Saturday, March 5, 2011

LeBron and the Heat; More Questions than Answers

The Miami Heat suffered their worst thrashing of the season in a 125-95 romp by the Spurs at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas Friday night.  The Spurs, who own the leagues best record at 51-11, were expecting a challenge from the Heat, coming off of a devastating home loss to the Orlando Magic.  What they got was a team in disarray.

The Spurs punished the Heat with 17 three-point field goals in a 125-95 blowout

The Spurs jumped out to an early, runaway 1st quarter outscoring the Heat 36-12 at the end of twelve minutes.  Miami came back strong with an overpowering 2nd quarter, but in the second half continued to lose ground until the lead was not only insurmountable, but laughable.  James' 26 and Wade's 19 were not nearly enough to cover the enormous, 30-point spread that ended up being the margin of victory.

The final score wouldn't suggest it, but Miami matched San Antonio in many key statistical categories.  They both had 40 rebounds, 23 to 29 assists and 16 to 22 fast break points in the Spurs favor.  The real tell-tale statistic that made the Spurs a runaway winner?  Miami played no defense at the three point line.  San Antonio made a whopping seventeen three-point shots in just 28 attempts.  Not only were they over 60% from three-point range, but the Spurs shot 56% from the floor in total.  Their were more questions than answers on their defensive schemes and execution.

The Heat squandered a 24 point second half lead to fall to the Magic at home, 99-96

The loss came just a day after Miami suffered a mind-numbing loss to the Orlando Magic at home.  The Heat were showing signs of their potential dominance, building a 24 point lead in the 3rd quarter.  Next thing you know, Orlando goes on a 40-9 tear and ends up winning the game by three points.  Again, the trend was poor defense.  The Magic roared behind the arc, shooting 16-29 from three-point range, most of them hit in the stunning second half comeback.  That, accompanied by an abysmal 18% in 17 attempts for the Heat from three-point range stirred the upset victory by Orlando.  The loss left Miami with more questions than answers on how they could have blown such a lead with three of the game's elite players on one team.

The last place Miami figured they would be on March 4th, is finding themselves with a discouraging feeling despite their 43-19 record.  They just don't feel like a team that is as good as their record indicates.  If that's your sense of them, there's a reason for it.  The Heat have just 12 wins in 28 games against teams that have winning records and their record is considerably worse against the elite teams like Boston, Orlando, L.A., Dallas and San Antonio.  They beat up on a lot of the league's bottom dwellers, but the difference in talent between the league's best and its worst is substantial.  In other words, many of their wins could have just as easily come with two of the big three taking the night off.

There is an argument that can be made for the relativity of the significance of a team's record versus elite competition in the regular season, especially in the NBA.  Many would make a case that it's really only a matter of who get's hot in the playoffs anyway and that no psychological edge is gained from winning regular season contests against likely playoff foes.  Others will tell you that regular season wins give a team the advantage mentally over an opponent when it comes to playoff time.  As of now, the Heat better hope that their future rests in the former.  Their play versus top talent would indicate they will have a first or second round exit, but we've seen what they can do when they get hot.  If they could catch it in a bottle, they could rip their way through the Eastern Conference to the NBA Finals.  I don't think we've ever seen a team in NBA history that has such real potential for both outcomes.

No comments:

Post a Comment