By no means were the Miami Heat taking the NBA by storm, but they were doing alright. Yeah, sure they had some trouble grabbing rebounds and the defense hasn’t been what we’ve become accustomed to and they have dropped very winnable games on numerous occasions in the weak Eastern Conference, but they were still doing all right.
No matter how low they got you always had a strong feeling that things were going to be OK in the end.
Now? Not so much.
With just more than a month remaining in the NBA regular season, the two-time defending champions are in a rut to say the least. They suffered back-to-back defeats on their home court for the first time since March 2011 and the fifth defeat in six games following Denver’s 111-107 win at the American Airlines Arena on Friday night. That carries on what was already the worst stretch of what could be described as an up and down 2013-14 season at best, and LeBron James’ post-game interview suggests it’s now all hands on deck.
“This moment will either define our season or end our season,” he said. “Obviously it won’t end now but, if it [the bad run] carries on into the Playoffs then it will. We always have that one defining moment and this is it right now.”
The biggest worry for Miami is how much their top 10 ranked offense has unravelled recently. Just a short while ago, the Heat were on a roll and the offense was the epitome of a well-oiled machine, cutting through opposing defenses like a hot knife through butter, posting a 109 ppg average, at least 100 points in seven of eight games, 50.8 points in the paint and just 12.6 turnovers per game during an eight game winning streak.
James decided he was sick of all the hype around Kevin Durant so he went for 61 points at the expense of the Charlotte Bobcats defense, then things went south soon after.
The ensuing six games would bring a solitary victory as the well-oiled machine looked more like a dumpster with an engine as the team struggled offensively. Miami averaged 96.5 ppg, managing to score 100 points on only two occasions; the points in the paint tally dipped to the 40 point mark and they couldn’t keep a handle of the ball, giving it up 15.8 times.
The outside game also saw a huge decline with the 3-point accuracy, going from 40 percent down to 33. Against Denver, Ray Allen made all but two of his seven attempts, while the rest of the team went 2-of-17 from 3-point range.
James and Dwyane Wade had hit the track running as they combined for 21 points of 10-of-15 shooting in the first quarter. However they had 19 points the rest of the way and made just six of their next 20 field goal attempts.
The struggles were particularly apparent for LeBron James, who would go on to struggle for the rest of the game, with his first FG since the first period coming with just over a minute left in the third. Moreover, when the team was in dire need of a closer in the fourth, he hit only one of his four shots from open play.
The Miami Heat aren’t quite at Defcon One just yet. After all, they are 7.5 games ahead of the next best team in the East. However they have to knuckle down and make adjustments as the business end of the season approaches. Plus, LeBron James has to find his wits about him again if he is to have any hope of retaining his Most Valuable Player award.