Miami is fresh off its second-straight loss, the first of which came against the Washington Wizards and the latter of which came against the New York Knicks.
As demoralizing at the loss to the Wizards was, however, the game against the Knicks was even more disconcerting.
Hiccups like the one against the Wizards happen. Miami played terrible basketball, but still managed to almost win. It was also a game that could have served as a wakeup call. The Heat should have destroyed the worst team in the league, but didn’t. They actually fell victim to them. Obviously, it was time to tighten up on defense and buckle down even against inferior opponents.
Enter the Knicks.
I’m not saying that New York is an inferior opponent. These two teams actually matchup fairly well. But the Knicks were a team that came into South Beach down Amar’e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert and, somewhat shockingly, Carmelo Anthony. As such, the Heat, Big Three and all, should have taken care of business.
Outside of LeBron, though, they didn’t. James scored 31 points and finished one assist shy of his second-straight triple-double while Chris Bosh and Dwyane wade combined for 25 points on 6-of-25 shooting from the field. Miami shot just 42.1 percent from the field overall and committed an unimpressive 14 turnovers. Which begs the question: What gives?
James and company are still a championship entity, but outside of himself, this team lacks measurable energy. Not only did they just allow 112 points to mostly reserves, but they allowed the Wizards to drop over 100 as well. The Heat’s 109.3 points per 100 possessions are impressive—and the third-most in the league—but they’re also allowing 104 points per 100 possessions, the eighth-worst in the league.
And that needs to change. Miami’s immense success from only a year ago was predicated on a potent offensive and impenetrable defensive attack. This season, however, while the offense remains deadly, their defense is porous.
Even with LeBron by their side, the Heat are not going to win a championship this year with that kind of offensive and defensive balance. They need to do better.
Miami needs Bosh and Wade to be come more aggressive and consistent on both ends. It needs to find consistent sources of offense outside of its Big Three. It needs to improve upon its defensive execution, or lack thereof
It needs someone besides James to care about the outcome of the game from start to finish.
If nothing else, that’s what the Heat must take away from their beat down at the hands of New York—that as a collective, their defensive intensity and commitment to winning needs to improve.
Otherwise, we’ll be treated to plenty of more inexcusable follies that will ultimately culminate in Miami’s failure to repeat as NBA champions.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.