I think it was safe to say that in this lockout, shortened-season the Miami Heat was the favorite to win the NBA Finals. A lot of people figured that they had all the pieces (two superstars, one star, and a deeper bench), but now people are starting to question whether this team has what it takes to win it all. With back-to-back double-digit losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers, the Heat seems to be reeling at a time when their schedule doesn’t get any easier. But not making the playoffs isn’t going to bother coach Erik Spoelstra. What is going to bother him is his roster come playoff time. Let me tell you why the Miami Heat will not (yes, I said “will not”) win the NBA Finals.
When you have two players like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James on the same team you figure to be in the championship discussion for as long as they play together. Even individually, having one of those guys gives you a chance to do something special. Add in Chris Bosh and Vegas has them as the favorites to be the NBA champions. But as we saw last year, it wasn’t so easy for the Heat. Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Heat in six games.
But let’s not relive past memories.
The point is, come playoff time, it’s not always about which team has the best player, rather it’s about the team that is playing the best as a team. Playoff games are more intense and more meaningful (obviously). Veteran teams always have the advantage over younger teams because it’s the old cliché “they have been there before and know how to act and react to things that go on during an intense and grueling series.”
But that’s not to say that the OKC Thunder can’t win it all this season.
Sorry, getting side-tracked.
Back to my point.
Does the Heat have veteran players? Yes (James, Wade, Bosh, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, and James Jones even though he hardly played in last year’s postseason).
Here is my issue with the Heat.
We all saw that LBJ came up small every time in the 4th quarter against the Mavericks. Yes, he had a triple-double in one game, but did they win that game? The answer is no, they didn’t. I feel like he might come up small, again. I wasn’t impressed with his performance against the Thunder on Sunday night. That game was nationally televised and everyone who was watching it saw Kevin Durant play harassing defense on LeBron and it looked like he didn’t want any part of it. He is in his 9th season and it seems like he is never “mentally there” when it matters most. So if he hasn’t figured it out by now, he probably never will.
Another problem I have is Wade. He has been hurt some this season and his numbers are down. He is averaging 22 ppg and shooting a little above 50% from the field. I give him credit for not settling for three-pointers like he used to. But he is 30 years old now. If the Heat was to make it to the Finals and their opponent happened to be the Thunder or Los Angeles Lakers, I don’t think he would be able to keep up with Russell Westbrook, James Harden, or Kobe Bryant (even though Bryant looks to be aging before our eyes as well). As great of an athlete as Wade is, Father Time takes his toll on everyone and Wade is starting to feel that.
I don’t have much to say about Chris Bosh.
My biggest problem comes after the three guys I named above. They say they have a deep bench? Good joke, Pat Riley.
[Mike] Miller is always hurt, [Shane] Battier can’t find his jump shot, Ronny Turiaf (with all due respect) was a terrible pickup, Eddy Curry has played (in what) three games this season? I will say that [Udonis] Haslem and Norris Cole will be the only key contributors off the bench for the Heat in, not just the Finals (if they make it), but in the entire playoffs. Do Miami fans really think they can win with James, Wade, Bosh, Haslem, Cole, Mario Chalmers (forgive me, Chalmers will also contribute), and Battier? Joel Anthony is a non-factor on offense and players have shown the ability to score on him when he plays defense. If anything, I feel that Anthony has regressed this year.
Look at the Chicago Bulls roster. Assuming everyone is healthy, you have Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Richard Hamilton (if he is ever healthy again), Omer Asik, Taj Gibson, C.J. Watson, and even John Lucas! That’s 11 solid starters/backups to Miami’s 6-8 solid starters/backups (if you want to count Miller and Anthony). Grant it, Chicago doesn’t have a LeBron or Wade to go with Rose, but I feel that this year is different than last year. I feel that this year, Miami has less room for error because it’s their second year together and should be asserting themselves as the best team in the league. I feel that if they meet Chicago in the playoffs, both James and Wade are going to have to be “lights-out” for them. They can’t get away with one of them playing poorly the entire series (like Wade last year), not this year anyway.
Everyone thought that when the Heat went on their streak, winning 12 of 13 games in February, they were the team to beat. Since then, Miami is 8-6.
But who am I kidding? We all know that it’s the Larry O’Brien trophy the Heat is after, not regular season victory totals.
Miami fans better hope that James shows up this time, when it counts.