Are the Miami Heat the new Cleveland Cavaliers? Come on, laugh with me. The entire thing is pretty comical. I mean, didn’t LeBron James leave Cleveland in order to avoid this stuff?
By this stuff, I’m referring to a good (or great) regular-season record but an inability to consistently beat quality teams. Consistently beat quality teams.
During James’s tenure in Cleveland, he led the Cavs to the playoffs five times. Take a look at their playoff results:
2005-06: No. 4 Seed, 50-32 Record, 23-19 vs. above-.500 teams, Lost to Detroit 4-3 in Conference Semis
2006-07: No. 2 Seed, 50-32 Record, 19-19 vs. above-.500 teams, Lost to San Antonio 4-0 in NBA Finals
2007-08: No. 4 Seed, 45-37 Record, 17-23 vs. above-.500 teams, Lost to Boston 4-3 in Conference Semis
2008-09: No. 1 Seed, 66-16 Record, 29-12 vs. above-.500 teams, Lost to Orlando 4-2 in Conference Finals
2009-10: No. 1 Seed, 61-21 Record, 28-17 vs. above-.500 teams, Lost to Boston 4-2 in Conference Semis
Like I said, an inability to consistently beat quality teams. In fact, judging by the looks of things, those Cavalier teams (with the exception of the 2007-08 team) actually fared better against above-.500 teams than this Heat team does.
Currently, the Heat are 14-17 versus above-.500 teams. Against the top-five teams in the NBA, specifically, the Heat are 1-8. Break it down, and this is what you have:
vs. Spurs 0-1
vs. Celtics 0-3
vs. Mavericks 0-2
vs. Bulls 0-2
vs. Lakers 1-0
James left Cleveland in order to give himself the best chance at winning a championship. The results have been ironic, to say the least.
In Cleveland, you knew that if the Cavs needed a game-tying or game-winning shot, James would be the one taking it. In Miami, things are not much different. Remove the 30-point loss to the Spurs, and James has missed game-tying 3-pointers in the waning seconds in their last three games.
The more important question is: why is James taking game-tying 3-pointers? He’s a career 33 percent shooter from beyond the arc. Translation: he’s not exactly a great outside shooter.
If you’re Erik Spoelstra, are you really telling me that you’d rather have James take that 3 instead of, say, Carlos Arroyo (shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc this season), Mario Chalmers (of the “Chalmers for the tie!” fame), or Eddie House (purest shooter on the team and has the quickest release)? Yeah.
When James left Cleveland, he was essentially saying that Cleveland was the problem, not him. Now, he’s on a team with two other Olympians, and the team appears even more hopeless in its championship aspirations than James’s former teams did.
Great players don’t allow their teams to endure 24-point meltdowns at home, followed by 30-point blowout losses on the road. Is James at the core of the problem?
Or, is Spoelstra just a bad coach? What makes San Antonio so great is their ball movement. When you watch Miami, all you see is a lot of dribbling and not enough penetration and kick-out. Much of the second half consisted of elbow entry passes to Chris Bosh, followed by a double screen for Dwyane Wade in the corner to come off a curl; if Wade’s shot wasn’t there, James would come back off a down-screen to get the ball with 10 seconds left on the shot clock.
At one point against the Spurs, the Heat ran that same set four or five times in a row. The lack of variation is baffling.
If Spoelstra were smart, he would direct his team to attack from the wing to the baseline because that would make the defense rotate. In the National Basketball Association, defenders don’t cut off the baseline. The Bulls attacked in exactly that manner against the Magic, and Orlando couldn’t defend against it.
Because the Heat dribble so much and rely on isolation, defenses can just sag. As a result, the off-ball defenders can simply key in on the players with the ball. Hence, when James attempted to drive against Carmelo Anthony versus the Knicks while down by one point with seven seconds left, Amar’e Stoudemire was able to shift over and block the shot.
James already ran one coach out of town; will he demand Spoelstra’s removal, as well? If he does, the Miami Heat can just call themselves the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers.