Playing Panic or Patience With Miami Heat Struggles

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJanuary 16, 2013

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 04:  Dwyane Wade #3 and LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat high five during a game against the Chicago Bulls at AmericanAirlines Arena on January 4, 2013 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Maybe the Heat are just taking a nap. A quick 20-minute snooze while the boss is out to lunch.

Miami just lost its fourth game in six tries and sixth of its last 10. So what does that mean?

Mayhem! Sound the alarms, women and children first!

No, not really, but there is still concern if you're a big-picture thinker.

Assuming we're operating under the circumstances of championship or bust, Miami Heat fans should at least broach the thought of panic.

There are two areas for concern that just can't be ignored. 

The first issue is roster balance. The Heat's counterparts are so weak that they force their stars to play out of position.

With Chris Bosh at the 5, it creates mismatches for them offensively, but it kills them on the boards, where they rank No. 30 in the NBA. Miami's most recent loss came to the Jazz, who outrebounded the Heat, 40-23. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap combined for a modest 40 and 20, leaving poor little Bosh all alone with leftover scraps. After 26 minutes, he escaped from the pile with one rebound and zero free-throw attempts.

With Udonis Haslem nearing the end of his career and Joel Anthony a questionable starter in the D-League, Miami offers minimal resistance inside. It's like a club in the city where the bouncer doesn't care. He let practically the whole damn Pacers team in the other night. Paul George, Roy Hibbert and David West combined for 36 rebounds while holding Miami to 77 points.

Miami's role players lack substance all around. Ray Allen, Mike Miller and Rashard Lewis can all shoot, but can they move? These are one-dimensional players with serious defensive limitations.

I have to admit, they got away with it last year. If it were last year, I'd brush it off my shoulder while listening to Jay-Z. But it's not last year, and that brings me to my second point of concern.

This worry isn't so much with Miami as it is with the rest of the league. The potential candidates the Heat will have to face have gotten stronger, wiser and deeper. 

Have you seen Oklahoma City lately? Nonstop firepower. It's like a Michael Bay movie.

Kevin Martin is a potent weapon off the bench, and Serge Ibaka has taken his game to the next level. And if you haven't seen Ibaka lately, the guy looks like he could be an extra alongside Gerard Butler in 300 if you gave him a shield and spear. He, along with Kendrick Perkins, who's angry when he's happy, are going to give Bosh and that gentle frontcourt all they can handle on the interior.

And how about those Clippers? What if they were to take down the Thunder? That team has players hiding under rocks. I think I saw Grant Hill crawl out from under one the other day.

The Clippers play higher above the rim than any team I've ever seen. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have breathed air that Miami's frontcourt will never get to sniff as long as trampolines are banned.

The trio of Chris Paul, Griffin and Jordan is just an ugly matchup for the Heat's uninspiring tandem up front.

While Miami is sputtering and its role players are wearing down, teams in the West are improving and building stronger physically.

There's no need to panic if your goal for Miami is to reach the Finals. I think the teams in the East will find a way to eliminate themselves regardless of how well the Heat play.

But I'm talking big picture. LeBron James and company versus Kevin Durant and his crew. One seven-game series. If I'm a Miami fan right now looking the Thunder in the eyes, I'm not confident.

Miami's recent slump shouldn't call for an emergency landing, but the turbulence could possibly have long-term effects.