Losing four games out of five, the problems stopping the Miami Heat from reaching the top of the standings in the Eastern conference are more than just complacency and taking it easy on opponents. LeBron James has rough nights and isn’t getting enough help from his bench and role players, or maybe not doing enough himself to try and make them work.
The Heat lost 96-95 to the Brooklyn Nets, making it three losses to a team that previously failed to beat them in all 11 games of the big three era. LeBron James finished with 19 points, making it 20 points a night on only 44.8% from the field since his 61-point performance; not just distancing him from a fifth MVP award, but also showing us that at this stage of the season, he might need a bit more rest than he’s letting on.
Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are doing a good job offensively. Wade is averaging 21.8 points over the last five games, Bosh is bringing down 18. The Heat have other issues that denied them taking advantage of the Indiana Pacers losing so many games in a row, which should have been enough for Miami to take the lead in the East.
The rebounding problems were there for all to see even against a team without much of a frontline like the Nets.It begins with the defense not being where it should be – not metaphorically, when compared to the previous years, and specifically with players scrambling around, out of position, making it easier to move them around and hit open 3-point shots, like both Paul Pierce and Mirza Teletovic managed to do in high accuracy during the game.
The Nets also used length and changed players on James to frustrate him. Whenever LeBron has a bad game or two, it’s always about him not giving his all, in some small way. He can overpower Paul Pierce, Teletovic or Shaun Livingston. I wouldn’t say without a problem, but playing the right way? It shouldn’t be this much of an effort for him. But James, the bad version of him, tries to do a bit too much of the wrong things: Pulling up for 3’s instead of moving the ball or trying to blow by players, not to mention dribbling down the clock, giving up on trying to think.
The Heat seem to fall into their negative habits a bit too much this season. The movement on defense is too slow which leaves too many open shots for their opponents, and the offense, especially when Norris Cole is on the floor (at least in recent games) looks horrendous and lacking the energy you expect to see with Chris Andersen and Cole on the floor.
Something about Spoelstra’s rotations has also been inconsistent all season long. The better parts of the Heat’s basketball this year (February) came when it was pretty much clear Beasley was going to get his minutes, Oden getting a bit involved for 10 minutes a night and everyone knew their place. However, something again has upset him about the guys, and there seems to be this confused aura about the Heat’s basketball over the last couple of weeks, excluding their win over the Wizards.
Losses and struggling against certain teams in the regular season have no bearing on the postseason. The Heat’s wins over the Bulls in 2011 and 2013 make it obvious to see. But turning it on and off like a switch becomes harder and harder, and for the Heat to show us they’re ready to put on a quality title defense, the final month of the season has to look better than what we’ve been seeing in March.