With all the spotlight that the Miami Heat has received after their monumental offseason in which they signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh to team up with Dwyane Wade, there has also been a lot of criticism that has come along with the notoriety.
From lacking a true point guard and center to having trouble beating the best teams in the leagues, the Heat have been under a microscope this season. Most notably, they have been lambasted for their inability to close out games that are decided in five points are less.
Miami seems confused in the conclusive minutes of games when it comes to giving it to that one guy who will finish it for them. That sounds alarming, especially when they have the likes of James and Wade on their roster.
However, for one reason or another, they have come up short in too many times this year when the game is on the line. LeBron, Wade and Mike Miller have all missed big shots this year that could have either tied or won the game for the Heat.
With the playoffs right around the corner, it's time for Miami to work out these issues and finish close games because that's what a championship caliber team is capable of doing.
Here are some ways that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and co. can close out games as winners and put a halt to what's been plaguing them all season.
After a demoralizing five-game loosing streak that was capped off with a 30-point blow out to the San Antonio Spurs, the Heat finally called for a change.
They became more aggressive on defense, got Chris Bosh more involved in the offense and more importantly switched up their very predictable offensive sets. They used more ball movement and had didn't just feature LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sitting on the perimeter waiting to get the ball in their hands.
It translated into a three-game winning streak and a revenge 30-point rout right back at the Spurs. While the wins over the Spurs and Grizzlies were blow outs, their big win over the defending champion Lakers was a very close ball game that came down to the final minutes of regulation.
A big reason for that victory over LA was a shift in the Heat's offensive schemes in the final minutes. They utilized LeBron as a screener, which freed up Wade and got other players open to score.
If the Heat don't do their usual predictable offense with LeBron at the top of the key and make sure their is off-the-ball movement (which we have seen lately), it will help them be victorious in close games.
When LeBron and the Heat's shooters are running around the court, it opens up space and creates opportunities for the rest of the team. It has really helped Chris Bosh recently, who has benefited from the movement to create his own offense.
As we've seen through the first 60-plus games of the season, the Heat, either by designed play or out of force, have relied on LeBron James when the game is down to the wire.
The result? Miami has lost all those games.
This is not to put down LeBron's amazing talents or to say he can never come through in the clutch, but the fact remains that this season the ball has not gone through the hoop in the final seconds of games when the Heat need a bucket.
Sometimes it has been a low-percentage shot or other times it has been LeBron missing wide open looks, but Miami has not gotten the job done when the ball is in his hands and the fate of the game resting on the King.
So, a good solution would to be defer to Wade more often. He is a proven clutch player, dating back to his stellar 2006 NBA Finals performance, where he single-handedly willed the Heat to victory in that series.
That is not say to never give the ball to LeBron in the final moments of the game, but for the meantime the Heat should design plays for Wade to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line.
A lot of teams know exactly what the Heat are going to do on offense in the final seconds of the game, so they have been able to defend them quite easily.
This relates to the first slide, but Miami needs LeBron to set screens and have Wade, Mike Miller or Eddie House roll of the screens and get free to create their offense.
A lot of Miami's opponents expect the ball to be in LeBron's hands, which causes double teams and stifles the Heat's offense. So if LeBron would set screens, it would free up his teammates for open looks.
It's worked before, so why not try it again?
In the one opportunity that House got this year with the game in his hands, he delivered. After sitting the entire game vs Oklahoma City and the Heat down one point, House came in the game and nailed a cold-blooded three-pointer from the corner to win the game for Miami.
House can stretch the defense and really cause problems for opponents. He is a proven winner that has a championship ring with Boston. He's mentally prepared at all times and is a very clutch player with tons of late-game experience.
The Heat can utilize House for his three-point shot and for his clutch attitude. He will become a big asset in the playoffs and should be used wisely when the game is on the line.
Too many times this year the Heat have given up big shots late in games to the likes of Ray Allen, Rudy Gay and Derrick Rose.
That is not going to fly in the playoffs.
And most of those shots have been three-point daggers.
Although Miami has a poor record in close games, most of the time they played well throughout the entire contest, but come up short due to sloppy defense.
If the Heat want to close out games as winners, they will need to have a strong perimeter defense that plays as a cohesive unit late in games.
Miami's wing players, Wade and LeBron, will need to take on the task of guarding their opponents' big players, such as Allen, Rose, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant.
We all saw how well Wade played defense against Kobe in Miami's victory over the Lakers last week. Wade haggled Bryant all game and limited the superstar to eight-for-21 shooting from the field and forced three turnovers, including a crucial late-game steal that led to the go-ahead basket for Miami.
If Miami can have that type of defense, mainly on the perimeter, it will spell success in the postseason.