The Miami Heat appeared to be blazing a path toward the 2012 NBA Finals, but LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Co. have evidently cooled down after losing five of their last 10 games. However, the losses couldn't have occurred at a more opportune time.
On its path back to the championship, Miami has encountered recurring bumps in the road. But come late June, South Beach will party in the city where the Heat is on. (Yes, you just witnessed a Big Willie Style reference in 2012.)
Spoelstra meticulously crafted intricate game plans for the playoffs last season—most notably assigning LeBron James to defensively lock down regular-season MVP Derrick Rose.
The fourth-year head coach has evidently made a concerted effort to stress the pros and cons of his players, to his players. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade averaged 6.2 three-point attempts per game during the 2010-2011 season. This year, the inseparable larger-than-life duo only average 3.5.
However, as of late, Miami's "Big Three" have fallen into a familiar trap: isolation.
Although two of the best one-on-one players to ever grace the hardwood reside in Miami, the team is substantially more threatening when it spreads defenses out via dribble penetration and passing.
Erik Spoelstra will unquestionably make this a focal point when preparing Miami for its championship pursuit.
Breakdowns are inevitable in sports—the sooner, the better.
In the Heat's last 10 games, two statistical averages overshadow any potential bright spots: assists per game (ranked 29th with 17.4) and defensive rebounds per game (ranked last with 27.1.)
The majority of Miami's starting five consists of superb passers. However, superior confidence also leads to relying upon isolation and predetermining the fate of possessions without any improvisation.
Defensive rebounding is important for two reasons; It exemplifies a team's tenacity in the paint, and it's the fire-starter for Miami's explosive transition offense.
Here's looking at you, Chris Bosh.
Miami has traveled this road before.
During one loathsome stretch last season (beginning on February 24), the Heat lost six of seven games.
Eventually, it was smooth sailing as they righted the ship, finishing the season on a 15-3 tear.
Complementing the "Big Three" are point guard Mario Chalmers, small forward Shane Battier and shooting guard Mike Miller.
Chalmers is a suffocating on-ball defender that spreads the defense out, shooting 40 percent from three-point land.
Miller and Battier are also offensive threats from the perimeter who offer length defensively.
The aforementioned three, alongside James, Wade and Bosh, consistently exhibit the poise necessary to redirect the team's recent misfortunes.
Is a team as vastly talented as Miami's capable of flipping the figurative on/off switch?
If last year is any indication, yes.
In a truncated NBA season that once appeared to never be, players are constantly breaking a sweat on the court or traveling.
A physically taxing schedule has taken its toll on every team at various points throughout the year. Miami is no exception.
However, the Heat's fatigue may also correspond to the defensive aggression that it had exhibited during the first half of the season.
On average, Miami currently ranks third in steals and turnovers caused per game.
Expect Miami to turn up the Heat (pun completely intended) defensively when the games actually affect its quest for a ring.
Miami is well aware of its superior talent.
The trio have egos, and justifiably so.
Their competitiveness fuels their overwhelming greatness.
They don't walk, they strut.
Even when the spotlight burns out, they're capable of lighting up any stadium with one electrifying fast break.
Much like its NBA Finals encounter with the Dallas Mavericks, the Heat have gone cold during its present 5-5 stretch.
However, Miami hasn't run out of gas, they're simply saving enough to set the Eastern Conference playoffs ablaze.