After hitting the bottom, the only way is up. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have been close to non-factors on too many possession and minutes in the conference finals for the Miami Heat, but LeBron James does share some of the blame, probably taking too much on himself while trying to save the day.
Some things number tell better than anything else, and the stats show LeBron James isn’t hogging the ball, but he’s not making his teammates and big three partners better, and the change needed for the Heat to win this series and reach their third consecutive NBA finals probably beings with him.
In the first four games of the series, James averaged 19.8 shots and 28 points. In the past two games, James has averaged 24 shots and 29.5 points. Dwyane Wade averaged 15 shots and 16.8 points over the first four games, but has a total of 19 shots and 20 points over the last couple of games. It gets even worse with Bosh, who hasn’t scored in double-digits in three consecutive games for the first time since his rookie season, his combined 15 points on 4-of-19 from the field with Wade in the 77-91 loss in Game 6 was their lowest since becoming teammates in 2010.
There are other things that need fixing, and that has to do with Erik Spoelstra. He let the Indiana Pacers take over the series by trying to counter them with weird lineup that take away everything great about the Heat. If Shane Battier plays only 4 minutes because Spoelstra is afraid to use him, the Heat are in trouble. Their only way of disturbing the Pacers’ defense except for individual greatness from James is ball movement and spacing, but that doesn’t happen without good shooters on the floor.
When the lineup includes Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem together for too long, the Heat are bound to struggle offensively. Mike Miller being brought from the dead all of a sudden isn’t good coaching – that’s becoming desperate, in a bad way. The Heat are now desperate, with their backs to the wall for a second straight season, tied at 3-3 heading into the final game, but this time with the momentum going against them.
They need to try and stop and slow down Hibbert, but not at all costs. Not when it means putting Dwyane Wade for long minutes on Paul George, who had no problem getting by the hurting veteran. Not when it leaves too many players open as the Pacers found a way to move the Heat’s defense around, almost at will, in game 6. The Heat’s defense always leaves openings, but its quick enough and confident enough in covering them in time. They can’t afford to play another dysfunctional game on all fronts in game 7, and relying on the home court difference isn’t enough.
Hitting a brick wall on a few plays isn’t such a bad idea. Hibbert shouldn’t be avoided, but attacked. Wear his big body down, even if it takes a couple of blocks and more misses on these plays. Shooting from the paint is always better than most other options, and with Hibbert averaging only 3.8 fouls per game, the Heat need to do a better job in making him do more than just stand around and being scary.
LeBron James needs to be great, but not if it means holding on to the ball for more than 8 seconds and making it impossible to build an offense that doesn’t end up with someone taking a bad shot. If you’re going to have someone take a bad shot its James, but it negates a lot of the depth and qualities the Heat have as a team, and it’s partially on him.
James has shown he can do it, but now it’s Wade’s and Bosh’s turn to show this is still a big Three, and not just a one man show with assistants. They’ll get the ball a lot more than they did in the previous game, you can count on that. The Heat are just hoping that they haven’t given up too much to the Pacers as the series dragged on, and still have enough in the tank to deliver the final blow against a younger and more confident team at the moment.