Even though the Miami Heat escaped with a 112-110 overtime win over the Orlando Magic, many of the same issues that produced a two-game losing streak before this contest remained front and center.
Heat fans, even though your team won, you can officially start to worry.
Miami was completely annihilated on the boards, got practically nothing from its role players and failed to play with sustained defensive intensity. All of that nearly added up to a disastrous third loss in as many games.
Only a late push on D and the typical brilliance of LeBron James prevented a disastrous third straight loss.
If there was a moment that typified the game, it was a late-fourth-quarter sequence in which Nikola Vucevic and Josh McRoberts played volleyball on the offensive boards while the Heat stood idly by, unable to get on the glass. The play resulted in a bucket and gave the Magic an 87-84 lead.
Miami fought back to send the game to OT, where it eventually prevailed, but the Heat have plenty to be concerned about going forward.
The Heat will be glad to turn the page on a seriously disappointing final week of 2012, especially considering things could have been much worse if they'd failed to pull this one out. Before they move on, they'll have to suffer the wrath of some pretty harsh grades.
Mario Chalmers: F
If Mario Chalmers is going to play defense like he did against the Magic, there's almost no logical explanation for his presence on the court.
In one sequence, he was late in trailing J.J. Redick around a screen on an inbounds play. That resulted in a made three. He subsequently surrendered a breakaway layup to Arron Afflalo and then, worst of all, totally lost sight of Redick, yielding an easy layup.
This is Chalmers' fifth season. He's too experienced to be making so many mental errors on D, and you can tell his teammates feel the same way. There were a half dozen instances of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade furiously staring Chalmers down in this one.
Miami's starting point guard finished with three points and four assists in 26 minutes, and frankly, he's lucky Norris Cole is one of the least productive players in the league. If there was a halfway-decent backup available, Chalmers wouldn't be seeing any minutes at all.
Dwyane Wade: D
Wade played less than five minutes in the first quarter, thanks to a foul that left him with a bloody nose. When he returned in the second, Wade seemed a lot more interested in falling down anytime a Magic player came near him than he was in actually trying to score.
Because he's earned a reputation as a star player, Wade's typical theatrics yielded 10 free-throw attempts. But he made just three.
As an aside, how Jacque Vaughn avoided getting tossed after a particularly atrocious call on a missed Wade dunk in OT, I'll never know.
Anyway, back to Wade.
To be fair, Arron Afflalo is a heck of a defensive player and he hounded Wade into a bevy of tough shots. With so much attention being paid to James and Bosh, Wade often had to choose between hoisting a contested jumper or giving the ball up to one of Miami's underperforming role players. You can understand why he took matters into his own hands so often.
Overall, Wade managed just 21 points on 9-of-21 shooting.
And before anyone mentions it, I don't even want to hear about his last-second steal that sealed the game. If he makes even half of his free throws, the Heat aren't in a position to need that final play.
This wasn't a performance he'll want to remember.
LeBron James: A
It's unfair to even ask, but LeBron James needs to do more for the Miami Heat.
LBJ played nearly 48 minutes and put up 36 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, and it was just barely enough. It's becoming increasingly clear that Miami's supporting cast just isn't capable of giving James enough help, so the only alternative is for the King to force the issue.
He did that in overtime, giving Miami an early boost with two quick post-up buckets.
In what's becoming a strange trend, James came out hot, amassing 10 points and five assists in the first quarter, but then coasted in the second and third before flipping the switch back to the "on" position in the last six minutes of the game and OT.
Maybe he's smart enough to know that he has to pace himself for the long haul this season. Or maybe he just doesn't want to pull his full takeover act in every game for fear of being criticized as "selfish."
You can't get blood from a stone, which is basically what the Heat are doing by asking their terrible reserves to produce. But as Miami's rock, James has the ability to do even more than he already is. He may have to dig even deeper in the new year.
Udonis Haslem: F
In theory, Erik Spoelstra's logic was sound; he started Udonis Haslem at the 4 in order to combat Orlando's size on the front line and to shore up the Heat's sketchy rebounding numbers.
In practice, Haslem gave the Heat absolutely nothing, and his failure to keep Nikola Vucevic off the boards nearly cost Miami the game. Vucevic pulled down a stunning 29 rebounds on the night, and for the vast majority of his minutes, Haslem was assigned to him.
Vucevic out-rebounded the entire Heat team in the first half by a margin of 16-12.
Offensively, Haslem rushed shots underneath and never got to the line, finishing with two points, six rebounds and four fouls in just under 17 minutes.
Haslem's performance wasn't exactly the type you'd expect from a rotation player on a championship team. Either he needs to pick it up, or Erik Spoelstra needs to look elsewhere for help inside.
Chris Bosh: B-
At some point, the rest of the NBA is going to figure out that Chris Bosh cannot be left alone in the mid-range area. Miami's center leads the league in field-goal percentage from 16-to-23 feet, and he put on an impressive shooting display against the slow-to-adjust Magic.
Scoring aside, Bosh failed to make many other meaningful contributions.
He spent a fair amount of time chasing Andrew Nicholson around the perimeter, so his lack of defensive rebounds is somewhat explainable.
Even though we're placing a fair amount of blame for Vucevic's spectacular night on Udonis Haslem, Bosh did spend a lot of time defending him in the fourth quarter. Suffice it to say, that didn't work much better. Orlando's center continued to pummel the Heat on the boards and even hit a few jumpers when Bosh wandered away from him.
Overall, Bosh ended up with 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting, but Miami needed more than scoring from him.
Ray Allen: B-
Coming into the game against the Magic, Ray Allen had hit just five of his last 24 field-goal attempts over the previous three contests.
He remedied that by drilling his first look, an open triple. Of course, Allen provided a perfect microcosm of his season moments later, when he completely abandoned J.J. Redick on the defensive end, yielding a wide-open three for Orlando's sharpshooter.
Allen hit a handful of huge shots on the night, particularly in the fourth quarter as Miami clawed its way back into the game. But his inability to stick with Redick actually forced the Heat to resort to a box-and-one zone in late spurts.
This is what Allen is now: a shooting specialist who absolutely must make a high percentage of his shots to stay on the floor. Even when he's hitting, it's tough for Miami to break even as opposing teams relentlessly attack the weak link.
To his credit, Allen was aggressive early, even finding his way into the lane on a couple of drives, which helped keep his defenders honest.
Overall, Allen's 17 points gave the Heat some of the bench scoring they desperately needed, and he wasn't the only defensive sieve out there. So he earns relatively high marks.
Bench Grade: F
The Heat didn't have any luck keeping Vucevic off the boards with Haslem on the floor, but when Shane Battier entered the game, things only got worse.
Miami's cerebral "three-and-D" role player provided absolutely nothing for the second straight game. He finished with zero points in 26 minutes and had serious trouble staying in front of Afflalo on the other end. We may be coming to the end of the road for Battier.
Norris Cole was terrible, but what else is new? Miami's backup point guard put up a goose egg in seven minutes. He's basically unplayable at this point.
If there's anyone deserving of even the slightest praise on Miami's bench, it's Joel Anthony. The big lefty managed eight points in 12 minutes.
Orlando's bench outscored Miami's, 44-28, so the unproductive Heat reserves will continue to be an enormous source of concern going forward.