The moment the Miami Heat become a team that has only LeBron James to rely on offensively, they turn away from everything that turned them into the NBA champions a year ago. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have evaporated from the series, and suddenly game 7 seems like a much tougher hurdle to get over, as the team looks more dysfunctional than it has been all season long.
James finished with 29 points in a disappointing losing effort, 77-91, the only player with more than 10 points. While he shot a reasonable 10-of-21 from the field, the rest of the Heat were terrible with 16-of-51, only 31.4% from the field. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh made it clear there isn’t a Big Three at the moment, just a Great One and a bunch or role players not doing a great job at the moment.
Wade, looking worse and worse with his knee issues each game, finished with 10 points on 3-of-11 from the field. Despite having the lead in the series entering game 6, Erik Spoelstra decided that he is the one that needs to be doing more tinkering and changing, letting his team down with his decisions to step away from their more capable offensive lineups and surrendering to the big schemes the Pacers had going on.
The result? Dwyane Wade spending most of the game on Paul George (who finished with 28 points), allowing him 13 points on 71% from the field while guarding him, compared to only 1-of-4 from the field when James was on the Pacers’ best offensive player. The Heat, without Chris Andersen (suspended) had too many minutes of Udonis Haslem, who is almost useless on the court once his corner jump shots stop dropping, and Joel Antony, who did a lot of good on defense, but is a non-factor offensively, incapable of making anything that’s not a tip in off an offensive rebound.
Chris Bosh was hardly felt as well. It looks like he’s not even trying to figure out how to make himself useful, while the team isn’t really trying to play though him. Bosh (5 points, 1-of-8 from the field) touched the ball only 19 times, the fewest for him in the series (averaging 27.6 before the game). The same thing happened to Wade with only 25 touches compared to 53 throughout the series.
The Heat are building on their experience and the game 7 factor, but with so many departments on the team not working: The rebounding was awful once again, while no one but James seems like a reliable player to give the ball to at the moment, with Ray Allen continuing to look awful (2-of-8 from the field, only 6 points) and Mario Chalmers being destroyed defensively by George Hill despite his 10 points.
So the Heat have 13 players compared to the Pacers’ two with a game 7 experience, which includes last season against the Boston Celtics, as James took his game to another level in the final couple of games. He is averaging 34.3 points per game in game 7’s, the highest average by any player that’s played in at least 2 game such games, even more than Michael Jordan.
And yet that shouldn’t be what the Heat look at. They should look at the few things that worked for them in game 6 and throughout the series: Moving the ball quick, and not it getting stuck in the hands of James as he tries to seek anyone out of the four others to create some sort of workable opportunity. Erik Spoelstra needs to stop looking shocked at every bad development in the game, like his decision making has been flawless.
The Heat are letting the Pacers dictate the terms of this series by trying to play like them instead of playing to their own strengths. At this point, even a huge 35 point or more performance from LeBron James might not be enough, if the rest of the team keeps looking like, as some mentioned as Miami were losing the game, like the Miami Cavaliers.