Blog Entry

Road to the Finals: Miami Heat

Posted on: April 12, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 4:15 pm
Posted by Royce Young

After LeBron James spoke those now famous seven words in July, most felt like the Miami Heat's road to the NBA Finals would be a cruise. The road to the finals would be a red carpet lined with a few minor obstacles like the Celtics, Bulls and Magic.

There was a rap song crowning them champs. Everyone was picking them, some even wondering about the 72-win barrier. Even the organization was celebrating in July. It was almost as if we didn't even need to play the NBA season.

Then the Heat started 9-8.

It was panic at the beach. What was wrong? Why aren't these guys great? Already they have eight losses just 17 games in -- how are they going to just lose two more and win 72?

There were obvious issues from the opening tip of the season for the Heat. LeBron and Dwyane Wade had a lot of trouble figuring out how to co-exist on the floor together as dominant ball-handlers. Early on, each did their best work when they other went to the bench. Figuring out how to actually play together was a major challenge.

Then the Heat had to figure out how to work in Chris Bosh. He settled in as mainly a pick-and-pop option, available for a kickout jumper if Wade or LeBron's drive was shut down.

Still though, there were problems. Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller were hurt and the rest of Miami's role players were adding very little. It was almost turning into a bit of a mess. Erik Spoelstra had his work cut out for him.

Road To The Finals

After the eighth loss, a pretty good whipping in Dallas, the team held a players only meeting that last almost an hour. It was a good sign -- they were committed to figuring this out. They weren't going to just assume that their overwhelming talent alone would win games. They knew they had to work.

A good thing happened next. The Heat's schedule got easy. And they won 21 of 22. They shut people up for a little while. Of course that is, until a stretch in late February and early March where they lost five straight, cried in the locker room and prompted about 200,000 columns about them.

They couldn't close. They couldn't play in crunch time. They couldn't execute. On and on and on.

It was an interesting two weeks though. The Heat had struggled a lot against teams with winning records and especially against top level teams. And here they were playing 11 straight playoff teams. When they started 0-5, most saw it as a sign that they weren't ready. But there were still six games left, meaning they had six chances to turn things around.

It started with a big win over the Lakers. Then they blew out the Spurs. The Thunder took the Heat down, but Miami then beat the Hawks and Nuggets. They ended up 5-6 in that stretch with a couple very close losses and came out smelling relatively clean. They survived and managed to shut some of us up in the meantime.

After the loss to the Thunder, Miami is 11-2 with a horrible loss in Cleveland that LeBron will never live down and a weird loss in Milwaukee. Since the five-game losing streak where everyone wanted to preemptively write off the Heat entirely in early March, Miami is 14-3 with five wins over playoff teams, including a beatdown of the Celtics last week.

Are the Heat really, truly contenders this season? Absolutely. Here's the thing: They have LeBron Freaking James and Dwyane Freaking Wade on their team (note: Freaking may not actually be their middle names). Those guys are good. We're all curious to see how they handle a seven-game series. How will they handle games against ONLY good teams? No more Wizards or Pistons to beat up on anymore.

It's been a weird season because we've all gone through about 70 stages with the Heat. First, they were crowned. Then in November, they were written off. Then they were crowned against after winning 21 of 22. Then we wrote them off following CryGate. Now people are coming back around.

Miami has what it takes to win. The Heat defend. They are fifth in defensive efficiency and are actually third in offensive efficiency. They are tied with the Bulls for the largest point differential this season (7.3). All signs point to them as a dominant team.

So what are they? Are they actually good? Can they win the title? I say yes, but with some caution. As the two-seed in the East, they get the 76ers to open, a team they match up well against. After that, it's most likely the Celtics, a team they've struggled with but that was the pre-Perk trade Celtics. Boston doesn't look quite so invincible to them anymore, especially after last week's confidence boost.

What's a little scary is that you know someone will have to step up in the postseason if the Heat are going to push toward The Finals. Someone like James Jones will have to hit a big 3. Someone like Mario Chalmers will have to handle the ball in big spots. Someone like Erick Dampier will have to shut down his man late. Can they rely on those guys to get it done? Spoelstra always talks about trust. Well, they're going to really have to trust some guys that aren't exactly trustworthy.

The Heat would have to put all their chemistry issues behind them in order to even advance past Boston, but if they were to beat Chicago in the Eastern Finals, they'd have to play pretty much perfect. But they're capable of that because, you know, they have LeBron and Wade. No matter what, the Heat are dangerous. They can win now. It's going to have to come in a role they didn't expect back in July though -- underdog.

Since: Oct 12, 2006
Posted on: April 16, 2011 1:51 am

Road to the Finals: Miami Heat

For my dollar this season is likely to be one of the most wide open playoffs in recent memory.  So it seems crazy that so many people are so certain the Heat CAN'T win a championship.  Given their role players could be stronger,  but with their big dollar,  big three to carry the bulk of the mail,  they GOTTA have a CHANCE right?  Spolstra clearly is not the level of coach that Jackson,  Popovic,  or Rivers are,  but everyone knows that Pat Riley is the real puppet master anyway.

Since: May 24, 2010
Posted on: April 14, 2011 4:53 pm

Road to the Finals: Miami Heat

I think what you mean is bottom line, the Heat wont make the finals. The Bulls have won their last 7 games against the Magic/Celtics/Heat. They haven't lost to a top 5 team since december including wins against the Spurs, Lakers, and Mavericks. Bulls have the MVP, COY, and the best defense in the league, so I'm not sure why you are writing them off.

Since: Nov 29, 2009
Posted on: April 14, 2011 3:45 pm

Road to the Finals: Miami Heat

Right on the PG and C issues, but even so, the Heat have the pieces but not the coaching. Give them Doc Rivers, Thibodeau, Popovitch, or Jackson and they win it all going away.

Can they lose with Lebron and Wade?  

They play too much 1 on 1 on offence. On defence they lack the grinding team D of the Celts or Bulls. Wade, Lebron, Joel Anthony, are great defenders. Bosh is average on D - afraid of fouls so few blocks, takes few charges, has few steals. Can Bibby, House, Juwan or, Z defend? No. How Heat slot in PG, C, Wings, on offence and defence, and improving Team D are the keys to winning. Chalmers better all around player than Bibby, James Jones better than Miller, House is streaky. Magloire is not mobile.  

Bottom line, Celts and Lakers in rematch.

Since: Mar 3, 2011
Posted on: April 14, 2011 12:26 pm

Road to the Finals: Miami Heat

LaChoke James will never win a championship! he is too selfish! Its sad that the NBA's darling poster child will never win.  In a sport where players are graded and ranked on Championships won, this guy still gets all the credit and spotlight! I guess they have to count his High School State Championships from lil Bron Bron.  What a Joke! GO AWAY HEAT/LEBRON FANS!!! he is a loser, and a trader!!! just wait 3 years from now when ya'll still haven't won a championship, he will jump ship and go look somewhere else for a chance to "win."  I guess Miami can see if they can get his High School State Banners and hang them in the Heat's Arena.  That is the closest you will get to hanging another banner!

Since: May 29, 2009
Posted on: April 13, 2011 7:02 pm

Road to the Finals: Miami Heat

I think at some point the Heat will win a championship, but this isn't the year they are going to.  The Bulls are better TEAM than Miami.  I'd also take Boston in a 7 game series again Miami.

The Heat lack a PG or Center that can D up an opposing team with a dominant player at those positions.  The Heat could put James or Wade on someone like Rose or Rondo, but that would create a huge mismatch at other positions.

At some point -- the Heat will get bench help and a low post presence that will make them a very tough team to beat.  At this point and time -- I just don't think they have the personnel to do so.  They absolutely pound the mid-level and bottom feeders, but the top teams give them fits.  They can beat them in a game and have proven so, but no way they can in a 7 game series.

Since: Jun 2, 2009
Posted on: April 13, 2011 2:11 pm

Road to the Finals: Miami Heat

What seems to be lost in it all is these guys SHOULD win it all.  Anything less than that is a failure.  They lose in the Eastern Conference finals and they are nothing more than the Cavs were with LeBron.  Is it fair?  Well, yes.  LeBron went to a team where there is no way he should lose, not with D Wade and Bosh. 

Since: Dec 15, 2010
Posted on: April 13, 2011 1:43 pm

Road to the Finals: Miami Heat

@drop21 - Who are these people that are writing off the Heat? I havent seen any articles as such, especially since they beat the Celtics a couple of weeks ago. Even on this site a few days ago there was an article about the Heat maturing at the right moment for a run. Not the sound of someone writing off a team.

Since: Dec 4, 2006
Posted on: April 13, 2011 9:21 am

Road to the Finals: Miami Heat

I keep hearing the Heat losses to the Celtics chalked up as pre-Perkins trade losses. Really? How much of a factor was an injured Perkins watching from the bench in the first 2 matchups where the Celtics were victorious? The Celtics haven't been in playoff type form as of late against anybody, but does it really matter come playoff time? Remember they faded down the stretch last year too and were a 4 seed in the East and then shut everyone up in the playoffs. This will be a very intriguing second round matchup I think.

Since: Oct 29, 2010
Posted on: April 12, 2011 10:25 pm

Road to the Finals: Miami Heat

The Heat are not a Great team by any means but as long as James and Wade are there they can beat anyone. Look what Lebron did with the Cavs and the Cavs without Lebron. The Bulls are a good team with lots of people contributing.  The Heat have to rely on individual efforts and are a threat any time they are on the floor. Lebron can take over a game and the Heat will play in the East finals.

Since: Oct 17, 2006
Posted on: April 12, 2011 9:39 pm

Road to the Finals: Miami Heat

They are "underdogs" due to the fact that everyone is writing them off. Everyone says that they will not win. That is why he states they are underdogs. He's not stating that they are underdogs to PHI or IND, but to the "better" teams of the league.

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