Miami Heat: Is It LeBron's Injury Or Something Else That's Wrong With Miami?

Justin EisenbandCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 15:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat protests a call with the referees as he sits out the game against the Chicago Bulls with an injured ankle at the United Center on January 15, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Heat 99-96. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Miami Heat went without a win this week after winning 20 of its last 21 games. LeBron James sat out with an ankle injury the last two games, and now Chris Bosh may be out for a few games with an ankle injury.

Injuries could become a big issue for a Miami Heat team that relies so heavily upon its top talent. Obviously, without LeBron James, the Heat will be a weaker team; the question must be asked, however, is the Heat still an elite team without him?

Dwyane Wade did carry the Miami Heat to a fifth seed in the NBA playoffs with one of the weaker supporting casts in the league last season. Wade is still a top five player in the NBA, and can win games as an individual.

So maybe there is something else wrong in Miami over the last week?

One area in which the Heat is struggling is on the defensive end. The Heat has allowed 99 points or more in each of the last four games, including horrific defensive efforts against the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers, who scored 130 points and 111 points against the Heat, respectively.

As Erik Spoelstra has preached all season long, this Miami Heat team is built on defense. Stout defense allows the Heat to not only keep opposing teams' scoring down, but also create offense through turnovers and fast break opportunities.

The problem could also be with the supporting cast. Outside of James, Wade, Bosh and Mario Chalmers, the Miami Heat roster scored nine points against the Los Angeles Clippers. All of these players also had a negative plus-minus statistic for the game as well.

Carlos Arroyo has been steadily losing minutes to Mario Chalmers, who can be an erratic player at times. Chalmers is shooting under 38 percent from the field this season and has an assist to turnover ratio of less than two to one.

Mike Miller has remained ineffective since returning from injury over three weeks ago. Juwan Howard has been conspicuously slow on both the offensive and defensive end, clearly displaying his age. James Jones has been struggling from downtown and has little other use besides as a 3-point specialist.

Objectively, this team will be fine once LeBron James returns. Even Wade and James without Bosh could produce victories at a strong pace. However, James's injury has clarified something about this Miami supporting cast. Just like the Cavaliers without James, Miami without its best player will struggle.

As long as James is healthy come playoff time, Miami should not have any problems. Erik Spoelstra should take a cue from last year's Boston Celtics and be careful to keep his superstars healthy and durable for the playoffs.