Let’s make this short and sweet.
The Miami Heat, the team with the most talent in the NBA, are on the verge of elimination; and although being the best player in the league, it’s not LeBron James’ fault.
The Heat, who have been the favorite to win the NBA title all season, especially after No. one seed Chicago fell in the first round following substantial injuries, are now in quite the predicament. After losing 94-75 Thursday night in Indianapolis to the Pacers, they now trail the series 1-2 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
82 percent of the time, the team that wins game three of an NBA playoff game wins the series. Good news for the Pacers. Bad news for LeBron and the Heat.
First let’s look at why the Heat may take a shockingly early exit.
Just like the Bulls, Miami is plagued with injuries.
I’ve said for months now that there are multiple teams in the running for the NBA championship this year because of the wacky shortened season. Whether NBA commissioner David Stern likes to admit or not, players haven’t had the time to recover between games like they normally have; now many teams, like the Bulls, Heat and Celtics, are paying the price.
Dwyane Wade has been slowed by lingering injuries for only God knows how long, and it's effecting his play. He’s only 10 for his last 35 from the field in the last two games; both games Miami lost. He’s had treatment in recent days for knee and leg soreness.
Once center Chris Bosh went down with an abdominal strain last week, that spelled double trouble for Miami. Without him, it drastically changes not only their depth on both ends of the floor, but the way teams can attack them defensively.
With no Bosh, Miami doesn’t have the personnel down low to not rebound efficiently, but also run a dynamic offense. Just about every Miami play since his injury has been LeBron to Wade, or Wade to LeBron…the good ol’ pick and role — or possibly the drive and dish…or the classic one-on-one – dribble, drive and lob… Which are all great, until you’re forced to do each time after time – which leaves James and Wade trying to do too much themselves.
Wade was scoreless in the first half of Thursday night’s game 3 for the first time in his post-season career. In possibly his worst game as a pro, Wade finished with only five points on 2-of-13 shooting; abysmal. In fact, the only other player to score more than ten points for the Heat on Monday night – besides James, who scored 22 – was Mario Chalmers, who finished with a team leading 25.
It’s obvious that the lack of depth – something we’ve all known about since this ‘dream team’ assembled in South Beach – is finally haunting Miami following these injuries.
Here are some stats to put things into perspective.
It seems as if Miami is just short of that one ‘role player’ that is key to any championship team – keeping in mind the Derek Fishers, John Paxsons and Robert Horrys of the world.
The big three of Miami: Bosh, Wade, and James, are the only players on the squad to average double-figures in points. When LeBron made it to the Finals with his Cleveland team in 2007, the Cavs had four players that averaged double-digits in Larry Hughes, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden and James himself. Even Sasha Pavlovic averaged nine a game that year – which is another key role player that Miami is just one short of.
We all know LeBron can’t do it by himself, no matter how ‘sick’ of a player he is. You can’t blame him for trying though.
So far in the 2012 NBA playoffs, LeBron is the leader in scoring out of all the remaining players at 27.6 points per game. He’s first in efficiency rating at 27.6, which is more than a point ahead of No. two Kevin Durant at 25.5. And he’s even doing it on the defensive end as well, currently ranked third in the playoffs in steals with 21, only trailing Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo.
And I’m not saying it’s all head coach Erik Spoelstra’s fault, but if team morale and chemistry don't improve soon, Pat Riley and company will be forced to make a move from the front office. Now I’m not in the front office, nor am I at practice or inside the huddle, but I do know that it took a plethora of coaches until the Bulls paired Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson together in route to their six NBA championships in the 90s. Miami might be forced to look in another direction if things play out like they did Thursday.
The Heat canceled their practice on Friday after the blowout loss in game three to the Pacers – a game that they weren’t only out-rebounded 52-36 and only scored 75 points, a low for this year’s playoffs, but also had quite the confrontation.
During a timeout in the third quarter, Spoelstra and Wade shouted verbally back and forth before teammates gently nudged Wade out of the huddle onto the court to avoid further conflict. After the game when reporters asked if Wade could elaborate on what had happened, Wade responded with a quick, “no.”
It’s obvious there are an overabundance of influential factors leading to the demise of the 2012 Miami Heat; and none of them are LeBron’s fault. LeBron is one of the best players this sport has ever seen, and whether the Heat win this year or not, it’s only time before LeBron gets his first ring.
Remember folks, he’s only 27-years-old. But also remember this; if the Heat do go out to the Indiana Pacers in the conference semi-finals, changes will be made.
Photo Credit: AP
Josh Helmuth is the editor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JHelmuth or subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.