After a great start to his Miami Heat career, Ray Allen has struggled being the vital piece he was projected to be for most of the postseason. Finally, on a night in which his shooting was at its best since the beginning of the NBA finals, both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade made too many mistakes that were too costly to overcome, putting them on the verge of hitting the summer break without a trophy in their hands.
For the third time since the beginning of the Big Three project, the Heat are facing a 2-3 deficit. The first time, in the 2011 NBA finals, they also went back home for two final games, but lost by 10 points in game 6. A year later, in the Eastern Conference Finals, James put on what might be his finest performance in Heat uniform to tie the series at 3-3 against the Boston Celtics before clinching game 7 at home.
And their back in the same spot, losing momentum once again. Their big three combined to score 66 points, as James and Wade each scored 25, but shooting only 40.9% from the field and turning the ball over 7 times. In general, it looked like Miami weren’t too sure on how to handle the situation in which Wade is back at his best, and the decision making and hierarchy problems that hurt the team in the past, were back.
When trying to point a finger at something that didn’t work, it was the defense. The Heat allowed the Spurs to shoot 60% from the field. While some of those baskets, especially late in the game, were the kind there’s nothing really you can ask more from the defending player, too many open three pointers (9-of-22 from beyond the arc for the Spurs) and bad matchups on defense (if you’re the Heat) allowed Parker and Ginobili to have big days.
You can’t win when allowing 114 points for the second time in three games, and while Miami did score 104, too many times did their offense stutter and struggle, none more painfully than when the Spurs went on a 21-2 run that lasted till the end of the game, even though the Heat, through some impressive shooting from Ray Allen (21 points) got them back to a point where the Spurs felt scared.
The old problems were back – the Spurs crowded the paint, and the Heat, regardless of their lineup, simply froze and stopped thinking about solutions. Once the posting up for James was bleeding the Spurs, they put Boris Diaw on the regular season MVP, resulting in James shooting only 1-of-8 against the Frenchman, including 0-of-3 when posting up against him.
Maybe the Heat were right about not getting a few calls on some drives to the basket, but that didn’t decide the game. Mike Miller taking only one shot for a second straight game didn’t help. Chris Bosh looking dormant for too many minutes (and still finishing with 16) wasn’t what the doctor called for. Norris Cole doing the wrong thing on both ends of the floor on every occasion was a killer. Mario Chalmers having too much confidence (and shooting 2-of-10) was just as bad.
The Heat felt too confident, maybe even arrogant, going into the game. They feel they can weather any storm, even going down by 18 and 20 in the fourth quarter, but for too long during the game, on both ends of the floor, they looked like a team without a plan. That’s on Erik Spoelstra and LeBron James, who didn’t take control of the game in the way he can and should of, while the team failed to respond when they had the chance to take a lead in both the game and the series for the first time.
Now? Now it’s survival for 48 minutes, and then another 48 minutes if they make it through the first round of holding on. No more time for trials, adjustments and mistakes. Whatever it is the Heat feel they’re withholding, it’s time to unleash it. They’ve made too many mistakes and simply played subpar team basketball in too many minutes during this series and these playoffs to feel like they should be up in this one.
If LeBron James doesn’t take control of his team’s offense, while the rest of the players start moving around instead of waiting in isolation mode around half the time, and the defense keeps letting Danny Green find himself open time after time, there will be no repeat, and another horrible summer of being questioned, ridiculed and diminished, despite everything they’ve done this season.