The Miami Heat’s campaign to retain their NBA title so far hasn’t strayed too far off course as they currently sit in second in the Eastern Conference standings, 3.5 games behind Indiana. However that’s not to say the 2013-14 season has been nothing but seamless.
Here are the three main issues that have cropped up in the season thus far.
The injury bug continues to dwell deep within the Miami Heat ranks as only Norris Cole has taken part in all 43 games so far this season.
Granted for some players i.e. Roger Mason Jr. and James Jones the “DNP’s” are primarily due to being held out of the lineup for non-injury related reasons but, it is still rather concerning when all but one of the 15 players have missed games due to injuries.
LeBron James did vent his worry by stating that: “With some of the guys being in and out, and with the concern with D-Wade, it’s been tough on all of us trying to fill that. We’ve just got to be able to do a little bit more consistently, and go in with the mind-set sometimes that he’s not playing instead of [he is] playing.”
However, even with all his frustrations, LeBron does seem to understand the difficulty of the situation. “I’m not a doctor. I’m only a player, man,” said the Heat forward. “I don’t know the [therapy] program he’s on. I do know that his knee, if he’s feeling good, he’s going to play. If he’s not feeling good, he doesn’t play. For me as one of the leaders on this team, I’ve got to make sure the guys that are prepared to play are ready to play. When D-Wade is ready to come back, then that’s what it is.”
We’re only at the halfway point and Miami’s second-best player (Dwyane Wade) has already missed 13 games in addition to Mario Chalmers missing six contests, that’s undoubtedly been a factor when the decision makers in the organization where contemplating keeping Roger Mason Jr. and trading for Toney Douglas.
Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen have also fallen victim lately, missing 18 and six games respectively, which has piled the burden on Chris Bosh. But on the upside, Greg Oden is now beginning to make appearances on a more regular basis, following a four-year absence from the game. He even had a season high in points (five), rebounds (five) and minutes (10) in Miami’s win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.
I suppose when you think about it, it’s not really surprising that Miami is struggling to stay healthy, after all they are the oldest team in the NBA with an average age of 30. That as well as the fact that they’ve played nearly a full season’s worth of extra games (67 to be exact) when you factor in the postseason over the last three years and mix in the NBA’s grueling regular season schedule, the likely outcome will be banged up bodies.
Lack of Motivation
Winning an NBA championship is hard and it’s even harder to win a second, but a third straight title? Well that’s just a whole another level of difficulty. The targets on your backs grow larger, the competition gets better and the fatigue, both mentally and physically, takes its toll. That’s why only five teams have accomplished the feat.
This Miami Heat squad is trying to join the extremely elite group of teams that have managed to pull off a three-peat in addition to appearing in four straight NBA Finals.
But after playing more than 350 games of NBA basketball since 2010, the Heat are starting to feel the strain.
“It’s a long and grueling season for all of us,” said LeBron James. “We’ve played a lot of basketball in our four years together and it’s taken a lot of wear and tear on our bodies. Mentally it is fatiguing. We’re trying to find the motivation the best way we can as a group.”(Via ESPN.com)
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, who themselves have gone through a similar patch as the current Miami Heat team after attempting a three-peat and four straight finals appearance, warned the Heat of the difficulties they’ll face.
“It’s not easy to sustain that motivation, that energy, that edge,” Gasol told Bleacher Report. “Especially when you start getting injuries from guys who have gone through long runs consecutively.”
Bryant essentially echoed his teammate’s words by saying: “It’s tough, it’s tough to get guys going, but the most important thing is being ready when the time is right.”
The Miami Heat have established themselves as somewhat of a defensive powerhouse over the years, but recently the typically stout defense has been below par to say the least.
Through the first three seasons of in the Big 3 Era, Miami allowed an average of 94 points per game. In 2013-14 however, that figure has spiked to 98.5 which is only eighth in the NBA.
Yet again this season, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra was disappointed with his team’s lack of desire when it came to stopping the opposition. Following a 121-114 loss in Atlanta to the Hawks he said: “There just wasn’t a lot of pride on that side of the court tonight. We tried to win it on a shootout and then when our offense came up dry toward the end–a couple of missed shots and turnovers–we weren’t able to secure a win.”
Hell, even Kyle Korver notices the holes in Miami’s defense as the Hawks 3-point marksmen described a key play down the stretch as, “Wide open” after Pero Antic set a flare screen for him with Atlanta down two in the final minute.
Shane Battier perhaps summed up Miami’s defense best when by saying: “Usually when our defense is clicking, we’re taking away a few things out of a team’s offense and living with other parts of the team’s offense. Right now, the other team has a full menu of what they want to get — paint shots, 3s, transition.”
On the upside, at least the offense has been clicking, especially when it comes to efficiency and sharing the sugar. Miami is currently second in scoring per 100 possessions with 109.2 points per game, while shooting a league best 50.8 percent (the only team in the NBA better than 50 percent) and ranks sixth in assists with 23.5 per game according to NBA.com.