OMG! The Miami Heat have lost three in row, and four out of five. To judge from the hysteria on twitter and amongst the sports media, Florida is about to fall into the ocean.
Yet, all four of the losses are rather understandable. Last Thursday they lost to the Chicago Bulls at the United Center 93-89. The Bulls by record at least, are as good as the Heat and figure to beat them in Chicago. Back in Miami on Oscar Sunday, they lost to the New York Knicks, whose entire rotation had just been revamped. Not a good thing, but again understandable–it’s hard to prep for a team when you don’t know what you’re prepping for. Then came Thursday and Friday night, two games that turned furrowed brows in raised hackles. On Thursday night in Miami the Orlando Magic suddenly found their mojo from behind the arc and turned a 24 point deficit third quarter deficit into a 99-96 win. And on Friday night, the Heat were blown out of the building by the San Antonio Spurs 125-95. ESPN’s Friday night poll put forth the notion that the Heat might lose in the first round of the playoffs.
Slow down. Please. Orlando and San Antonio rained three pointers on LeBron, Wade, Bosh & Co. Orlando shot 55.8% from behind the arc, and San Antonio bettered that scorching mark at 60.7%. When teams shoot like that, they can beat the 72-10 Bulls of fifteen seasons ago. In fact, if you think that team was never blown out, consider this box score, http://www.basketball-reference.com/boxscores/199603100NYK.html, it was a one of that Bulls team’s ten losses, a 104=72 loss to the Knicks at the Garden. Yes, the Knicks shot unusually strong 47% from behind the arc.
We already know that this Heat team isn’t as good as that Bulls team. We already know that this Heat team isn’t as good as the ’08 Celtics. And we already know that the problem isn’t with LeBron, Wade, or Bosh. It’s with everyone else in a Heat uniform. If you forced second units to play 82 games, Miami would need some good luck to go 20-62. Because of their lack of depth, the Heat are on pace to win 57 or 58 games. On a team whose fourth best player so far has been Zydrunas Ilgauskus, that isn’t bad. It isn’t what we were led to expect, but those expectations should have been trashed long ago. Championship basketball requires a solid rotation not just a solid nucleus. Flawed contenders will have bad weeks; the Heat just did (and the Bulls fan in me hopes it continues on Sunday against Chicago in Miami). It’s no reason for hue and cry except that as sports fans our hackles are now supposed to rise daily. Maybe there’s something to get excited about elsewhere but the Heat’s struggles against quality teams isn’t news; it’s logical. We shouldn’t be surprised.