4-3 Start: What’s Wrong With Miami Heat?
The Miami Heat are 4-3. For those non-math majors among us, that’s one game over .500, and currently tied for the 2nd best record in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Miami’s record is better than that of the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, and Brooklyn Nets in the East, and exactly the same as the highly touted LA Clippers through 7 games.
In other words: it’s totally time to panic.
These are the two-time defending NBA Champions. The back-to-back, ballistic, ballyhooed Big Three. The “Not 2, Not 3, Not 4, Not 5…” Miami Heat, who have 4-time NBA MVP LeBron James at the helm. The same Heat team on which Chris Bosh might now be the fourth best player. And through 7 games, they’re a quite modest one game over .500. Four up, three down.
Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve decided to take our panic button to South Beach and ask the question on every NBA fan’s mind. What’s wrong with the Miami Heat, and can it be fixed?
Problem #1: LeBron is being too generous.
Early in this 2013-14 NBA season, LeBron James is averaging 8 assists per game. That’s his highest per-game assist average since LeBron’s last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers (8.6 apg in 2009-10). On the surface, King James’ generosity would appear to be a good thing for the Heat. After all, that 2009-10 Cavaliers squad went 61-21 with far less talent than surrounds LeBron now.
But the numbers surrounding LeBron’s elevated assists total are troubling. James is only averaging 15.3 shot attempts per game, 5 below his career average and 2.5 attempts less than last season. His 8.9 field goal makes per game are the lowest since his rookie season in Cleveland. As a result, his current 24.4 points per game average is also the lowest since his rookie campaign, and over 3 points off his career average.
Yet LeBron is still averaging over 37 minutes per game – so why the decline in his numbers? Is it a sign of passivity on the part of the reigning NBA MVP? It’s certainly not a matter of finding rhythm with his teammates, as virtually all of the Heat’s roster returns from last year’s championship season.
Much can be blamed, of course, on LeBron’s sore back, which has bothered him throughout the beginning of this season. If that’s the case, then it must be asked: just how bad is his back right now?
Problem #2: The Heat can’t rebound.
Through 7 games, the Miami Heat rank 30th in the NBA in rebounding, with just 33.1 boards per game. For those of you unfamiliar with the makeup of the NBA, 30th would be dead last. The Heat are especially dreadful on the offensive glass, where they hold a .185 offensive rebounding percentage (the Atlanta Hawks are the only other team under .205). Only the Milwaukee Bucks have a worse rebounding margin than Miami’s -6.8.
Part of this is attributable to the fact that Miami leads the NBA in field goal percentage (51.6%). But still, if you’re missing 48.4% of your shots, there’s plenty of work to be done on the offensive boards. And that also doesn’t explain the Heat’s futility on the defensive glass (they’re also letting opponents shoot 47.3% from the floor, but that’s another story entirely).
No Heat player averages more than Chris Bosh’s 6.7 rebounds per game; it’s also troubling that Dwyane Wade is the team’s 3rd leading rebounder at shooting guard. Besides the “Big Three”, no Miami player pulls in more than 3.4 rebounds per game. If you want a finger or 2 to point, perhaps ask forwards Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis and Udonis Haslem why they’re all being out-rebounded by Ray Allen. Ouch.
Problem #3: The Heat are now the Notre Dame of the NBA.
No, we don’t mean they play a schedule that’s generally over the heads of their talent pool and have their own network deal despite consistently finishing 8-4. But Notre Dame is a college football program with such pedigree that every one of their opponents treats each regular season game against the Irish like it’s the Super Bowl.
Such is now the case with the Miami Heat. If the “Heat-les” thought they were getting every team’s best shot before, well, now they have back-to-back NBA Championships under their belts. So it doesn’t matter what Miami is going through – arduous road trips, the second night of a back-to-back – they’re going to get their opponents’ “A game” for 82 consecutive games. There’s no time for rest.
Still, a team as talented as Miami should be able to pull away from highly-motivated but mediocre teams. So it’s worrisome that the Heat have been outscored in the 4th quarter in 4 out of their 7 games (including 2 of their 3 losses) – in 3 of those games, teams outscored Miami by double digits in the final 12 minutes.
Problem #4: Your expectations of the Heat are warped.
Yes, part of this is your fault. Let’s be fair. Do you really think the Miami Heat give a damn what seed they get in the 2014 NBA playoffs? Absolutely not. They could conceivably cruise to a 41-41 regular season record, get the #6 seed in the Eastern Conference, and still be considered the favorites to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Now, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are too competitive to let that happen. But is it out of line to consider it? In today’s NBA, where a franchise needs to win 16 playoff games to capture an NBA Championship (and may have to play 28 games in total), would taking nights off be such a crime for guys like LeBron, D-Wade and Mario Chalmers?
Of course it would. Want to know why? Here’s the best part: because all the Miami Heat haters out there who want to see King James and company fall on their collective faces would be furious and disappointed if that actually happened. More than anything, Heat haters need Miami to be unbeatable. They need LeBron James to be an indomitable villain. Because when Miami looks human, Heat haters are not happy to see the Heat fail. They just have something new to complain about.
So let the Miami Heat be 4-3. If they go on a winning streak, then all will return to normal. And hey, if they keep floundering, it’s just more for us to talk about. (Or, in the case of the Miami sports media and major sports news conglomerates – a whole lot to panic over.)
- Video: Celtics’ Jeff Green hits buzzer-beating three over LeBron James to beat Heat (nba.si.com)
- 10 Big Questions (bodontlie.com)
- Boston beats Heat at buzzer (thasportsjunkies101.wordpress.com)