Lebron James talks with Coach Erik Spoelstra

Time to Panic?

The Miami Heat has lost 5 of its last 6 games, and 4 in a row.  In 4 of those losses, the Heat surrendered double digit leads and could not close out the 4th quarter.  It is clear that this team has some serious issues.

Coach Erik Spoelstra has preached all season that this team’s growth is a “process” and it will take time.  The problem is, when you start the season with arguably more hype than any team in the history of sports, there is no time table for greatness.  Its success must be imminent.

Fans are not patient.  They demand results.  This Heat team is not providing what it promised this summer, before the season began.  Yes they have been very good at times, but they have been abysmal against the elite teams in the NBA, falling to 0-6 against Boston and Chicago.  This is alarming for Miami.  They simply cannot finish games.

I wish there was a logical explanation as to why the Heat are losing all of their games in the 4th quarter.  The fact is before this season, Lebron James and Dwyane Wade were among the NBA’s best at closing out games with their ability to drive to the basket.  It makes no sense that with two great wing scorers on the floor, the team struggles to find easy offense late in games.

This can be attributed to an overuse of “hero ball” a term coined to define the isolation style of play that Lebron and Dwyane play at the end of games, relying mostly on their athleticism in one-on-one matchups for success.

It makes sense, that this style would be less effective when playing on the court together, because when teams are defending Lebron in isolation he is more likely to pass to the open shooter when double teamed.  Being that Dwyane is the other wing spacing the floor, the situation turns him into a jump shooter, and therefore less effective considering he is best going to the basket.  The same logic applies when you swap the two.

Another play the Heat go to is the pick and roll with Chris Bosh from the top of the circle.  Miami did this against Chicago, while it led to some easy scoring and some open three-pointers for Mike Miller, he could not convert.  Miller was 0-4 from downtown against the Bulls.  No matter what the Heat decide to do moving forward, it’s obvious that they need to find more efficient ways to score down the stretch of games.

Along with losing comes doubt and criticism.  Most of it directed towards Spoelstra.  As if somehow it’s his fault that Lebron his team continues to break off the play call and force bad shots down the stretch.  Some blame Bosh, claiming he is too soft and needs to play better.  These criticisms are absurd, taking into account that Bosh has probably been Miami’s most consistent player this season especially with getting to the free-throw line.  Last time I checked, it does not seem easy to take hacks at the power forward position.  As for Spo, people will only get off his back if he wins a championship, and even then he will not be given the credit he deserves for dealing with a locker room of egos.

Wade, for as much as he is beloved in Miami and while he is putting up good numbers, has had some of his worst games of his career this season in crucial games.  He has played some games with such inefficiency that he cost his team an opportunity to win.  Yet, because he has brought a championship to Miami he gets immunity from the criticism, and he should.  After all, it was Wade who brought James and Bosh down here.

Ultimately, it will always come down to Lebron.  He is the face of the NBA and his decision is the storyline of the NBA this year.  Say what you want about what he did, but because of what he did, the NBA is more popular today than it ever has been.  I have been watching the NBA for a long time and I do not recall a regular season that was held with as much regard as this one.  Lebron has made the regular season relevant.  He will have to breakthrough at the end of games for this team to take its next step.

With 19 games remaining before the NBA’s second season begins, the Heat have precious time to figure out why they can’t finish games.  Miami has a few more tests coming up against some of the elite teams, so perhaps they can salvage what has quickly turned into a nightmare.

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