Miami Heat: 7 Things Team Must Do for LeBron James to Win First Title
The Miami Heat are now on on the ropes, going into an elimination situation for the first time in these playoffs and the all-important LeBron is watching in horror as his championship dream potentially gets deferred yet again.
The Heat will have to drill certain ideas into their heads as to what needs to be done in order to win LeBron's first title for him. For his part, LeBron is most likely going to be his own statistically gaudy self, but he's shown time and time again that this alone won't win him the ring that he turned his career upside down to get.
None of these is a particularly new concept, so consider this more of a refresher on the things the Heat must do—or ways they must think—in order to guarantee LeBron dodges disaster and finally breaks his Finals goose egg.
Chris Bosh Must Return to Full Strength
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Not that Miami hasn't proved more than capable of winning without him, but having Bosh back means LeBron James won't have to exhaust himself with all the extra time at power forward. And in those games where LeWade can't combine for 70 points, at least someone can pick up the slack.
Defensively, though his own mother would never accuse Bosh of being tough, he does provide length and mobility inside. This will prove necessary if they're going to try and contain a rejuvenated KG pounding the post... not to mention whomever they might face in the Finals.
The Team Must Learn to Play Without LeBron in the Clutch
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No, this is not another "LeBron isn't clutch" rant; the boy wonder has been equal parts good and bad in late-game situations lately. The problem has more to do with relying on him too much to bail them out.
LeBron has shown that he's not immune from the occasional disappearing act, and this team needs to be prepared for that contingency no matter how locked in the MVP seems to be. On some nights, he'll bail them out with some strong finishes, but on other nights, they may once again find themselves in need of less likely heroes.
D-Wade can only do so much and having him as your only insurance doesn't get you out of the woods against teams as defensively evolved as Boston and perhaps San Antonio. Erik Spoelstra needs to have a viable plan B to create late-game opportunities; this team needs all the LeBron it can get, but they can't afford to be left naked without him.
They Must Have the Game of Their Lives in Boston
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Well, those Celtics sure have made it an interesting series, haven't they?
It's now officially "win or go home" time for the Heat, and their next must-win game comes in Boston. Between the pressure to survive, the hostile setting and their emboldened opponent, the Heat are going to need to turn in the performances of their lives just to force Game 7 at home.
As for this Thursday, the Heat are 3-4 on the road in these playoffs—0-2 in Boston—which is to say recent memory is not on their side. LeBron James will have the usual pressure on him to save his reputation with a huge win, but the rest of the team will have to step up.
The Celtics can smell the Finals, and the Heat will have to top even themselves like never before—from Wade all the way down to James Jones—to turn the series back their way.
If they don't, the rest of this list becomes moot. If they do, they get to do it all over again in Game 7, but at least they're back home...
Miller and Haslem Must Step Up
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We all know the refrain on these two, and it has yet to change.
Miller and Haslem are supposed to be the lynchpins of this team outside the Three Banditos, and unfortunately for the Heat, they've had their problems living up to expectations. Granted, their time with the current team has been disrupted by injuries that just refuse to go away and both lost a few steps accordingly—even at what can loosely be called full strength.
That said, they're both reasonably being expected to do what they're best at: Miller handles the long ball, and Haslem provides the mean streak. They haven't exactly been missing in action—see Game 6 against Indiana—and at the same time, they've been anything but X-factors.
For the Eastern finals, Haslem is shooting under 40 percent from the field to go with relatively modest rebounding numbers, while doing little to keep Kevin Garnett at bay down low. Miller, meanwhile, has a playoff scoring high of 12 points... LeBron had better hope they plan on bringing more to the table as this team clutches for its life.
Mario Chalmers Must Once Again Overachieve in the Finals
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Mario Chalmers showed during last year's Finals that he isn't afraid of the big moments. In fact, he has a certain knack for overachieving in them.
He continuously hit big shots, pushed the ball particularly well in transition and was suddenly the playmaker people say he isn't. If only a certain somebody had played up to the moment the way MC did, the Heat would have that all-important ring already.
Whether this was a flare-up or a trend is still to be seen, but if the Heat expect to hang with Rondo for two straight wins, followed by either TP or Westbrook... let's hope for their sake that Chalmers can make life nearly as hard for them as they will for him.
The Big Two will have their hands full without having to guard any of them for extended spells. They'll also presumably be in particular need of long-range makes in the Finals, as they'll be facing superior inside defense. Chalmers will be a prime target for those kick-out passes.
Erik Spoelstra Must Get in His Stars' Faces as Needed
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Erik Spoelstra started out with neither the respect or the attention of LeBron James, and he's more or less earned both in the two years he's coached him, but one thing people still don't expect Spo to do is pull a P.J. Carlesimo on the boy wonder. Even if he might need it at some point.
As good as the professional synergy is between the two, Spoelstra just hasn't been the kind of coach who will actually confront a superstar's ego in a tension-packed situation, particularly not one as accustomed to accommodation as ol' Talents over there.
And yet, he might need to if—and Miami fans, please note the if—James goes and has another personality crisis at the worst possible time. D-Wade tried to play the in-your-face vocal leader the last time around... Spo needs to fill that role too, including when Wade needs a good talking to. Until he does, people will continue seeing him simply as a competent placeholder on what could loosely be called a player-run team.
They Must Forget They're the Miami Heat
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When you're the most talent-laden, heavily favoured powerhouse (on paper) in the NBA—and when you honestly believe you've got the greatest trio to ever play the game of basketball—it's hard not to overestimate yourself every once in a while.
This is why some people say the only team that can beat the Heat is the Heat.
These bouts of overconfidence manifest when the Heat take their foot off the gas too soon after beating their seemingly hapless opponents halfway into the ground and presuming them finished with time to spare. To be more specific—because all teams can do that at times—Miami is no less likely to do it in a game of massive importance.
These guys just need to forget that all signs point to them winning it all. This team could up its level of performance to unseen heights if they only played every minute with a healthy fear of defeat. From here on out, if they're lucky enough to build a strong lead, they have to guard it with their lives.