For 24 minutes of game play, the Heat played as they were expected to play against an opponent like the Utah Jazz. They finally came out of the gate with the jets turned on and immediately built up a double-digit lead that they would keep throughout the half. They outscored the Jazz 51-32, and it appeared that the Heat were ready for their revenge game against Boston on Thursday.
Then, the Jazz made a run and the Heat did not answer. Utah would make a furious comeback, but thanks to some clutch plays by Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, the Heat would take a 98-90 lead with only 37 seconds remaining. Then, Millsap made a three-pointer and Carlos Arroyo would answer with only one of two free throws. Williams and Millsap would then make three-pointers which were answered by two perfect trips to the line by Arroyo.
After a bad foul on the inbound by Williams to not only foul out, but to give the Heat a free throw and possession, it appeared that the Heat had it wrapped up. The 80 percent free throw shooter in Arroyo would then miss. The Jazz would then foul Wade who would go to the line and only make one of two, again. A dominant four point lead was only two and Millsap made a put-back to tie the game and eventually win in overtime.
Obviously, the free throw shooting and Bosh’s lack of defensive skills greatly hampered the team late in the game, but this game should have never been close to begin with. There is absolutely no reason why Utah should score 71 second-half points. There was no reason why the Jazz converted 12 points in the span of 37 seconds. It was inexcusable for a career 20 percent three-point shooter in Millsap to convert on open three-pointer after open three-pointer.
In one instance, the player that was defending Millsap at the three-point line actually went to double-team Williams who was at the free throw line and was struggling for a shot. As any elite point guard does, he found the open man and like any player who had the hot hand, Millsap made the shot.
It was absolutely inexcusable for the Heat to allow more than two three-pointers in that span. The defensive plan continued to ignore Millsap at the three-point line, and instead, we saw defenders playing off of him and sometimes double-teaming Deron. It led to their eventual demise, and it was an extremely tough loss going into a game against the Boston Celtics.
This is not a 5-3 team at all. Even if Chris Bosh is not performing like the way he was in Toronto last year, the Miami Heat should not be at 5-3. The Heat team from last year, where Michael Beasley was playing the role as LeBron James, could be at 5-3 right now. This team should be 7-1 at worst with the lone loss coming against Boston.
The losses against the New Orleans Hornets and Utah should have never happened. Obviously, chemistry is an issue among a starting lineup that has really yet to play together, on a team where you have two of the best slashers in the league, as well as plenty of players that could thrive off of LeBron and Dwyane. No player has taken that role better than James Jones, who is one of the top three-point shooters in the league at the moment.
The largest problem so far has been the offense. The defense has been exceptional, even in the game last night against Utah—nearly every one of the last 12 Jazz points of the quarter came off of freak three-point shots. Coach Spo deserves a lot of credit for the Heat’s strong defensive start, but his offensive schemes and plays have been poor or non-existent.
On a team where a chemistry needs to develop to begin to ensure victories while maintaining consistency throughout a game, the Heat need a coach who can design plays that make the team better and co-exist. There’s no reason why LeBron, Dwyane and Chris should be struggling for points at any moment, and the team should not be shooting most of their shots when time is running out on the shot clock.
Carlos Arroyo and Joel Anthony are in the starting lineup. Both players are inept on the offensive side and have the tendency to play the same way defensively. In fact, the Heat are currently 0-3 against elite point guards with Williams being the Heat’s latest thorn in their side. Anthony is in a league of his own as he sometimes cannot keep up with taller centers and represents a huge hole in the Heat’s rebounding problems as well.
When the Heat run a lineup of LeBron at point, Dwyane at the 2, Jones at the 3, Bosh at the 4 and Haslem at the 5, you not only have two superior defenders at the point and center, but you now have five scoring threats rather than three. It has come as quite a surprise that Coach Spo continues to run with the same offensive schemes and starting lineup despite it being unsuccessful against above average teams.
With Boston coming to town on Thursday, it could be a make or break game for the career of Erik Spoelstra, Carlos Arroyo and Joel Anthony. For not only will the Heat fall to 5-4, they will fall to 0-2 against the reigning Eastern Conference Champions and will be under even more scrutiny than they already are.
Too early in the season? Maybe. But losing to the Celtics for the second time this season already would be an eye-opener about this team and since LeBron, Dwyane and Chris aren’t set to be traded anytime soon, the only solution to pleasing the masses and possibly making this team better would be for Pat Riley to step down and assume the position as head coach again.
As much as he was criticized for stealing the head coach role right from under Stan Van Gundy in the 2005-06 season, Riley did take an 11-10 team and turned them into a champion. Pat has the experience with a “show-time” team, coaching a similar one in the 1980’s with the Los Angeles Lakers. There isn’t a team much flashier right now than the Miami Heat, and they could use a leader on both sides of the ball.
There is no way I am saying Erik Spoelstra is a lackluster coach or that he should step down or be fired. He is a terrific defensive coach and has led the team to two straight postseasons despite having Dwyane Wade surrounded by rookies and aging veterans. Spoelstra fit in with that roster because he was a young coach working with a young team. They had their similarities as the roster and Spo were both developing into their own as legitimate players and a legitimate coach.
The fact of the matter is that the Heat could use a different look in the starting lineup and a different offensive philosophy. A team with this much star power should not be 5-3 and looking for answers after blowing a 21-point lead against an inferior opponent.
The one person everybody has their eyes on is on the sideline: The rhythm and the chemistry will come, but will Erik Spoelstra be there when it does?