Call me an eternal optimist, but even after the heartbreaking 120-113 loss the Miami Heat just suffered to the Toronto Raptors, I still have hope for these boys from South Beach.
Alexander Pope once said, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”
Nothing could be truer. Despite the fact Miami played defense last night as if they were a matador in a bullring, trying simply not to get gored by the bull that was Toronto, and even though Wade still hasn’t come out of his shooting slump, there are things to look at in the game that can, and do, give me hope.
Some in Miami media are already saying Dwyane Wade has finally gotten out of his shooting slump. They point to the fact he scored a game-high 30 points last night in the Heat’s heart-wrenching loss...
I’m not so sure.
Don’t get me wrong, I was absolutely convinced Wade would come out of his shooting doldrums last night, and he did score those 30 points; twice as many as he poured in against the Atlanta Hawks. However, he did it on 10-of-24 shooting (41.6 percent), and I can’t see how that shows he’s found his stroke.
For the record, Wade’s overall game was pretty good, as along with the 30 points he poured in on that 10-of-24 shooting (9-of-10 from the FT-line), he also grabbed five rebounds, dished out eight assists, and had two steals in the game-high 41:40 minutes he was on the floor. However, shooting 1-of-5 from beyond the arc is anything but efficient and shows Wade still hasn’t found his shooting touch.
A good many of the rest of the Miami Heat players seem to have found theirs, though, and that’s part of what gives me hope.
Mario Chalmers poured in a career-high 30 points in the loss (tying Wade for the game-high in scoring) on a very efficient 9-of-15 shooting from the field and 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. He also added three assists and three steals in his 37:43 minutes on the court, but seemed supremely unsatisfied because of the lack of defense in the first half the Heat played.
“We can’t let teams jump out on us like that,” he said.
Chalmers' coach, Erik Spoelstra, seemed in complete agreement, coming across in the post-game interviews as absolutely incensed with his team’s defensive performance of late.
“We’ve worked too hard and fought too hard for our [defensive] identity to just surrender it,” said Spoelstra. “We have to prove that our identity actually means something deep to us. One way or another, we’re going to get back to that identity.”
While the Heat was without the services of reserve power forward and first option off the bench, Udonis Haslem, for a second straight game due to a shoulder injury, and without the help of small forward Quentin Richardson (one of the better defenders on the team), that is hardly an excuse for allowing the Raptors to shoot a stunning 79.2 percent from the floor in the second quarter en route to pouring in 43 points in the period.
Miami did mount a furious offensive comeback in the second half because of the efficient shooting of Chalmers and others that their coach was proud of, but felt came too late.
“That’s the type of energy we should be playing with, anyway,” Spoelstra said.
Michael Beasley wasn’t quite as efficient as his fellow second-year teammate, putting in 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting (4-of-4 from the FT-line), but he did that while also grabbing a season-high 12 rebounds along with two assists and a steal.
That kind of production on the glass was another thing that gave me hope, but it didn’t mean much to “Beas” because of the loss.
“I think I showed who I am,” Beasley said. “But I agree with coach 100 percent that it has to be for an entire game. I’ve got to start the game with that same focus.”
Jermaine O’Neal also shot well, draining 7-of-12 shots and going 3-of-3 from the charity stripe to end the night with 17 points. He wasn’t as prolific on the glass as Beasley, though, finishing the game with just four rebounds to go along with three assists, a steal, and a blocked shot. All in all, JO showed he’s capable, but his defense of Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani left a lot to be desired.
James Jones, starting in place of the injured Richardson (who sat out the game with a lower-back strain but is expected to play this Sunday), wasn’t spectacular, scoring only five points on 2-of-7 from the floor (1-of-3 from the FT line), to go along with four rebounds and four assists. However, it wasn’t his lack of offensive production that hurt the Heat most.
Sure, the fact he went 0-of-5 from beyond the arc wasn’t helpful, but if he’d been able to hold Hedo Turkoglu to half the 19 points he scored last night Miami wins the game by one. No one will ever know whether Q-Rich’s presence on the floor would have made that much of a difference, but there’s no questioning he’s one of the Heat’s better defensive players, and as already pointed out, defense was sorely lacking for Miami last night.
It was especially lacking in the paint, as Miami saw Toronto’s Chris Bosh score 29 points on 10-of-14 shooting (9-13 from the FT-line) and snatch 12 rebounds to go along with four blocked shots. He was joined by the aforementioned Bargnani, who poured in 24 points of his own in a similarly efficient fashion, shooting 9-of-13 from the floor (4-of-5 from the FT-line) and clearing the glass of 10 boards himself to go along with two assists and two blocked shots.
Toronto’s starting small forward, Hedo Turkoglu and reserve guard Jarrett Jack rounded out the other two Raptors players scoring in double-figures, putting in 19 and 17 points respectively.
Turkoglu shot a decent 4-of-9 from the field (8-of-8 from the FT-line), including 3-of-4 from downtown, to go along with his five rebounds and eight assists, while Jack shot 5-of-9 from the floor (4-of-4 from the FT-line) and hit three of his four shots from beyond the arc as well, while grabbing three rebounds and dishing out three assists.
The Raptors’ starting point guard, Jose Calderon, might not have had an amazing offensive night, scoring only five points on 2-of-6 shooting from the floor, as compared to Chalmers' 30 points on the night, but he was able to dish out a game-high 10 assists to his teammates and led a balanced charge at the Heat.
Simply put, this game didn’t come down to how well the Heat played offensively. They definitely could have gotten more efficient shooting out of Dwyane Wade, and if they had, they might actually have won the game. If Wade goes 3-of-5 from beyond the arc rather than 1-of-5, and hits another two-point jumper as well to finish the night 13-of-24 rather than his 10-of-24 performance, the Heat win the game, again by a point.
All of these “what if” scenarios bouncing around in my head are meaningless, though. Miami didn’t do the things defensively they needed to in order to win the game, and they certainly didn’t do the things they need to do in order to win games throughout the season.
Coach Spoelstra seems like he’s ready to really put his foot down and demand that his players focus throughout the entire game, rather than taking a half off. Fans of the club can only hope the players heed his words and direction before this Sunday’s game against the (5-8) New Orleans Hornets.
While the Hornets aren’t exactly the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers, they have one of the most dynamic players in the league in Chris Paul, and Miami can’t afford to have any lapses. In order to get out of this current three-game losing streak, the Heat will have to return to those defensive ways we saw at the beginning of the year, when they held six of their first seven opponents to under 100 points.
Miami will certainly not win if they allow New Orleans to shoot anywhere near the 57.7 percent from the field and 60 percent from downtown they allowed the Raptors. Hopefully having Udonis Haslem and Quentin Richardson back (both of whom are slated to return Sunday) will allow Miami to do just that.
Q-Rich will need to close out quickly on his man, as will all of the Heat players, in order to keep the Hornets from giving Miami’s fans in the AmericanAirlines Arena a repeat “home” performance of what they watched on their televisions last night.
They’ll also need to control the boards and the paint a great deal more than they did against Toronto.
About the only thing one could take away from the game against the Raptors the Heat did really well, was take care of the rock, only having nine turnovers to Toronto’s 20. They’ll need to go forward with that as well as improve in other areas if they’re to beat the Hornets this Sunday.
Yet, while I’m beginning to get a little troubled by this current slump of the Heat’s and Wade’s, I still remain optimistic; I still have hope. I have every belief the Miami players will heed the scathing words of their coach I’m sure they’re being lambasted with as you read this article, and will come out with a fire and determination we haven’t even seen this year so far.
It definitely would be nice.
So, while it’s not with a happy face I write this piece, I will smile anyway, knowing that Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat will prove my loyalty worthy soon. I’m confident they’ll give me even more reason to hope and that all the naysayers will be left wondering how they could have ever doubted this Heat team.
Martin Luther once said, “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”
I agree, and will continue to hope this Miami team can do everything they’re capable of. If they do, I’m sure they’ll win this Sunday against the Hornets and many more games going forward.
Rather than tongue-lash them myself, I’ll say with all my strength, GO HEAT!
Quotes taken from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel recap of the game.