Few expected the Miami Heat to start the season with a 1-2 record, suffering back-to-back losses for the first time since January. It's far too early for the Heat to even flinch at having a losing record, as the team's roster is too talented for it to become a trend. What is a trend, however, is Miami's sluggish starts thus far.
First and foremost, it is still the first fortnight of the NBA schedule. Teams around the league can agree it is a long one, so any current headlines may very well be no longer valid when the season closes. It doesn't hurt to review the issue, however.
Miami is yet to score more than 20 points in the first quarter this season, averaging 15.5 points in the opening period according to Team Rankings. Its opening night production of 17 points against the Chicago Bulls is to be expected for the first game of the season, but a lowly 14 points against the Philadelphia 76ers and 18 points last night against the Brooklyn Nets are not.
Teams don't really get into the full swing of things until midway through the season, so it might be harsh to bring the Heat down so early on. Other teams like the Bulls, Nets and Indiana Pacers are gunning for the Heat, thus their mindset should be to compete as much as possible. They are back-to-back champions, and teams are going to give them their all to prove they can compete with the reigning NBA victors.
It has been a staple of this team over the past few seasons to start slow and finish strong. More often that not, Miami is able to pull out the win by relying on the overwhelming talent of the Big Three and their supporting cast. Whether that's inflated their ego remains to be seen, as the Heat survived two playoff series after falling behind and charging back to succeed last season. Against both the Indiana Pacers and the San Antonio Spurs, Miami was pushed to the brink of elimination, however, the team's ability to push through all the pressure and win was paramount.
It might be an overreaction to question their effort in the first few weeks of the season, but you can't help but be puzzled at the lack of intensity and concentration of a team on a quest for a third straight NBA championship. The last team to win back-to-back in the NBA Finals was the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. They started their three-peat quest with eight straight wins, with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol leading the way from day one.
Our goal here is not to get bored. Don’t get bored with trying to be great. Go out there every night, compete and understand that we’re the champions and represent ourselves as champions.
Both losses have come by slim margins, with just four points against Philadelphia and one point versus Brooklyn, so the actual end result is not the real issue for the team. Miami will ultimately win a lot more games than it'll lose, but instilling a level of consistency in every game is important. Sooner or later such performances become habit, which then becomes a bigger issue to shrug off. A loss to a team like the Nets only fuels the fire they've started in believing they can beat the Heat.
I don't know if we felt we were a better team than the Heat last year. And so I think in order for us to be able to beat them this year, we have to feel like we are a better team and we can beat them. And I think we do.
With its victory, Brooklyn's confidence will soar in handling the defending champions, especially after telling the media prior to the game that it could. The next time the Nets face the Heat on January 10, it's safe to say they'll come out with a sense of swagger that Miami will have to match. The Heat now have something to prove against Brooklyn, despite being the defending back-to-back NBA champions.
In retrospect, a domino effect takes place and the entire league could see Miami in a new light. It's lost to a lottery-bound, potentially dead-last place team in the 76ers and an up-and-coming contender in the Nets just three games into the season. Any player could then ponder why his team shouldn't show up and compete as hard as possible with a chance to take down the Heat.
Miami doesn't have an imposing stature at this point, and it most certainly should, with its roster and accomplishments the past two seasons. While it's the beginning of the season, and the call for patience and not to overreact is paramount, should it really come for a team like the Heat?