat is because their supporting cast is being heavily exploited. Many critics suggested this would be a problem for them when The Big Three were hyped up in the pre-season, and these critics’ concerns turned out to be legitimate. Outside of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, no Heat player is averaging double figures in points per game. In fact, if you don’t count Udonis Haslem’s 8.0 points per game (he’s been out most of the season), the fourth best scorer on the team after The Big Three is Mario Chalmers, who is scoring a mere 6.8 points per game on 41.3% shooting. Nothing personal against Chalmers, but I don’t think he strikes much fear into the heart of opponents. The recent addition of Mike Bibby hasn’t been of much help so far, either; Bibby looks lost and has very little time to get used to Miami’s way of doing things. Furthermore, Mike Miller has been slow to get into a groove since coming back from his injury, looking nothing like the smooth shooter and ball-handler who had some good seasons with the Magic, Grizzlies, Wizards, and Timberwolves; his shooting percentage is at an all-time low.
When I watch the Heat, I see a team that plays a lot of one-on-one basketball. The spacing on offense is terrible. James and Wade may be getting assists, but the flow of the offense is hardly impressive. Even Bosh is now complaining about not getting enough shots, but when he came to a team with two of the highest volume scorers in the league, he really shouldn’t have been expecting to get as many touches.
For the Heat to get out of their slump, I believe James and Wade need to decide between themselves who wants to become more of a distributor and who wants to be more of the go-to guy. Considering their careers, I definitely think it would be best if James took on more of a point guard role and let Wade be more of the main scoring option. With that said, Wade shouldn’t try to force the issue all the time, even as the go-to guy, because teams never succeed when everyone stands around and watches a superstar chuck it up most of the night. Both stars have to get their teammates more involved so that the opposition has reason to go away from double teams and cover other open guys. Every great team that ever won a championship had a strong supporting cast that could come through when the stars were doubled or otherwise had off nights. Even teams that also had great superstars, like the Bulls with Jordan and Pippen and the Lakers with Shaq and Kobe, had guys like Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman, B.J. Armstrong, Robert Horry, and Derek Fisher to help take the load off the big stars.
Only if the Heat reconsider the roles of the superstars and get the other guys more involved in the game will they make much noise in the playoffs. If they continue the way things are going now, however, fans shouldn’t be surprised if they get bounced in the first round.
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