Heat Needs to Turn it Up Against East’s Elite

By Matt Moscolo
[email protected]

Lebron James and the Miami Heat cannot close out playoff caliber teams in the East. Can’t do it, won’t do it. Since the New Year, the Heat are a disappointing 1-8 against Eastern Conference squads with winning records. Three of those losses came to the Chicago Bulls, where the Big 3 had chances in the final minutes to take leads, which they squandered to the young, poised MVP candidate Derrick Rose. They have struggled so much in the past month that after their third straight loss to the Bulls, head coach Erik Spoelstra mentioned some of his players were crying.

Yes, gargantuan grown men.


And it wasn’t even something a reporter made up or had to pry out of Spoelstra. He willingly said it.

The Heat’s supposedly high-octane offense is running slower than a Model T. Against above .500 teams in the East, they have failed to score 100 points in each of their eight losses. At the end of the games, James has forced contested outside shots, especially from behind the arc, where he is painfully average. Defenses now invite these perimeter shots by stuffing the lane, fearlessly leaving guys like Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers open at the corners. If James, Wade and Bosh fail to create any coherent offense at the end of games, they will continue to struggle mightily against the elite teams.

Also in those eight losses, they averaged just 14 points off the bench. The Big 3 needs some remnants of a supporting cast if it wants to make a deep run in the playoffs this year. James Jones has struggled to make any impact the entire year, with the exception to the three-point contest during all-star weekend (the only time any Heat player beat a Celtic this season).

Joel Anthony and the rest of their big men, aside from Chris Bosh, are virtually inept in the post. Even Bosh has struggled in the paint against some of the more consistent defenses in the league. History tells us that in the NBA, titles are extremely hard to come by without a polished big body controlling the paint. Just look at the evidence from the past three years of teams who have made it to the NBA finals: Dwight Howard of the Magic, Andrew Bynum of the Lakers, and the Celtics’ Kendrick Perkins.

Also, Juwan Howard, really? It’s an absolute joke that he actually gets minutes in the NBA anymore. He’s thirty eight and stiff as board. The only thing he should be doing in Miami is lying on the beach or announcing a game.

But I digress.

The bench has been solid against the weaker Eastern teams, but champions aren’t measured by piling up wins against lowly teams in March. Just ask Lebron. His Cavalier teams had two straight 60-win seasons in ’09 and ’10, only to fall to the likes of the Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics. After all, this stretch of nine games against the Eastern Conference elite is just merely regular season games, right?

Luckily for the Heat, they continue to have success against the bottom feeders of the East and most teams in the West, including a recent split against the Spurs and a sweep of the defending champion Lakers. Regardless, the only way the Heat can get to play a West team come playoff time is by getting through the East’s elite first.