It was painfully obvious tonight.
Dribbling toward Andre Iguodala, the freight train LeBron James came off his tracks, leaving skid marks behind as evidence. He fell and limped back as the team he was trying to tow back from a 10-point deficit gave up easy points at the other end.
James may have just celebrated a birthday, but he isn't aging at the same rate as the rest of the Heat.
The Heat returned to Miami following an encouraging four-game road trip to close out 2013 in which they went 3-1. After two days' rest, the aging team was ran and shot out of AmericanAirlines Arena by a jet-lagged Warriors team.
In 40 minutes, James finished with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field. With 22 points, Dwyane Wade was the only other Heat player with at least 20, but missed out on some easy ones throughout the game. Bosh could only muster four rebounds despite Andrew Bogut playing just 18 minutes in the Warriors' small-ball approach.
If the Heat were tired and lethargic, the Warriors were the opposite. Stephen Curry dropped 36 points, 24 of them chalked up as three-point field goals.
While LeBron was flying solo, Curry had David Lee as his travel buddy. Lee had 32 points on 13-of-17 shooting and 14 rebounds. Combinations of Lee and Curry cutting, picking and rolling in the paint dismantled the Heat defense as much as Golden State's succession of 15 threes.
James needed desperately for Wade to cut to the lane or Bosh to stretch the defense. Neither did so consistently. In a playoff-like nine-man rotation, this is cause for concern.
Not to make a big deal out of nine-point loss before the All-Star break, but this looked very similar to how the Heat played in the playoffs last season.
It's what the Heat are trying to avoid this season. It's why Wade is using up his PTO, it's why the team sought a youthful scorer in Michael Beasley and took a chance on Greg Oden's knees, if only to keep Roy Hibbert from damaging its cargo to the NBA Finals.
James' usual partner, Wade, looked too worn out to finish his layups, and Bosh was mysteriously ineffective.
Miami's bench couldn't cover up for the Heat-version-2014 starters, putting together a Heat-version-2011-like 19 points.
James had to carry the load and forced some things, evident by his eight turnovers.
He couldn't keep the team on his back and almost rolled his ankle while trying to cross over a Warriors defense.
From that struggle emerged a purposeful Curry, who pounced at the opportunity and berated the Heat with a flurry of three-pointers. Contested, uncontested, on the run or falling away, Miami could not stop the rain.
This game might not be that important in the standings, but it put the strength of the Warriors and weakness of the Heat on display. This unconsciousness ability to hit threes is chiefly why the Warriors have a chance to come out of the West.
It is just one loss off a four-game road trip and holiday season, so it isn't time to panic. The Heat are still among the NBA's elite and most consistent, but tired bones could cause the Heat to skid off their championship course.
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