Two elite point guards have been faced and the Heat are 0-2 against each of them.
Whether it was Rajon Rondo orchestrating the Boston Celtics or Chris Paul making Emeka Okafor look like Hakeem Olajuwon, the two upper tier point guards the Miami Heat have faced so far have been the reason why the Heat are at 4-2 rather than 6-0.
The two point guards combined for a total of 36 assists with Rondo having 17 and Paul finishing with 19, nine of the dimes coming in the first quarter where the Hornets held a 12-point advantage after one.
Any analyst or fan could have told you prior to the beginning of the season that the Heat had two key weak spots in the starting lineup, the point guard and the center. The center position is a debilitating problem that can unfortunately not be fixed without a trade taking place or the team traveling back in time to grab Erick Dampier when they had the chance.
The point guard position, however, is a void that can easily be fixed.
For the first quarter of last night's 96-93 loss to the New Orleans Hornets, coach Erik Spoelstra decided to go with his usual starting lineup of Carlos Arroyo at point, Dwyane Wade at the two spot, LeBron James at the three, Chris Bosh at the four, and Joel Anthony at the five.
Aside from the point guard and center spot, the Heat had significant advantages with Wade set to be defended by Marco Belinelli and James to be defended by Trevor Ariza.
Yet the first quarter ended and the Hornets were up 29-17. Of the 11 the Hornets make in the quarter, nine of them were assisted by Paul and one of the shots was his as well. All in all, Chris Paul had something to do with all but one play in the first frame. He was defended by Carlos Arroyo for the first half of the quarter before being pulled for Eddie House, who did better but was still picked apart by the All-Star.
It was only until Wade began to defend Paul in the third and fourth quarters that the Heat began to disrupt the Hornets offense forcing them into turnovers or difficult shots. Miami did maintain its streak of outscoring opponents in the third quarter by winning 23-22 in the third frame, but even a 29-24 advantage in the fourth quarter was not enough.
The problem originated from the first quarter where Chris Paul controlled the tempo and tore apart the Heat's defense at every aspect. Emeka Okafor was dominant not entirely because Joel Anthony is not that formidable of an opponent, but because Paul continually penetrates the lane, forcing a Heat defender to leave their player, allowing them to get open for Paul who will always find the open player.
Sounds familiar? It's the same situation the Heat got themselves into with Rajon Rondo and the Celtics.
Rondo only finished with four points, but he had a part in nearly every play when he was on the floor. His ability to blow past weak defenders like Arroyo or House gives him the ability to either drive or to absorb a double team allowing one or more of his teammates to get open.
It's obvious to see how important a point guard that can facilitate an offense as easy as Rondo or Paul can because the Heat don't have the player create a play like that.
Or do they?
Throughout the second half, it was either LeBron James or Dwyane Wade taking the ball up the court and it was only then that the offense became a little more fluent. Each player has had ample opportunities over their seven-year careers to run an offense and they have very efficiently. Not to mention, they can defend a lot better than the current starting and backup point guards for the Heat.
Wade's hounding defense on Paul in the fourth quarter allowed the Heat to get back into the game as they took their first lead of the game at 91-90 before allowing two Belinelli free throws and a Trevor Ariza three-pointer to put the game away. Had the Heat played a defender like Wade on Paul for the entirety of the game, Miami perhaps would not have had to work themselves out of a hole for the remaining 36 minutes.
The Heat's offense is a problem by itself as it only appears that Wade and James are on leashes when running the floor. Even when James brings the ball up rather than a pure point guard, the half-court offense the Heat run restricts each players ability to drive. It was only through Wade's finesse and solid pick and rolls that the Heat were able to penetrate for easy scores around the basket.
An offense run in the half-court requires spacing and the Heat don't have much of it considering they have two slashers and one player who is usually restricted to mid-range jumpers. If the Heat were to allow LeBron James to run the point, they'd not only have a facilitator on offense who is an above average defender, they would also allow a three-point shooter on the floor in James Jones to space out the offense.
Plus, it would give the Heat a three-point threat in the starting lineup that they didn't have prior. The largest factor though would be the fact that LeBron or Dwyane could run and defend at the point. LeBron's intimidating presence and Dwyane's lock down one-on-one defense would be plenty more efficient than Arroyo or House defending the Chris Pauls of the league.
Miami has two large point guard tests this week with Deron Williams and Utah coming to town as well as Rondo and the Celtics for their second matchup of the season with the Heat. It'll be a huge test for Coach Spo and the Heat as we begin to find out what this team is really all about.
Nineteen assists by Chris Paul might have been the wake-up call that the organization needed to possibly make some changes in the starting lineup to run a better defensive scheme against opposing point guards and a more efficient offense with facilitators leading the way to form a chemistry that has been nonexistent so far.
The Heat have two of the most athletic, electric players to ever step onto an NBA court. It's time to use them.