Miami Heat: How Far Can They Advance in NBA Playoffs with Poor Supporting Cast?

Allen LevinCorrespondent IIApril 8, 2011

MIAMI - MARCH 12:  Guard Mike Bibby #0 of the Miami Heat (L) chats with teamate Eddie House #55  against the Memphis Grizzlie at American Airlines Arena on March 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida. 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 Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

After the Miami Heat were defeated Wednesday night by a weaker Milwaukee Bucks team while Dwyane Wade sat on the bench with a bruised thigh, it's evident that the Heat's supporting cast is less than spectacular.

Well, I guess that isn't anything new, as Miami's role players have been criticized for most of the season.

Still, the Heat got outplayed and lost on their home floor to a team they had no business losing to, especially at such a critical time. Miami is vying for the second seed in the East and the crucial homecourt advantage in the second round. They are currently deadlocked with Boston for the second spot with both squads having four games remaining in the regular season.

Sunday's nationally televised matchup between the two rivals will likely determine who gets home-court in the East Semifinals.

Where's the Support?

With all the hype that the Heat received last summer when they signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh to pair up with Wade, they are playing far under expectations considering that they could finish with the third seed.

A lot of that can be blamed on the subpar play of the Heat's supporting cast. So, that begs the question, how far can the Miami Heat advance in the postseason with their poor surrounding cast?

Miami's Big Three of Wade, James and Bosh averages a whopping 71.1 points per game, which accounts for nearly 70 percent of the team's scoring. The Heat's trio also averages more than any other trio in the league.

While that is impressive, it is also a cause for concern. The Heat's next highest scorer is Mike Bibby at 7.4 points per game, and he's only been on the team for 18 games this year.

Mike Miller, James Jones, Eddie House and Mario Chalmers, all expected to be big contributors, are averaging a mere six points per contest.

Miller has been Miami's biggest disappointment. He was signed to a five-year deal and was expected to be the team's primary bench threat. However, he missed the first two months of the season and has had trouble adjusting to his role on the team. He's shooting 36 percent from the three-point line and is only averaging 5.7 points.

Although Miller has been a solid rebounder for the team, he still has played under expectations.

Another huge problem with the Heat's bench has been the absence of Udonis Haslem, who has missed almost the entire season due to a bad foot injury. He was the team's leading rebounder before he went down, and Miami is really missing his presence.

The combination of Haslem's injury and the poor play of the Heat's other primary bench players has translated to inconsistency and an inability to close out close games.

With less than two weeks until the playoffs, that could spell danger for the Heat.

Miami's Competition Have Much Stronger Benches

While Miami shouldn't have too much trouble in the first round against either Philadelphia or New York, it's the second round and beyond where Miami could potentially run into problems.

Despite the Celtics' recent struggles, they still have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA. Boston's second unit of Glen Davis, Jeff Green and Delonte West easily overpowers Miami's answer of Miller, Chalmers (back on the bench with Bibby thriving) and Jones.

The same goes for Chicago, Orlando and any elite team in the Western Conference.

That's probably why Miami has a combined 2-8 record against the Celtics, Bulls and Magic. However, the Heat aren't getting blown out by their top competition by any means.

Miami has lost to Boston by an average of 5.3 points (16 points combined) in three defeats. They've lost to the Bulls by an average of 2.7 points also in three losses. While it's clear they were outplayed, Miami still played up to their competition and showed signs of overcoming the hump.

Being that all the games against Boston and Chicago have been so close, it has ultimately come down to poor execution for Miami late in ball games.

Miami's supporting cast has shot a woeful two-for-nine in situations where the game is within three points and less than one minute left. Heat fans won't forget Miller's clank on a wide open look in an 85-82 loss to Boston back in February that could have sent the game into overtime.

It's situations like these where the Heat will need to improve and improve quickly.

Big Three to the Rescue

Fortunately for Miami, they have three of the best players in the league, and two of the best wing players on the planet. While, they have had their fair share of failures this year, there is no denying their amazing playmaking abilities and unique talent, which can single-handedly will Miami to victory.

Wade and James have the power to take over ball games like no other players in the league other than Kobe Bryant. The postseason is their time to shine. They can handle the spotlight and thrive in it. If the role players continue to struggle, the All-Star trio have the skills to make up for them.

Although that will be hard to consistently do in seven-game series against top-tier teams, one would have to think that the supporting cast will eventually come around. Mike Miller is too good of a shooter not to eventually find his stroke, and Eddie House is a big time clutch performer.

Not to mention, Bibby is shooting 51 percent from beyond the arc since being inserted into the starting lineup.

More importantly, Bosh has shown some encouraging signs as of late. The All-Star forward is averaging 21.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game over his last 12 contests. The Heat have won nine of those games.

So, in conclusion, the Heat can advance far in the playoffs even with the current struggles of the supporting cast. Yes, the bench will need to make bigger contributions, but the Heat's Big Three will step up to the plate and lead this team deep into the postseason.

If not, the Heat will certainly have a lot of haters to deal with.

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