The Miami Heat lost to the Indiana Pacers, 91-77, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night. In the process of the loss, a number of things happened.
First of all, the Heat were a one-man show again. Yes, Mike Miller made a quick and brief impact with a couple of consecutive three pointers, but all-in-all, Lebron’s supporting cast no-showed. The Heat, outside of Lebron, shot 31% from the field as a team. Lebron scored 29 points on 10-of-21 shooting with 7 boards and 6 assists.
No other Heat player scored more than 10 points. Dwyane Wade had 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting. Chris Bosh was even worse with five points on 1-of-8 shooting. Ray Allen had six points on 2-of-8 shooting for another empty shooting night for the greatest three-point shooter in NBA history.
The Heat were stifled. They weren’t just defeated, they were dominated.
Yes, they still had a chance entering the fourth quarter. In fact, they went on a huge run in the middle of the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to just four points. Lebron was driving to the paint and knocking down shots. The Heat were drawing fouls. Mike Miller reminded people that he still plays for the Heat.
And then it happened.
The defense that has carried the Pacers to a 3-3 series tie entering Game 7 clamped down on the Heat and exposed the Heat for what they’ve been since mid-April when the playoffs began.
The Heat are a one-man show.
Wade has struggled with nagging injuries, including sore knees to his aging 31-year-old body. He is averaging just 14 ppg on 44% shooting after shooting a career best 52% from the field during the regular season.
Bosh has struggled with a sprained ankle suffered during this series. The lack of points on the board is one thing, but the fact that Bosh continues to be humiliated when it pertains to rebounding is a whole another matter. With Chris Andersen out of the lineup due to suspension, Bosh not only had a terrible shooting night, but grabbed just four boards while Pacers big man Roy Hibbert continued to make a mockery out of the 6-foot-11-inch Bosh.
And this is the problem right now with the Heat, and it’s as clear as day—Lebron is carrying this team and it’s finally catching up with Miami.
This is not the 66-win team that dominated regular season opposition on it’s way to winning 27 straight games. This is not the dominate regular season team that saw Lebron, Wade and Bosh have their way with teams. This is not the team that was winning games with Lebron and Wade out of the lineup and guys like Miller seeing significant action.
This is a team that is in trouble entering Game 7 in Miami.
There will be a lot of questions entering this game.
There will also be a lot of questions after the game depending upon the result.
If the Heat win Game 7, expect those questions to be delayed until the Heat fall again (whether that be in the Finals or in the future). If they lose, expect the offseason to be doused with stories along the lines of, “Should Lebron leave Miami for Cleveland to pair up with Kyrie Irving in 2014?”.
Or even, “Who should the Heat trade to get better help for Lebron entering 2013-14? Bosh or Wade?”.
For a team that looked on it’s way to winning a championship for a second straight season, Game 7 will provide answers to a lot of questions.
It’s up to the Heat—not just Lebron—to answer those questions with positive results.
If not, it will be a hell of an offseason for the Miami Heat.
For all of the wrong reasons.