2011 NBA Playoffs: Are the Miami Heat a Serious Title Contender?
The Miami Heat are 51-23, first place in the Southeast Division, and seemed to be coasting into the remaining eight games of the regular season. After a five-game losing streak in early March, the Heat went on to win eight of their next nine games proceeding their trip to Cleveland.
The game finished with a final of 102-90, in favor of Cleveland. Not what you'd expect from the Miami Heat, especially against one of the leagues worst teams.
It is just another example of the cause for concern in South Beach. The bench, ranked last in the NBA, managed a mere six points. Cleveland's bench accumulated 32 points.
Mike Bibby, starting point guard for Heat, shot 7-11 from beyond the arc. He's not going to do that again. While he added 23 points for the Heat, he had just one assist. Chris Bosh, not necessarily known for his passing abilities, had four assists.
Outside of Chris Bosh, the other big men (Dampier, Illgauskas, Juwan Howard and Joel Anthony), scored four points and grabbed eight rebounds total. Minuscule front-court production. That won't cut it.
The Heat were down 23 points in third quarter by a score of 71-48. Miami only had 42 points at halftime. Cleveland has the league's 25th ranked scoring defense at 104.8ppg. They held Miami to 90. Doesn't sound like championship caliber basketball to me.
Sure, LeBron James registered another triple-double. It ends up being pretty meaningless; plenty of players could do that against the Cavs. Yeah, and his team lost.
Miami's offense, if you can call it that, is lacking. The ball rests in one player's hands way too often. More often than not, there are four players standing around while the other has the ball, usually standing outside just dribbling. It's usually LeBron James, waiting for the shot clock to hit seven or eight before going into a dribble drive and pull up for a tough jumper. It is just not efficient whatsoever.
The Heat's best games are when they get out on the break and impose their will. LeBron and Dwyane Wade are two of the game's best finishers on the break, but get them and the Heat into a half-court game and you'll beat them nine times out of 10. Hey, Cleveland can do it.
Miami shot 25 three-pointers against the Cavs. They made 10. They aren't considered a good three-point shooting team. LeBron and Wade are both subpar outside shooters. Bibby, James Jones, Eddie House and Mike Miller are the better outside shooters on the team, but they rarely touch the ball because LeBron or Wade has it in their hands the whole time.
And then if their driving lane is clogged, they rush a pass out to one of those guys, who then have to force up a quick last second shot to beat the buzzer instead of giving them a good, clean pass, allowing them to set their feet and fire a good shot.
The better teams in the league know how to beat the Heat. Eric Spoelstra hasn't done enough to prove that he can out-coach anyone else in the league. It seems like the team goes purely off the talent on the floor without a whole lot of guidance.
In crunch time, LeBron takes over and proves again and again that he can't hit the game-tying or game-winning shot. That ball needs to be in Wade's hands. If he hasn't figured that out yet, well then he never will.
In an earlier article, I had the Heat as the No. 5 contending team for an NBA title this year. They may have just played their way out of it with that loss to the Cavs. All of their weaknesses are exposed and well-documented, and without an experienced head coach who's been there and back again in the playoffs, they're not going to make it too far.
Miami is Dwyane Wade's team. He needs to take it back over if Miami has any chance to truly contend for a title.
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