Remember the days when LeBron James would find offensive touches in crunch time and look for teammates to bail him out?
Remember the ensuing attacks from hypercritical members of the media, who continually blamed the King for his team's late-game struggles?
Well, James has continued to find open shooters. But one recipient of his passes in particular has helped silence those critics: Ray Allen.
You know, the NBA's all-time leader in three-pointers made?
With James as the playmaker and Allen as the shot maker, coach Erik Spoelstra has found a winning combination for clutch situations. Allen has already hit three game-winning three-pointers for his new team.
What makes Allen an exceptional late-game threat is the fact that he's just one of many options at Spoelstra's disposal. James and Dwyane Wade have the ability to break down their defenders then shoot over the top or drive to the basket. Chris Bosh (shooting 56 percent from the field) can also create something out of nothing.
And Allen isn't even the only perimeter shooter that defenses have to account for. He's merely one component of the NBA's third best three-point shooting team (41.3 percent).
While the Heat have tied New York for the fourth best start to the 2012-13 season (12-4), there have been whispers of the defending champions' mortality. Their defense has allowed opponents to shoot 44.4 percent (17th in the league). Spoelstra's position-less roster has also suffered a minus-1.62 rebounding differential (19th in the NBA).
But these concerns have been lessened by their incredibly efficient offensive attack. They lead all NBA teams with a 49.3 field goal percentage. They have tallied the fourth-most assists per game in the league (23.4) despite the lack of a playmaking point guard on the roster.
Here's where James and Wade step in. The rare superstars are equal parts dynamic scorers and willing passers. They command defensive attention and find the forgotten shooter.
James had visions of these successes during three straight playoff battles with Allen's Celtics (2010-12). James told USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt that Allen's ability to space the floor and make clutch buckets would only improve what was already a great offense.
Miami's no longer an elite NBA defense. And Spoelstra's best lineups feature undersized bigs, so their rebounding issues will continue. But the combination of James, Wade, Bosh and the shooters leave the Heat as championship favorites.
James will put these shooters in position to succeed, particularly late in games. After all, he's been making the correct basketball play for years.
All statistics used in this article are accurate as of 12/4/2012.