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Miami has it in cruise control, which has Heat fans concerned

Mar 27, 2012, 2:03 PM EST

Miami Heat's LeBron James watches the bench during an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis Reuters

We can come up with clever names for it — the coast of Miami; the Miami malaise.

Whatever name you want to put on it, it’s clear that the high-speed, attacking “pace and space” offense the Heat started off this season has slipped into cruise control at some safe highway speeds. They are averaging less than 90 possessions a game their last 10. A team who has based its identity on breaking teams’ spirits with energy and athleticism doesn’t even seem to try to do that anymore. Even in spurts.

The vaunted Miami Heat are 8-6 since the All-Star break, have lost two games in a row by double digits to playoff teams (the Thunder and Pacers).

They are in a slump. Heat fans are concerned. They should be. A little.

The players did not seem all that concerned. Dwyane Wade called it a “pothole” in the season. The reason there is no panic is this slump is not likely to cost them a lot — they are pretty locked in to the two seed in the East with 18 games to go. But they need to find their groove again before the second season starts.

How? We could talk about the team’s trend toward too much isolation and over-dribbling in the half court offense. We could talk about LeBron James’ elbow bothering him again. Wed could talk about the turnovers. We could talk about Chris Bosh’s mental vacation. And Mario Chalmers, too. Or Mike Miller being out. Or a laundry list of other items.

But every team deals with that and you fight through it and keep winning (see: Bulls, Chicago) or you fall apart. The Heat aren’t doing either, they keep coasting along.

The fixes are not really complex for Miami — if they apply better energy and focus to overwhelm teams with their athleticism at the defensive end they will create the fast break opportunities that fueled them early in the season. That is what made them a Ferrari early in the season. Right now they are coasting along, top down. They don’t want to expend that energy. Right now they are settling too much in the half court, not attacking. Wade and LeBron need to trust the role players a little more, too.

They’ve done it before. It just feels like the Heat players are waiting until a little closer to the playoffs to flip the switch.

The problem is that while the Bulls are out developing good habits to carry over to the playoffs, the Heat are developing bad ones. Things that could return and bite them under real pressure deep in the postseason.

Heat fans, none of this is worth reaching for the panic button. But feel free to be a little concerned.

  1. emaimo80 - Mar 27, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    I’m a heat fan and the only thing I’m concerned with is: WHY THE HELL IS BATTIER ALLOWED TO BE ON THE TEAM??? HE CAN’T SHOOT!!!

    • lmoneyfresh - Mar 27, 2012 at 2:30 PM

      He’s shooting 38% from 3, that’s really not that bad. Its better than both LBJ and Wade are shooting too.

    • rhetoric1 - Mar 27, 2012 at 2:33 PM

      From heat fan to heat fan, you’re an idiot. Battier plays excellent defense, contributes in ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet (second in team in taking charges, for example), and brings lots of other intangibles. And as mentioned above, 38% from 3 isn’t that bad.

    • edweird0 - Mar 27, 2012 at 4:57 PM

      Seriously. You’re an idiot.

  2. emaimo80 - Mar 27, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    Shane battier, yeah he’s great!:
    90th in Blocks
    92nd in 3-points
    113rd in Steals
    180th in Offensive Rebounds
    192nd in Assists
    217th in Fouls
    254th in Points
    255th in Efficiency recap
    256th in Rebounds
    257th in Field-goals attempts
    269th in Field-goals percentage
    276th in Defensive Rebounds

  3. 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 27, 2012 at 4:23 PM

    breathing……breathing……breathing……rainbows and unicorns……..happy place……..breathing………

    Bartender!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. ozonesupreme - Mar 27, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    Shaq’s Lakers had a habit of doing this late in the season. Didn’t turn out too well for them back then.

  5. lakerluver - Mar 27, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    Not 1, not 2, not 3…………LBJ looks dumber every day for ever uttering those words. Miami better win a title soon because the Bulls and OKC are only gonna get better. Don’t win a title this year and next year the pressure goes up tremendously!

    • edweird0 - Mar 27, 2012 at 4:58 PM

      Yeah they might be younger than the Heat but they’ll eventually succumb to the same problems facing all teams: Cap space.

  6. edweird0 - Mar 27, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    I mean yeah, it sucks, but thats no reason to be alarmed. I know they’re getting to the finals, whether they win or not is a whole ‘nother story.

  7. lakerluver - Mar 27, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    And “I’M” an idiot? How are you so sure they are gonna make the Finals, @edwierd0?!! Beating the Bulls without having home court will not be an easy task.

    • blueintown - Mar 27, 2012 at 10:15 PM

      Yeah, Miami could never beat Chicago if the Bulls had home court advantage. I mean, it worked so well for them last year..

      • gmsingh - Mar 28, 2012 at 7:33 AM

        Have any first year coaches gone to or won the NBA Finals?

      • blueintown - Mar 29, 2012 at 8:29 AM

        Um, yes, they have. But what’s your point? Now the reason the Bulls lost is because it was Thibodeau’s first year? Funny, I would venture to guess it was because the Heat have better basketball players and, hence, the better team.

  8. onlyincleveland0316 - Mar 27, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Maybe those hoodies will help them ‘shoot’ better!

  9. dirtybird2020 - Mar 27, 2012 at 6:25 PM

    Hahaha heat blow just like their fans! Its awesome, the bulls bench beat your starters enough said, wouldnt be surprised if they get bumped 2nd round, which i dont want i want to see the chicago bullys beat them down, rose is basketball god, the only guy on a contender team that dont need another superstar, i love watching the heat lose i get to watch their fans home to the regular boring lives and wake up the next day lol lebrons words not mine!

  10. twreck13 - Mar 27, 2012 at 7:19 PM

    Mr. Nowitzki would like to say d rose is not the only contender with one superstar on the team.

  11. lakerluver - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:10 AM

    This is a new year!! Or haven’t you heard? Are the Bulls better this year? Are the Heat? I say yes, and no.

  12. gmsingh - Mar 28, 2012 at 7:35 AM

    In the immortal words of Don Henley: “How bad you want it? Not bad enough.”

    • comeonnowguys - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:47 PM

      B-level singles are immortal?

  13. ozonesupreme - Mar 28, 2012 at 7:35 AM

    Heat will also succumb to cap problems

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