Dwyane Wade's new commercial for the Jordan Brand features him as a super-spy on a mission to bring championship rings back to Miami. In the season opener at Boston, Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh made that mission look damn near impossible.
This article will use Win Score and Estimated Wins Produced, statistical models created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's boxscore statistics contributed to their team's performance. An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (EWP48). More information on these stats can be found at the following links:
If you look at the game as a whole, the Heat were less productive with the Three Kings on the court. Wade, James and Bosh all posted productivity numbers in the negative range, which ultimately means that they were reducing the Heat's likelihood of winning if and when they played.
You can view the Wins Produced analysis of the game's box score at Google Docs by going HERE and clicking on the spreadsheet named @BOS-102610.
Bosh played as well as someone can probably be expected to play for a team that only scored nine points in the first quarter.
LeBron and Wade made a good run in the third quarter when they finally started playing like superstars (0.538 WP48 for LeBron and 0.396 for Wade) and cut the Boston lead to six points. That run, which was single-handedly driven by LeBron, resulted in him ending the game with a plus/minus score of +1.
The top plus/minus scores for the Heat belonged to the five players on the floor for the last 3:43 of the third quarter. In addition to LeBron, that lineup included Zydrunas Ilgauskas (+17), Eddie House (0), James Jones (-2) and Udonis Haslem (-4).
I don't know if it's a recipe for the future, but against Boston the best Heat lineup included LeBron, three shooters and a rugged rebounder.
As for the role players that pundits say aren't good enough, well, the game wouldn't have been as close as it was if it weren't for them: Carlos Arroyo was the only role player that failed to make a positive contribution (he was annihilated by Rondo the way LeBron and Wade were annihilated by Paul Pierce and Ray Allen), while the rest of them managed to outplay the counterparts at their position.
Joel Anthony (0.431 EWP48) outplayed Shaquille O'Neal (0.068 EWP48) - who is DONE as a player. Any Celtics fans that were hoping the Big Shamrock would make a positive contribution to this season shouldn't forget the four shots he missed at the front of the rim when they view replays of his two highlight dunks.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas (0.136 EWP48) outplayed Jermaine O'Neal (-0.350 EWP48) who STILL can't make a shot in Boston.
Udonis Haslem (0.340 EWP48) outplayed Big Baby (0.277 EWP48) as the primary big man off the bench. The Heat captain was yet again the most productive player for the Heat, continuing a trend that began during pre-season.
I thought power forward would be the key match-up for Miami against Boston, and that if Bosh could outplay Garnett then the Heat would win.
Turns out that wasn't the case.
In a race to the bottom of the barrel, Bosh produced -0.056 EWP48 compared to Garnett's -0.069 EWP48.
My season preview asked which member of Boston's Fantastic Four would most likely fade out of the picture like the incredible woman. We have our answer: Kevin Garnett.
The Big Picture
Now, I want to talk about the Celtics. I think many fans like myself were too blinded by Kobe fueled hatred last year to realize what the Celtics have been doing to the game of basketball. Straight up, they are ruining it.
Their junk defenses and fear of playing any ball-handler straight up for even a nanosecond produces butt-ugly basketball.
It was fun when they were beating the Lakers' brains in by 40 in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, but I didn't realize what the repercussions would be for that moment of pure indulgence.
The Lakers started doing the same thing. Jim Cleamons replicated what Tom Thibodeau implemented and, by the time they played the rematch two years later, we had to witness one of the ugliest game sevens in NBA history. Yes it was highly competitive, but it was also basketball at one of its lowest forms: throw up a brick and crash the boards.
When Larry Brown built the 76ers to play that way with Allen Iverson, it was roundly criticized as ugly basketball (yet somehow Larry Brown teams "play the right way"). But when the mystical Lakers & Celtics do the same thing, it's supposed to be another chapter in the book of legends?
Gimme a break.
Instead of trying to beautify the game with more stringent policies for technical fouls, the league should address the root of the problem. These junk defenses that slow the game down to a crawl and make every possession count. These junk defenses have been a problem for at least 15 years and it's time someone did something about it beyond the elimination of hand-checking.
Make players play one-on-one defense.
I think the league's talent-level and three-point shooting have improved enough that team's wouldn't be able to stop them by resorting to beating up opponents like the Bad Boys, Knicks and Pacers did. The 3-pt shooting is good enough today to make them pay.
David Stern and Stu "Those Who Can't Coach, Administrate" Jackson might be surprised at how little time players have to complain in a much faster-paced game.
Don "I'm Too Bad To Even Coach In The League Anymore" Casey could concoct a method to make the game look like it's being played on quicksand instead of hardwood. He may even prefer it.
LeBron, Wade and Bosh are trying to save the NBA from the horrendous play we saw in last year's Finals. You'd think the Commissioner would help them.
The Bigger Picture
Now that I'm done sounding like a bitter fan ranting about the Celtics, let's address the Miami Heat issues potentially exposed by this game. I think the biggest issues are head coach Erik Spoelstra and the point guards.
The Heat reserves played 39% of the minutes in this game, while the Celtics reserves only played 27%. This fact suggests to me that there's some imbalance in the lineups.
The TNT analysts reported during the game that Spoelstra's rotation is still a work in progress. I don't understand why that's the case. Wade didn't play in the pre-season, but everyone else was available. So why doesn't he have a better grasp of who to play?
The bigger issue of the two is that the team was not ready to play that game and that doesn't make any sense to me. The Heat played the Celtics in the playoffs and they haven't changed much since then. In fact, they're probably worse with Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal in the lineup instead of Kendrick Perkins.
So, why wasn't the team prepared to handle the Celtics defense? Thirty points in the first-half? Really? I don't care if the team was just using scaled-down play calls, there's no reason for a team with two of last season's top four scorers to be held to just 30 points.
The other issue is the point guard position. Rondo single handedly out-produced the Heat point guards by a score of 0.227 EWP to -0.026 EWP, which includes minutes allocated to LeBron and Wade.
Rondo can do that to a lot of teams, but it will definitely be something to keep an eye on as an Eastern Conference Finals match-up with Boston looms on the horizon.