Monday, March 7, 2011

Worst of the Weekend: The Miami Heat

sad nazgul 2

What a painful, winless weekend for the Super Friends of South Beach.

From ESPN Stats and Information:

One day after blowing a 24-point lead in a loss to the Orlando Magic, the Miami Heat were again embarrassed, this time in San Antonio. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and company lost 125-95 to the Spurs on Friday. It's the Heat's worst loss of the season and the second-most points they've allowed. The Spurs set a franchise record with 17 3-pointers en route to their 22nd straight home win.

Miami falls to 1-8 this season against the Bulls, Celtics, Lakers, Mavericks and Spurs. That one win came against the Lakers on Christmas Day, but there have been no presents since then against the league's top teams and the schedule doesn't get easier. The Heat play their next eight games against teams currently above .500.

The Heat entered the game with a 43-18 record. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time in almost two years that a team that many games over .500 lost a game by 30 or more points. Cleveland beat the [Kevin Garnett-less] Celtics by 31 points on April 12, 2009. Boston entered the game with a 60-19 record.
Also from ESPN Stats and Information:

If you watched SportsCenter, you probably heard the stat -- the Heat are now 1-for-18 this season in the final 10 seconds of regulation when trailing by three points or fewer. But that's not the only troublesome number to come out of this game.

The Bulls completely took away Miami’s isolation offense, holding the Heat to 1-for-7 shooting on plays where a potential shooter is isolated against his defender. The Heat typically score 13 points per game on such plays, according to video review, but the Bulls held them to just three points on Sunday.

And although Chris Bosh was 9-for-14 from the field, he struggled again against Joakim Noah. Bosh was 3-for-8 from the field when Noah was the primary defender against him. In the last two games against the Bulls, Bosh is 4-for-14 when Noah is guarding him.

One other nugget related to the Heat's 1-for-18 in "crunch time." James' former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, may not be having the best season, but they are 5-for-11 in similar situations in 2010-11.
And now the quotes:

Chris Bosh:

"When you put your heart and your soul, your blood, your sweat, your tears into something and you want something so bad and it just slips from you by one point, two points, three points, 30 points, just to come up short again and again, it hurts."
Dwyane Wade:

"Outside, the Miami Heat are exactly what everyone wanted, losing games. The world is better now since the Heat is losing."
LeBron James:

"I told my team, I'm not going to continue to fail late in games. I put a lot of blame on myself tonight. I told the guys that I just keep failing them late in games and I won't continue to do that."
Yeah, well, what about that "potential game-winning shot," LeBron? I mean, a running, left-handed, contested layup attempt flung over a seven-footer?

"I had a step on Joakim and I knew he was going to try to use his length to block the shot. I've made plenty of left-hand layups over bigs before."
I guess that makes it all okay then. But what about D-Wade? I mean, this was his team, right? Why are his crunch-time touches coming from offensive rebounds instead of plays featuring his number? What do you think, Dwyane?

"I'm used to coming down in the fourth, having the ball, making mistakes, getting a chance to make up for them, etc. You try to do your best. That's all you can do. That was one of the things we got to understand when we all decided to come together. That there were going to be sacrifices that have to be made. And you live with the consequences."
Interpret that as you will.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra:

"This is painful for every single one of us to go through this, there are couple of guys crying in the locker room right now, it is not a matter of want."
Crying? Crying?!

Okay. The crying thing may be true. And, honestly, it's not as shameful as some people are making it out to be. But you don't out your players for weeping because of a loss. Not after a regular season game in March. I think coach 'Spo knows that. Or he should have known it. I get what he was trying to show how much his players care about winning. But what he actually did was emasculate and embarrass them in from of the world.

From the Palm Beach Post Heat Zone blog:

Oh, that's not good. Players didn't seem thrilled that Spoelstra said this, especially when reporters began probing to learn the identities of the weepy. I understand what Spoelstra was trying to do, but it will just come off that his team is soft. For the record, Chris Bosh said he was close but didn't cry, and Dwyane Wade (who was more emotional than usual) took umbrage to the question.
From Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times:

After a loss to the Bulls on Sunday, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said "a couple of guys" were crying in the locker room.

For his sake, I hope it was the Big Three of the trainer, the ballboy and the physical therapist. If Spoelstra has players crying after a game in early March, I can't imagine what he’s going to encounter in the locker room when the Bulls beat the Heat in the playoffs.

Actually, yes, I can. It will look like an audience that just finished watching "The Notebook."

There is nothing wrong with crying. Speaker of the House John Boehner is an inveterate crier. People cry on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" all the time.

But NBA players after a loss in March? Really?

If so, the Bulls can cross the Heat off their to-do list. Now, if they can only figure out what activates the Celtics’ sprinkler system.
Now, in the interest of fairness, Rod Benson provides some much-needed perspective to the "crying" thing. A player's perspective.

These guys care. They care a lot, actually. Yes, they care what people think. They care that their legacies are on the line. They care about the city of Miami. They care about the NBA. They even care about you, their haters. How do I know they care? Because I know how much you have to care to cry after a loss.

Let's look at this as if The Decision had never happened, shall we? Three superstars are willing to each give up a part of their stardom, and give up a part of their money, in order to try to win a championship. This is pretty high on the basketball sacrifice scale. Then they have to each change their games and learn how to play with one another, taking a huge gamble in the process, in order to take their games to the next level. Each of them will have to do things they've never done before.

They took a risk and now, they're actually kind of successful. A contender? Not for me to call, but certainly not a group of bumbling idiots trying to learn to cope with themselves like the cast of "The Wizard of Oz."

LeBron James has to get courage, Dwyane Wade a brain, and Chris Bosh some heart? And this crying, especially by Bosh, is supposed to show that they're too weak for the task? All of this because they lost four games in a row?

Think about it like this: Jay Cutler showed no emotion when he was forced to sit out and watch his team lose in the NFC Championship. People chastised him for not caring. So why do the flip the script and treat these grown men like little girls for doing the opposite? Take your pick: either it's just a game, a job, a business, and it's devoid of emotion, or it's something more. It's something like love. When it's great, nothing can make you happier, and when it's bad nothing can be worse in the world. Don't you wish every athlete had that? There are a lot of guys who will never have it. Some of them are the best players on your favorite team right now. Sorry to break it to you. You have to at least give it to the Heat for that.
Whatever the case, something's wrong. After 63 games, the Heat are 43-20. Last year, the Cavaliers were 49-14 after 63 games. Back then, LeBron was teamed up with a bunch of bums, right? The team's failures weren't his fault. They were the fault of management for not supplying a better supporting cast. They were the fault of his teammates for not being good enough. Now he's got an MVP-level teammate and another All-Star getting his back.

So if the Cavaliers failed because LeBron didn't have better teammates -- specifically a secondary scorer to take the pressure off of him -- what's his excuse this time? Basketball's statocracy tell us King Crab is the best basketball player in the world. The numbers don't lie. They can't lie.

Why, then, can't the Heat beat good teams? Why can't they close games?

I don't feel entirely comfortable making player comparisons. But I imagine Larry Bird or Michael Jordan in similar circumstances. Sitting in the locker room in steely-eyed silence. Teammates avoiding their raptor-like gaze. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm suffering recall bias, but I don't remember K.C. Jones or Pat Riley ever say that the Celtics or Lakers were weeping after a big loss that wasn't a playoff elimination. I do remember Bird calling his teammates sissies and hearing that post-loss practices were so intense they bordered on hostile.

Machismo is overrated. It really is. But if you had to bet your chips on a team to come back from losing, would you bet on the team that gets pissed off and looks like they want to kill somebody (maybe even each other), or the team that's moping around, whining about the world being against them, and maybe crying? That's not a judgement. I'm asking an honest question.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...