LeBron James & Co.: The Five Toughest Matchups Miami Will Face in the Playoffs
Unbeknownst to a lot of people who cover the Miami Heat or fall victim to their Hollywood appeal, the team consists of more than just LeBron James. Howbeit, James is still the team’s best player. Let’s not screw around: James is the league’s best player.
Still, we are treated to games where neither he nor Wade can be solely responsible for defeating the teams in the league with a fierce amount of fearlessness when it comes to facing the South Beach giants.
Against the Chicago Bulls, Wade and James were a two-man wrecking crew. They were functioning as the sole offensive edges Miami had to offer when the Bulls were constantly punching them in the mouth with collective efforts.
Be it a one-game slump or the other faces on the roster putting too much stock into Bron Bron and Flash, the game was lost in a heavy-hearted fashion. This match had postseason implications and Chicago walked away looking like refined contenders while Miami was shown the door in what was supposed to be a routing.
Last year’s MVP was absent with a groin injury that has kept him sideline for several games. Yet, the Chicago’s convergence of offense and John Lucas’ induction into the spotlight trumped anything they missed in Rose’s acrobatics and itchy trigger finger.
That is usually the tune Miami sings. Inconsistency is one of their only consistencies as they too often play cat-and-mouse with leads they are supposed to have a tight hold on.
Looking forward, LeBron and Wade cannot be the only ones in the game playing for all the chips. Third wheel Chris Bosh, streaky Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony have to be prime participants.
The Dream Team will be met with resistance, however. There is not a single franchise that will step quietly into that white light allowing Miami to simply walk by with a series win under their belt.
Every man on this roster has a weakness and the starters are exposed routinely. Don’t think for one second opposing coaches are not taking note. They are running the tape backwards and forwards figuring out a way to best the NBA’s most enticing—and most exaggerated—squad in the nation.
Chris Bosh vs. Amar'e Stoudemire
Chris Bosh will never be considered an esteemed member of the “Big Three”. Never will he be granted the consideration of influencing the terms of the playoffs or being an instrumental member of South Beach’s high society.
It seems as if Bosh has settled for just doing his job and taking the cheers his teammates toss from the sidelines whenever he propels himself high enough.
The honest truth is that Bosh is just as effective in manipulating the outcome of a series as either of the other two distinguished athletes. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have a sixth sense for game-changing moments and Bosh is no different.
Going up against Amar'e Stoudemire, the new and improved Stoudemeister, will force Bosh to extend his game past the futile force he has been for Miami’s last couple. Stoudemire is not exactly the best power forward in the league, but with Coach Woodson allowing him and Carmelo Anthony to run the Knicks offense, he looks pretty damn good.
With both men traveling in different directions, it will be interesting to see which forward brings his A-game. Stoudemire cannot carry the sole responsibilities of stopping or surging the Knicks to the second round. He can participate in making Bosh’s life a living hell around the basket, however.
This matchup will only be possible if Miami makes the push to a one-seed while the Knicks are located in the eighth. It can also be attainable if Miami stays solid in the second seed and New York manages to one-up the Boston Celtics for the seventh.
LeBron James vs. Derrick Rose
LeBron James is just Miami Heat’s best defender. There is nothing to see here folks. He only had the opportunity to shut down last season’s MVP in a seven-game series that ended with Miami trumping the Chicago Bulls, 4-1.
Derrick Rose is just Chicago’s biggest threat. Do not allow the fact that Chicago has been almost fine without him. While still being the defensive prestige they are with the diamond in the rough that is Rose, players such as Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and John Lucas III have refused to dim their fire.
During this stint, it appears as if Chicago has it all figured out with or without the face of their franchise.
Toss them into a seven-game series with the wolves of Miami. Things will not be such sunny days and paralleled rainbows.
Rose is, at times, the Bulls’ only hope. Pitting each franchise’s best players against each other seems like a classically-tuned clash of the illegitimate, ring-less titans. That is exactly what the game plan will be this year in the Eastern Conference Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat.
LeBron faces more of a challenge than he did last year, simply because Rose seemed ill-prepared. A better sense of experience coming into this year’s playoffs will only give Rose the boost in confidence he needed direly last year.
Not to mention, being benched while watching his troops being commandeered through war without their general may just give Rose even more motivation.
As if he needs it.
Joel Anthony vs. Tyson Chandler
Joel Anthony has never been enough of a role player to impress me.
Thank goodness for him I sit outside of Miami Heat’s chain of command. Although, he may have gotten the boot from me last season, or even been amnestied before the season’s start, the Heat still finds ways to use him adequately in their starting rotation.
Unfortunately, Tyson Chandler is not just a filler for New York’s starters. He was coveted by the Knicks front office for reasons known to the Dallas Mavericks and anyone else who saw the Western Conference playoffs. Chandler is not a superstar. He is a maximum-advantage role player by every angle of criteria.
It took him a moment to become adjusted with the Knicks, but once his engine starts, it is hard to halt. Chandler’s hustle is what is most impressive about his sharp-edged defense.
His shot-blocking and rebounding cannot be overlooked either when evaluating how much of an advantage he provides the Knicks frontcourt.
Anthony appears on and off throughout the game and sometimes even treats his teammates to a full-throttle 15-plus minutes.
But you see, his performance against the revitalized Knicks cannot afford to be one and off. Miami needs his abilities to be at full attention every time he enters back in the game or he might see his starting position cascaded towards Udonis Haslem for the remainder of the postseason.
Dwyane Wade vs. Chicago Bulls
Maybe it is because this is where a quadrant of his life story is perpetuated. It seems that when it comes to Dwyane Wade, there is just something about Chicago.
It is not about the point totals or averages. Statistically, it may seem as if Wade is all the way in sync with the King, the Queen and the jesters. However, it is his swagger. It is the way he plays the game that makes you forget the all so familiar flashy "Flash."
In three games last season, Wade averaged 29.0 points against the Bulls. This season that average has only fallen 3.5 points in two games against Chicago.
When it came to the playoffs, where the general public assumes that Wade must automatically reign supreme, he only averaged 18.8 points per. Scoring as low as 14 points in a game that series, there was a second half in which he did not score at all.
There is just something about Chicago when it comes to Wade.
It could have just been a bad series out of four where Wade just could not find his game. The problem being that this never happens to him.
As the publicly selected leader of the franchise, despite LeBron’s MVP season, Wade has to be on all the time. Not as if he will be ousted for slowing the pace ever so often. However, when he is not on, people take notice.
Chicago Bulls have the kryptonite for the second-most important member of the most important team in the NBA.
Mario Chalmers vs. Derrick Rose
Mario Chalmers should be granted a bigger and better role within Miami’s lineup. Give him some more responsibilities and see how he can handle them. He is the team’s starting point guard. Chalmers deserves a bump up the food chain.
Why won’t head coach Erik Spoelstra give it to him?
Miami’s head coach will not give Chalmers heightened placement in the Heat’s pecking order because he does not trust him to be stable at the top. Chalmers has a great deal of potential and sometimes when called upon, exceeds his past and reaches it.
Then there are other times when Chalmers reverts back to hurling the ball into the stands instead of making it a crisp connect to one of this teammates around the rim. He can even turn the ball over a thousand times in one game just to show you it’s real.
The fact of the matter is that Chalmers is just not ready to guard some of the more immersed guards in the league. That’s usually where LeBron comes in.
That does not mean that Chalmers does not eventually end up in Rose’s cross-hairs. Chalmers is not as athletic as Rose is. He is not as quick as Rose is either, which is what makes this matchup so dire for Chalmers to overtake.
If he cannot guard the league’s best he will never have a solid position in Miami’s starting lineup. If another, better, free agent comes along, who’s to say that Miami would not see stars and greener grass?
This postseason, Chalmers has the chance to prove himself. Although he may not be covering Rose for long, he can make the most of his coverage. It would not only give Miami the relief that they have the point guard that will extend towards the future they were hoping for, it would give Chalmers a moment to breathe easy.
His spot would be safe, if only for a moment.