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Are the Miami Heat Giving Us Reasons to Doubt Them Again?

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When LeBron James hosted The Decision in 2010, he instantly became the most hated player in the NBA. Except for that one person who randomly clapped when he announced his decision, pretty much everyone else felt he had taken a shortcut to basketball royalty.

In the four years since, James and the Heat endured criticism from the media and Twitter. In the process, the Heat did the impossible: they made the entire NBA regular season entertaining for the casual fan. Diehards have always been onboard, but rooting against James became its own sport for everyone with a passing interest in basketball and a Twitter account.

The hate came 140 characters at a time, in the form of genuine criticism, reckless Kobe comparisons, and hilarious memes. Despite it all, the Heat reached the Finals three straight times, eventually earning the respect of most NBA fans. A lot of Black women still seem to hate the Heat…but that’s for another post.

In the process of conquering the NBA these past two years, the Heat relegated the regular season to its usual place in the sports world. Fans are back to the usual, “I’m here for Thursday and Sunday games, otherwise wake me up when the playoffs start.”

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And then the Heat lost three straight games.

Now, out of nowhere, the regular season is interesting again just as teams are gearing up for the playoffs. Instead of rounding into playoff form, the Heat are raising questions. Here are three they need to answer as the playoffs start in just five weeks(!!!).

Can Dwyane Wade’s knees stay glued together for the entire playoff run?

To the extreme disappointment of Wade’s fantasy basketball owners (used my first pick on that fool), Wade has been taking it easy so far this season. He sat out a quarter of the team’s games this season to rest his creaky knees.

D Wade's other uniform.
D Wade’s other uniform.

Chronic injuries have slowed Wade in years past around this time. He even missed a playoff game last season (against the horrible Milwaukee Bucks, but still). This year, the Heat are periodically resting Wade with the hope that he’ll be fresher for the playoffs. Despite lower overall numbers, he’s as efficient as ever when he does play, so the approach seems to be working.

But what if this needs-time-off Wade can’t turn it on now that the season’s most important games are coming up?

Aging is a slow process, and Flash may be turning into Flashes (copyright Jalen Rose) before our eyes. The Heat only need Wade to be great for 14 games (the Eastern Conference and NBA Finals), but as we saw over the last three games, trying to bottle Flash may not be enough against the league’s best teams.

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Is LeBron James human after all?

First, we saw James bleed his own blood. He still finished that play, but carrying the “other guys” on the Heat and a not-quite-the-same Dwyane Wade could be taking its toll.

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In the team’s three losses, James hasn’t quite been himself. He’s still better than 98% of the league, but 39% shooting and 0(!) free throw attempts in a game (numbers from these three losses) are signs of fatigue. In fact, James is at or near career lows in free throw attempts, steals, and blocks.

These are effort stats. Are these declines the signs of measured effort or the stress of carrying Wade’s knees and the rest of the Heat squad? The latter would doom Miami in a prolonged series against (let’s be honest) Indiana or in the Finals.

Weird stat: James’ 17 blocks are only a handful more than Stephen Curry. I think James is poised for a huge playoff performance, but there’s a reason no team has gone to the Finals four-straight times since the 80’s. It’s hard to be this good for years on end.

Can the role players step up?

Ray Allen is shooting his worst three point percentage since ’98.

Shane Battier has apparently forgotten how to play basketball.

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Mike Miller is a Memphis Grizzly.

These are the three players who stepped up in key playoff moments for the Heat the past two years. The Heat brought in Michael Beasley and Greg Oden to help plug these gaps. Trust them if you want to, but the Heat have opened up some doubt in my mind.

As of this writing, the Heat are set to play the Washington Wizards. Even if they win by 50, there are some legitimate questions about the Heat’s chances to three peat.

What do you think? Are the Heat still the team to beat in the East? Are they your favorites to win the title? Let’s bask in NBA Playoff time in the comments!

Comment(14)

  1. The Heat haven't looked well lately but no one in the Eastern Conference is going to do anything about it. The finals is another story, Pop is sticking to his LeBron playbook and is going to make him shoot to beat him which can go either way, the Thunder have hit/miss role players as well. The Rockets were my preseason pick and they look to be coming together but I don't trust their backcourt. This is probably the most open the playoffs looked since The Decision, but I think I'm leaning Spurs to take it.
    My recent post Today’s Word is… PHONE

    1. Those damn Spurs just won't die. They look great, can't lie, but how many years can I get sucked in and they lose? I'm thisclose to doing it again of course, lol. Can't really build a case against them though. They are #1 in the West with everyone good missing major time.

      Look forward to my "4 Reasons the Spurs Will Win it All" post in a month…sigh.

  2. "He even missed a playoff game last season (against the horrible Milwaukee Bucks, but still)."

    (weeping into my Paul Pressey jersey)

  3. The Pacers will right their ship come Playoffs, and as we have seen the past few weeks, Brooklyn and Chicago are NOT to be Underestimated…..

    Noah's "recruitment tactics" towards Carmelo may come in handy in what he decides to do next year, and the Nets are closer to the Miami Hunters people thought they would be as they have beaten the Heat TWICE this year (though only Chicago has the best record against Wade-James-Bosh since 2010)

    As a native Clevelander, I HOPE somebody in the East (Indiana, Brooklyn, Chicago) takes Miami out before the Finals, but IF NOT, I can only see San Antonio doing the job, as I have no faith in a Oklahoma City team w/o Harden (he Choked in 2012, that's all there is, kinda like Ginobli and Duncan did in Games 6 and 7 last year), a Clippers team that even with Doc Rivers can't get over the hump that is the 2nd Rd, a Houston team that has a Non-Superman in Howard and Harden who can't do anything without Durant and Westbrook, Nor Portland or Golden State- two Hot Teams in the first half of the season and have since Fizzled to Mediocrity

    1. Yeah I think if Miami makes it through they have to be the favorite against anybody they face out of the West. I don't think anybody but Indiana is a real contender to take them out in the East. Chicago can't score enough to win 4 out of 7, and Brooklyn isn't that great to me. If the Nets had Brook Lopez, I'd entertain it. Otherwise, they're still old, though they have been great in '14.

      Can't wait for the game tonight against Miami.

  4. Dog days of the NBA….Heat are guilty of boredom. The playoff run will be tough for them…as it has been the last 3 seasons, but with all things being equal assuming every playoff team is at full strength (big if, obviously) the Heat should win the East.

    As far as a possible re-match with the Spurs….one thing people may not be taking into consideration is Danny Green. I really just can't see him (or anyone on that team) shooting lights out like that again. But to be fair maybe Ginobli won't play as terrible either *shrugs*.

    FTR, the Rockets are my darkhorse pick to make it out the West. Best record in the league since the beginning of the year and D12 is looking like Orlando D12 again. If their shooters can knock down their open 3's and Harden just do what he does, watch out.

    1. I agree boredom is a factor, but this is the time that teams usually snap out of it, and they went up against three good teams. I wouldn't say you have to panic, but that bench took a step back with Allen, Battier running down and Oden/Beasley backing them up.

      I get sucked in by the Spurs every year, and it's happening again, lol. I think Danny Green's production will be made up by Bellineli, Mills, and a better Leonard. They'll find the right matchups and exploit them…but they won't win it with a horrible Ginobili. He's gotta be better.

      I could see the Rox making it out of the West. Turns out it takes a while to recover from back surgery, who knew? Not Laker fans, lol. Their offense will keep them in it against anyone.

  5. To me, Miami and Spurs are interesting opposites. What sets them apart is the Spurs can win w/ their bench and 1 healthy member of the big 3. Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli have become comfortable in their roles and can score at-will. They showed that when the big 3 + Kawhi Leonard were out due to injuries. Can't say that for Miami's bench.

    Last season's Finals performance of Manu G. still troubles my spirit smh But he can have games like those and the Spurs will eek out a win. I doubt Miami can win w/ a fatigued Bron and less than 75% Wade. The Pacers series will tell a lot though.

    My recent post The Stages Of Preparing Guest Posts

    1. Despite the post, I'm slightly leaning toward Miami winning the East right now. I think they are showing cracks, but the other East contenders are as well. The Pacers debuted Bynum last night, and if he can stay upright, sane, and give them 20 minutes I'd probably switch them. We'll see in the next few weeks of course.

      I don't really buy Brooklyn as a legit contender for the East without Brook Lopez. They seem pasted together with spit and masking tape.

  6. I don't buy the win last night as nothing more than just a win. Miami played sloppy at times and BK hit some timely baskets. BK had they been relatively healthy throughout the year should be challenging for one of the top 2 or 3 spots in the east. Miami on the other hand can only beat themselves, they'll come out of the east and maybe even win the whole thing.

    Indy doesn't scare me, they're a tough team, and have good size but they're slow and I don't see them countering Miami's fast break offense. Nor do I see them shutting down LBJ enough to beat them. And besides if things get dicey the refs will make sure Miami comes out on top. The league doesn't want Indy to win yet, they're a small market team and have no real value. Like who puts on the TV saying "Oh I gotta catch that pacers game?"
    My recent post From Superstar To No Star: Athlete Careers That Were Cut Short

  7. " A lot of Black women still seem to hate the Heat…but that’s for another post." LOLLLLL im done…

    I can't bet on Brooklyn or Chicago… They can't beat Miami 4 times.
    The final in the east will be Heat vs Pacers… And i stil think the Heat will win… In the west… OKC: no!!! Spurs: yeahhh! This year yes!!!

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