After a rusty Miami Heat squad dropped Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Chicago Bulls, the defending champions have effectively gathered themselves and don’t appear to be looking back anytime soon.
With series’ end potentially looming ahead on Wednesday night, it’s time to hand out grades to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and the rest of the Heat gang for their second round performances.
If it weren’t for Miami’s lopsided victories in Games 2 and 4, nearly all of these players likely still would not have seen the floor for the Heat this round.
It’s not necessarily that these role players haven’t played well, but rather that Miami is settled into its playoff rotation quite nicely, and there hasn’t been a need for Erik Spoelstra to reach very deeply into his bag of tricks.
Joel Anthony: C+
Quite frankly, it's a little bit strange to rarely see Joel Anthony on the court for Miami. The hardworking Canadian center has been a perennial piece to the Heat’s success over the past few years.
However, with Spoelstra’s design of “small ball” and the Heat’s concerted effort to create space on the floor in order to get into their offensive rhythm, the offensively challenged Anthony has fallen by the wayside.
Oh, and don't forget about the addition of the one they call "Birdman."
He’s seen just 11 minutes of action this round, all of which have come in garbage time in Games 2 and 4. In that time, Anthony’s missed his only shot from the field and hauled in three rebounds. He also has a pair of turnovers.
In short, Anthony’s overall effect on this series is as close as it gets to zero. Therefore, it’s difficult to give him anything higher than a C+.
Just for showing up, he earns a passing grade.
Rashard Lewis: C+
The tale of Rashard Lewis’ second round is almost the same as that of Anthony’s.
He’s earned just 11 minutes, all of which came in Games 2 and 4.
Lewis has been productive in his limited time on the floor, scoring six points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field while also totaling three rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal.
However, like Anthony, his impact on this series is as minimal as it gets. Therefore, he gets slapped with a C+.
James Jones: C+
James Jones is another tale of a former key contributor who hasn’t been much of a factor for Miami throughout these playoffs.
Jones has seen 10 minutes in this series. If you’ve been paying attention to this point, I’m sure you could guess which two games those minutes came in.
He’s attempted just two field goals, both of which came from downtown, and he connected on one of those.
Jones gets a passing grade of C+ as well.
Mike Miller: C
Unlike the previously mentioned players, Mike Miller did see minutes in Miami’s Game 1 loss to Chicago.
And it’s for that reason that he gets a slightly lower grade than the rest, as Miller connected on just one of his four attempts from beyond the arc in that Game 1 when the rusty Heat so desperately needed offense.
However, it should be noted that although Miller was signed by Miami to knock down open threes, it would be unfair to pin the blame for Game 1’s woes on him.
Sure, he missed shots he’s expected to make, but so did everyone else on the Heat’s roster that night.
Overall, Miller’s impact on this series has been nothing more than a blip on the radar, so he winds up with a passing grade of a C.
Offensively, Shane Battier simply hasn’t gotten the job done for Miami.
His sole job on the offensive end is to hit open three-pointers, and he’s struggled significantly to fulfill that role throughout this series.
Battier is under 30 percent from beyond the arc this round, sinking just six of his 21 attempts.
However, being the experienced and savvy veteran that he is, Battier has found ways to make up for his scoring drought. Whether he's making his few three-pointers count or stepping up on the defensive end and on the boards, Battier is of high value to this Heat team.
If he begins knocking down his open shots with more consistency, not only will his grade climb the charts, but Miami’s already elite offense will look notably improved.
As has been the case with Battier, Ray Allen has struggled to heat up from three-point land against the Bulls.
He’s shot just 3-of-13 from downtown.
And while Allen was undoubtedly signed for the sole reason of hitting the open three-ball, he has found ways to still be productive and instrumental to Miami’s success.
Allen led Miami in scoring in its series-evening win in Game 2, collecting 21 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field. He was also a perfect 10-of-10 from the free-throw line.
In order for the Heat’s offense to really get back to clicking as it did in the regular season, though, Allen, like Battier, will need to start hitting those open threes with greater consistency.
It’s clear that the Heat have gotten out of Chris Andersen what they expected to get out of him.
He hasn’t scored more than nine points in any of the series’ four games, but he’s totaled 11 rebounds and provided an additional facet of toughness and blue-collar attitude to the Heat’s makeup each night.
And while those 11 boards might not seem like an overwhelming number, they certainly help a Miami team that has been notoriously bad when it comes to the battle on the boards.
Andersen has also come up with at least two blocks in each contest to bring his total to nine through the series' first four games.
It also should be noted that while he’s not a prolific scoring option, Andersen has been efficient by hitting seven of his 10 shots from the field.
Point guard Norris Cole, the Cleveland State product, has burst onto the national scene with his performance throughout the second round.
Cole made plenty of noise as a rookie, but he has really appeared to come into his own during this series against Chicago.
He’s hit several big shots for Miami and scored 18 points in both Games 3 and 4. He’s made 18 of his 24 shots, including 9-of-10 from beyond the arc.
On top of his reliable scoring, Cole has racked up 12 rebounds and seven assists.
Game 3 was undoubtedly Cole’s brightest moment, as the second-year point guard carried Miami offensively for most of the game while LeBron James struggled to find his way.
While Miami’s younger option at point guard has performed well, Mario Chalmers has fallen victim to old habits and is struggling to play at the level the Heat would like from their starting point guard.
Chalmers has hit just 10 of his 24 attempts from the field.
That shooting percentage might not be alarming by any means, but it’s undoubtedly lower than what the Heat desire out of Chalmers, especially with the evolution of Miami’s offensive system.
At this point, Chalmers isn’t asked to do much more than hit the open three and occasionally drive the lane for an easy bucket. And throughout this series, consistency just hasn’t been there for the Heat’s point guard.
On top of his spotty offensive play, Chalmers has accounted for six turnovers.
Udonis Haslem may still be in the Heat’s starting five, but the team co-captain hasn’t been the same force for Miami as he has been in years past.
It’s not that Haslem is underperforming, as his shot that struggled throughout the regular season has improved throughout these playoffs.
He has hit eight of his 14 shots from the field this series.
Haslem has also brought down 14 rebounds.
It’s difficult to place a finger on what’s missing from Haslem’s game compared to years past, which leads to the concept of intangibles. Whether it’s his aging, or simply his decreased role due to the offensive system, any Heat fan who’s watched this team for the past decade will tell you Haslem just doesn’t play like he used to.
After an atrocious Game 1, Heat forward Chris Bosh has gathered himself nicely to become an integral reason why Miami stands with a 3-1 lead in the series.
He’s shot 50 percent or better from the field from Game 2 on, including his 7-of-10 effort in Game 4.
And don’t forget his 19 rebounds in Game 3. In total, Bosh has amounted 36 rebounds throughout the first four games of this series.
That’s not too bad for someone who has been criticized for his efforts on the boards since he arrived in Miami.
More than anything, Bosh has played big for Miami to cover up Dwyane Wade’s struggles. If both Bosh and Wade weren’t playing like the superstars they’re paid to be, the Heat would be in serious trouble.
To say that this series has been one to forget for Dwyane Wade would be an understatement.
Erik Spoelstra and local Miami media have painted a picture that displays Wade as a mature veteran; a well-rounded teammate who understands the importance of getting his teammates involved.
And while that may be true, there’s no denying that the Heat’s franchise player hasn’t been himself lately. It’s no secret the star is once again fighting through knee issues.
Wade just doesn’t look like the aggressive player he once was.
His 15-point outing in Game 2 has been his best effort of the series so far. Game 4 really showed where Wade currently stands, as he shot just 3-of-10 from the field.
At one point in Game 4, Wade even had to sit down for a few minutes after apparently tweaking his knee while posting up against the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler.
However, it is important to keep a levelheaded perspective on this matter.
Wade might be struggling to produce at a high level, but let’s not forget he recently put together one of the more efficient seasons of his career.
The proof is in the pudding.
I had Wade somewhere in between a B- and a C+, but I ultimately decided to go with the latter because he isn’t performing like Miami had hoped for him to perform when this team was assembled three years ago.
Some have begun saying that LeBron James makes greatness look boring.
As much as that statement may seem like an oxymoron, it couldn’t be more accurate.
As the series currently stands, James is averaging just under 24 points per game, seven rebounds and nearly eight assists.
Even on an “off night” by his standards in Game 3, James still managed to get hot in the fourth and wind up with 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Long story short, it’s difficult to play much better than James has on a nightly basis throughout this series.
But you probably already knew that.