Boston beats Miami; Four notes on the Heat
It was the most anticipated opening game in the 65-year history of the NBA. Never before had 3 of the NBA’s top 15 players been on the same team, in their prime, with so many expectations on their shoulders. But on October 26, 2010, the Miami Heat opened up the start of the basketball season with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in their starting lineup, and they did it with all of basketball nation watching.
On most opening night games, sports fans are more inclined to watch Ron Jaworski and Merril Hoge break down football game tape on NFL Matchup, but with three of the biggest names in basketball set to take on three of the one-time biggest names in basketball, this was Must-See TV on TNT.
So at approximately 7:31, after an off-season of hype, months full of disdain, and the day after LeBron James asked you “What should I do?,” the basketball went up in the air, and what some people are calling one of the greatest teams ever assembled took to the basketball court for the first time.
And they lost.
Quite frankly, it wasn’t even close.
And it certainly wasn’t pretty. The Miami Heat, in their opening game against the Boston Celtics, lost 88-80 on the road. LeBron James scored 31 points, but it wasn’t enough, as Rajon Rondo produced even more points by dishing out 17 dimes and dropping 4 points of his own.
The rest of the Heat’s big three failed to show up entirely though. Wade scored 13 points on 4 of 16 shooting, but that doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story. Wade turned the ball over 6 times and more or less looked lost in the offense. The few times he did get aggressive, it was completely out of sync with the rest of the team, and it was usually the one-on-one crap we saw from him last year.
Chris Bosh was no more impressive. While he only contributed 1 of the 15 turnovers created by Miami Thrice, Bosh was also the low scorer with 8 points on 3 of 11 shooting. More importantly, for a guy who played 38 minutes at the power forward position against two of the oldest starting big men in the NBA, 8 rebounds is a joke. Hell, his own teammate, Udonis Haslem, who played fewer minutes, had 11 rebounds. And Kevin Garnett had 10 boards for Boston, while Shaq had 7 boards in less than half the time Chris Bosh was on the court. But we’ll get back to this in a second.
As for Boston’s Big Three, which really should be a Big Five now, KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce combined for 49 points (Miami’s three had 52), but they were much more efficient, shooting 15 of 31 from the field. Shaq missed a couple bunnies at the rim, but managed to outscore Bosh with 9 points. And once again, the magnificent Rajon Rondo was the best player on the floor last night, making a difference with assists and blocks while taking tremendous care of the ball (3 turnovers) given the amount of the time he had the basketball in his hands.
But enough stats. It’s time to look at what we really wanted know. What will this Miami Team look like all season? Well, I have four major observations that I took away from that game, and given the fact that the Heat essentially got smacked in the head last night by Boston, one or two of my observations may surprise you.
Observation #1: The head coach has failed to install an offense.
I don’t mean to pick on Head Coach Erik Spoelstra, but that’s the last time I’ll write out his name until he proves to me he deserves to coach this talented group of individuals. The Heat looked abysmal in the first quarter. Here we were, expecting greatness from this team. We though the opening quarter of the game would be filled with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade throwing oops to one another, running pick-n-rolls with each other, and getting out on the break with some early offense to the rim. Instead, the Heat fell right on their face, took bad shots, look disorganized and had no point guard, all the while, scoring a mere 9 points in the first quarter of the game.
More importantly, it didn’t get any better. The only reason the Heat didn’t continually score 9 points for the rest of the game is because LeBron James and the others said to heck with the offense and just started playing street ball—or as LeBron knows it, Cleveland Cavaliers basketball.
Spoelstra should be ashamed of himself. Here LeBron James, Wade and Bosh are, sacrificing awards and points in order to make the game easier for themselves with less of the game relying in their hands, and Spoelstra appears to have implemented no offense whatsoever. Had LeBron James not pulled the crap he did in Cleveland during the 3rd and 4th quarters, this game would have been ugly, and the offensive system would have been questioned even more so.
Observation #2: Maybe LeBron and Wade can’t play together.
I will admit, I never questioned the fact that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade could play together. While some others were out there saying that they both demand the ball way too much to be effective on the court at the same time, I laughed at the idea and basically suggested that talent will always shine through.
But maybe I was wrong?
Hell, it wouldn’t be the first time, but after watching last night’s game, it’s hard not to think that a James-Bosh combo may not be as glamorous as we were hoping. If you watched the game, we saw that the Heat were best when LeBron was dominating the basketball and driving to the rim. In fact, Miami’s best run came with Wade on the bench. Granted, part of that has to do with the fact that this was Wade’s first action in a while after missing time with an injury, but if talent really is talent, Wade and James shouldn’t have looked as bad and as incompatible as they did when they were on the basketball court together.
Let’s face it, Wade needs the rock, and LeBron needs to the rock. That’s how they each have managed to score as many points as they have, and that’s how they both have excelled to highest heights of the game. Can we really expect them to be as prolific as they were in the past without touching the ball as much as they used to? I still think it’s a possibility, but last night was evidence of the contrary, and I’m not sure it can be done.
3. Observation #3: The Heat are small.
Much like my last observation, this observation was a fact I overlooked as well. The Heat are small. When thinking about the three guys they just signed, small never came to mind. I guess that was because of the fact that none of the big three are undersized. Wade is your prototypical shooting guard’s height and is much stronger than your average 2-guard. LeBron James is the Hercules of the small forward position. And Chris Bosh, wall slight in stature, is 6’10”, which is above average these days for a power forward.
However, everywhere else, the Heat struggle. At point guard, you could say Carlos Arroyo and Mario Chalmers are average height, but when put up against Deron Williams, Chauncey Billups and last night against Rajon Rondo, those guys will struggle. Yes, those are three of the biggest point guards in the league, but you saw what happens when that’s the case, and it could be a problem in the future.
More importantly, the Heat are undersized up front. Bosh who finished last season averaging double-digit boards grabbed just 8 boards last night. And that was 8 boards against an old frontline that can’t move. Apparently, Bosh is just too small to battle for the boards. Shaq and KG had no problem moving him out of the lane, and even Glen Davis moved him out of the way for a crucial offensive board late in the game. Neither of the Heat’s centers (Joel Anthony and Zydrunas Ilgauskas) rebound all that well, which leaves most of the boarding up to Udonis Haslem and I suppose LeBron James.
Observation #4: Man, these guys are going to win a lot of games!
I’m not blaming the Heat’s loss on pressure, the jitters, lack of inexperience or a hostile crowd, but look, it was just game #1 of the season, and the Celtics are one of the better teams in the league. Did last night put some doubt into the assumption that the Heat are the preordained Eastern Conference champions? Yes, it did. But it wasn’t enough to change the overall outlook on this team, which is the fact that they are better than just about everybody else out there. Other teams don’t have Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, KG and a colossal guy like Shaq in the middle. So the Heat will club bad teams over the head and beat the majority of the good teams they face. I still think they’ll have the best record in the NBA when all is said and done, and LeBron James is still the best player in the NBA.
However, as we saw against Boston, they have a long way to go before they look elite. But I don’t question the pieces and I’m not overly concerned about their problems during the regular season. This team is going to win a lot of games now through April. As for how they will fair in June, it looks as if Boston might have something to say about who will be representing the East when that month rolls around.