Yahoo! Sport’s Adrian Wojnarowski says the “Miami Heat are soft, staggered, and fragile to the touch.”
His words are no surprise. He’s hated the Heat for as long as I can remember, and has hated its players long before they came to South Beach. He’s what you could call the epitome of the “hater.” He’s someone who’s never played organized ball, and revels in finding ways to besmear and besmirch those who have.
I guess it makes him feel better about himself; who knows.
He’s not writing his vitriol just because Miami lost, either. He’d be writing his garbage even if the Heat were winning. He’s a yellow-journalist scumbag, and that wouldn’t change no matter Miami’s record. Yet, is there even a small element of truth in anything he’s saying right now?
Maybe the haters are right. Maybe this Heat team just doesn’t have what it takes. Maybe the sum of their parts isn’t as great as many Miami fans believed.
Sitting here this morning thinking about the monumental collapse the boys from South Beach had the other night in their 116-114 overtime loss to the Utah Jazz it’s easy to accept that line of thinking.
When thinking about the half-hearted effort they exhibited in the first half of their 112-107 loss to the Boston Celtics two nights later, it’s even easier. In that game, they stormed back to make the score respectable, but even I have to admit it didn’t seem like they really had a chance in the game after falling behind 61-46 at the break.
After all, as I’ve stated in previous pieces, this is a team built not just to be very good, but great. This is a team built not just to be a contender, but to win multiple titles. This is a team built not just to beat teams, but to dominate them in a fashion the NBA has never seen.
Watching the first quarter of the debacle against Utah, it seemed as if that’s exactly what they were going to do, too. The Heat jumped out to a 22-7 lead early on, going on a 15-0 run in the first quarter as the Jazz hoisted up 10 straight shots that missed their mark, and saw them trailing Miami 25-13 after the first period.
The Heat would extend that 12-point lead to 22 in the second quarter, and would enter the halftime break up 51-32.
When LeBron James made a layup with just over four minutes left in the third quarter, Miami still had a very comfortable 67-51 lead, and it looked as if this would be another laugher for the Heat.
From that point on, the Utah Jazz simply owned Miami, outscoring the Heat 65-47 over the rest of the game (including overtime).
It’s not like it took them very long to overcome that deficit, either. The Jazz took an 81-79 lead midway through the fourth period on a jumper by Deron Williams before Dwyane Wade decided he’d seen enough, quickly reeling off five of his 39 points on the night in a 9-0 run by Miami that gave them an 88-81 lead.
They would maintain that lead throughout the rest of the final period; except the last 28 seconds of it.
Those 28 seconds will indelibly be etched into the memory of every Miami fan, and if they’re not permanently seared into the memories of every Heat player on the roster, they should be.
Leading 98-90 with just those 28 ticks to go, Miami saw their lead evaporate like few teams ever have.
What immediately comes to mind is Reggie Miller’s miraculous performance against the Knicks on May 7, 1995, when he scored eight points for the Pacers in the final 8.9 seconds during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, giving Indiana a stunning 107-105 victory.
Yet, in terms of time left in the game and points scored, it actually more resembles Tracy McGrady’s historic exploits for Houston on December 9, 2004 when he scored 13 points in 33 seconds during the final minute of the game to give his Rockets a shocking 81-80 victory.
Also, that game had two eerie similarities to the loss by the Heat to the Jazz.
First, the game was on the 9th, although it was in December, whereas Miami’s game against Utah was in November. Second, the Spurs had entered the game having beaten the Rockets seven consecutive times, while the Heat entered the contest against the Jazz having beaten them seven consecutive times at home.
One glaring thing that wasn’t at all similar about the two battles, was the fact San Antonio suffered their loss at Houston. They were playing on the road, and while that’s never a justification for collapsing the way they did in that game against T-Mac and the Rockets, it does mitigate it a bit; especially when held up to the debacle in South Beach on Tuesday.
Miami was playing at home, where they’d been unbeaten so far this young season, and had been destroying teams by an average of more than 20 points. And for a minute in that game, it looked like they’d continue on their winning ways, blowing the Jazz out by 22 at one point in the second quarter.
However, something went really wrong from that moment. Miami simply didn’t seem to be the same team, and even after they rallied a little late in that fourth period to push the lead to eight with those sickening 28 seconds left, it looked like Miami would put a “W” in the columns.
Instead, Paul Millsap decided to do his best Tracy McGrady impression, throwing in three shots from beyond the arc in that span of time, along with a two-pointer, to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Even in that overtime Miami had a shot at winning the game numerous times, but simply couldn’t find a way to put the ball in the basket, and watched as Francisco Elson sank two free throws with 0.4 seconds remaining in the extra frame to effectively seal the victory for Utah.
The Jazz pulled off the same kind of miraculous comeback against the Orlando Magic the next night in defeating them 104-94, but that’s hardly any consolation to any Heat fan. Miami had every reason to beat Utah, and the fact they didn’t will gall this Heat team, its coaches, players, and fans, for the rest of the year.
Things didn’t get much better two nights later as the Heat watched the Celtics run a clinic on them in the first half at AmericanAirlines Arena en route to another heartbreaking loss.
Paul Pierce even used the victory as a launching pad to rocket a cruel shot at LeBron James and the Heat through Twitter, as he tweeted after the game, “It’s been a pleasure to bring my talents to South Beach. Now on to Memphis.”
Sure, the Heat have played like garbage at times so far, but they’ve also shown flashes of brilliance that have given plenty of “real” experts insight into just how great this team can be.
I’m not sure exactly what it is that’s preventing them from being consistent in their play. If I had the pulse of the thing, I’d probably be coaching them myself right now rather than Spo. However, I’m sure Riley and he do have a good idea, and are going to be rectifying the problem soon.
Many are speculating about whether this hiccup is going to be grounds for Pat Riley sending his young head coach packing and taking over the reins.
I don’t for a minute think Riles has that thought in his head. Now, if the Heat were to go…say…10-10 in the first 20 games, that thought might begin to cross his mind, but till then, I think it’s safe to assume he’s not looking to come back and take over the daily grind of this team.
I also don’t anticipate Miami ever approaching a 10-10 record.
As stated above, Miami was built to dominate. They were built to win championships, and I still firmly believe they will; this year!
The game written about above where McGrady pulled off a late-game miracle comeback? That was against the San Antonio Spurs, remember?
Those Spurs went on to win the NBA title that year. They were hearing variations of the same thing the Heat are hearing right now about their team after that collapse against the Rockets.
After all, they had Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili in their prime, as well as great surrounding pieces like Robert Horry and Bruce Bowen. No one expected them to collapse in that game against Houston.
The Spurs used that loss and the subsequent firestorm in the media over it to launch themselves to a title.
The Miami Heat did the very same thing in their championship season of 2006, using a horrible loss to the Dallas Mavericks to motivate them for the rest of the year; gaining strength from the loss they never would have had if they’d never suffered from it.
When making steel, it needs to be fired and heated so it can be molded into the correct shape. However, it also needs to suffer through the shock of being thrust into cold water so it can be tempered. Otherwise, it could fail when it’s truly needed.
Miami has been heated and fired by its coaches, trying to mold them into a cohesive unit capable of winning it all. Yet, the shock of losing these past two games in the fashion they have will probably do far more in tempering them into a team that’s like hardened steel, ready for all adversity, than any words that could have come out of Spoelstra’s mouth.
LeBron, D-Wade, and Bosh, along with the rest of the Heat, will be remembering those words by Pierce the rest of the year.
I truly do pity those teams in Miami’s way now, and I especially pity the Celtics when they play the Heat again. Mocking greatness can have a steep price, and I think Paul Pierce and Boston are going to learn that lesson the hard way.
I especially pity the Toronto Raptors tonight, for that overmatched team will be the first to bear the brunt of Miami’s red-hot smoldering anger and frustration. I see this being a game where the Heat blow them out even worse than they did the Minnesota Timberwolves.