The Miami Heat are in trouble.
After getting embarrassed by the Celtics at home last night, the Heat are now 5-5 in their last 10 games.
They are losing the games they need to be winning—games against playoff teams like the Grizzles, Thunder, Pacers and Celtics. You know, teams they’ll be playing in the postseason.
Something isn’t quite right with this team, and with only 10 games remaining, there is little time to make adjustments.
I’ve cooked up three recipes for the second place team in the Eastern Conference to ensure they don’t experience the pain they felt last June.
Don’t Play LeBron James and Dwyane Wade Together in Crunch Time
It may sound preposterous, but the two players are at their best when the other is on the bench. The Heat are a bizarre 10-1 when Wade is out of action as it seems LeBron feels much more comfortable as “the man” on the floor.
Make no mistake about it; there has been an alpha dog battle between the two South Beach stars ever since LeBron arrived. James is the two-time MVP, but Wade has a ring and has been with the team since 2003.
My solution: make a judgment call on who has the hot hand in the fourth quarter and sit the other one on offense. In obvious defensive situations you want them both on the floor, but the offense is going to run its smoothest with somebody on the bench.
Both players have to have the ball and are not effectively used as spot-up shooters. Neither moves much without the ball when the clock is ticking down and the ball is in somebody else’s hands. If James is on the bench, Wade can penetrate to the hole knowing Mike Miller, James Jones and Shane Battier are all looming on the perimeter ready to fire away with Chris Bosh clearing out the paint.
I know it sounds like a ludicrous idea, but basketball is a team game with five parts that have to be firing on all cylinders to work. That’s simply not the case when the Heat need a basket in crunch time.
Go with the hot hand and hope the benched player’s ego doesn’t go berserk.
A tall task? Sure. The true barometer to tell if James and Wade are willing to do whatever it takes for a championship? Yep.
Play Udonis Haslem More
There is no question that Haslem is the most battle-tested player on the roster aside from D-Wade.
He’s barely playing 21 minutes a night in the last five games, and he is averaging a poultry five shots over that time span. Last night against Boston he only played 15 minutes and took three shots. Unacceptable.
His defense and ability to drill 15-footers is essential come playoff time when the defense sags off the Big Three and forces them to launch more mid-range jumpers. That’s Haslem’s meal ticket.
Right now the Heat are 20th in the league in rebounding (41.6) and need the toughness and experience of Haslem to ensure they aren’t getting bullied down low on every possession.
Bring Back Norris Cole From the Dead
The rookie came out of the gate swinging, but the Heat has watched his numbers steadily drop as the season progressed. Now he has become nothing more than an afterthought, registering 10.8 minutes in April.
That needs to change.
His quickness off the dribble and feel for the game is something starter Mario Chalmers doesn’t really have.
Is it a coincidence that Cole averages 7.8 points in 20 minutes in wins and only 16 minutes and 3.9 points in losses?
I think not.