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LeBron’s struggles just one of many Heat problems

May 16, 2012, 10:13 AM EDT

Miami Heat's James knocks the ball away from Indiana Pacers' Hill during Game 2 of their NBA Eastern Conference playoff in Miami Reuters

At some point Wednesday, it will dawn on Miami Heat fans that the series against the Indiana Pacers is 1-1 — it’s not over, it’s a best-of-five now. That’s not what it feels like for Miami fans as they drown their sorrows in a mojito, but it is the truth.

The focus in Miami now is the Heat loss in Game 2 at home to the Pacers — and like quarterbacks and presidents the blame for all things Heat falls on LeBron James. No matter how much of the blame he deserves.

And he deserves some — the best player in the game had no points, missed his only shot plus missed two free throws, and had no impact in the final four minutes of the game. It plays into the public perception, and it certainly says something that Erik Spoelstra’s final play call had LeBron setting a screen for Mario Chalmers. That is where you want the ball in LeBron’s hands — even if the Pacers trap him he can pass to an open man. You want LeBron to demand the ball there. Whether he was exhausted or not is really moot, he has to step up.

But the Heat’s problems in this game — and potentially in this series — are bigger than just LeBron.

Without Chris Bosh on the floor to provide another weapon the Pacers were able to pressure the perimeter without fear of their big men paying a price. Bosh can score in the paint or draw a big man out of it because of his midrange game. Without the threat of Bosh the Pacers played a more fearless brand of defense.

Dwyane Wade deserves some blame, he went 8-22 shooting and missed a key layup late in the game.

But the Heat’s biggest issue is that nobody else stepped up and gave Miami anything on offense. Miami players not named Wade or LeBron shot 26.5 percent on the night (9-34). Shane Battier had 5 points, Udonis Haslem 4, Mike Miller 0. The Heat were 1-9 on spot-up threes (stat via MySynergySports.com). That will do them in.

For Miami, they need to get back to getting easy buckets in transition — Miami was 2-9 shooting in transition. The Pacers did a good job of getting back, but rather than attack the Heat settled for jumpers that they missed a lot. They didn’t push and they didn’t attack. They need more transition opportunities and they need to convert on those.

If the Heat offense is simply LeBron and Wade coming off the pick and trying to create on their own Miami will fall. It’s hard to get into the teeth of the Pacers defense when they have long-armed shot blockers — someone has to space the floor out with shooting and if that’s not Bosh another Heat else has to fill that role.

This was never going to be an easy series, not as easy as the Heat fan base thought. The Pacers are the third best team in the East and are better than whomever the Heat would face in the next round. (Sorry Boston, it’s true.) They have good players, they are balanced at both ends of the floor.

Miami is the favorite because they are more talented, because they have the two best players in this series. But that alone is not enough. They need more transition points, they need more from their role players.

And it’s going to take more from LeBron James.

  1. cantonbound13 - May 16, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    Just another example of LeBron choking in a big game and deferring, instead of taking control. He’s so overrated, it’s ridiculous. He’s Scottie Pippen on steroids.

    • blueintown - May 16, 2012 at 10:29 AM

      Because Scottie Pippen was so overrated. idiot.

      • unfortunatelyavikingsfan - May 16, 2012 at 10:43 AM

        A little over the top, but there is some substance to the original comment. Lebron is likely the most gifted athlete we’ve ever seen and unstoppable during the regular season. However, you can’t argue with his history of disappearing during close games in the playoffs though. If he saw himself as a real superstar he would have went to NY or stayed in Cleveland. You have to face the facts – he views himself as a role player.

        Even though I’m a diehard Celtics fan, I pull for players I hate (e.g. Kobe, Lebron, etc.) to demand the ball and take over a game in the clutch. It’s moments like those that make basketball amazing.

        Also, I have to say I hate the Scottie Pippen references – the guy was a critical role player in all of those Bulls titles. I won’t argue that he was good and Jordan made him great, but that doesn’t change the fact that without Scottie Jordan wouldn’t have a lot of those rings.

      • blueintown - May 16, 2012 at 11:36 AM

        You can absolutely argue with his history of disappearing in the playoffs: You can look at him scoring 29 of his Cavs teams final thirty points against Detroit, you can look at him hitting the game winner in the playoffs with under one second left against Washington, you can look at him hitting the game-winning three against Orlando with no time left, you can look at him curb-stomping the Bulls throughout the East Finals last year , specifically his eight points in the final minute in the clincher.

        I agree, he’s not wired like Jordan. But no one ever was and no one ever will be. LeBron’s problem is that for years everyone told him he needed to be a team player, and he bought it.

        Regardless, the MJ comparisons (which are silly to begin with) has led to people rewriting Jordan as “perfect” in the clutch. This is far from the truth. It has also caused people to relegate the fact that he played with some of the greats in NBA history and was coached by probably the greatest of all time to being incidental to his greatness. Scottie’s legacy has been similarly rewritten. Anyone who saw Scottie Pippen play knows he was not simply a “role player”, but one of the most versatile weapons the game has ever seen. Everyone is so enamored with downplaying James’ accomplishments that they have altered the historical context of the previous great ones legacy’s to fit there arguments.

        We agree on one other point: It is terribly unfortunate to be a Vikings fan. Bear down.

    • hwatt - May 16, 2012 at 2:13 PM

      i think i like the scottie reference. The knock on Scottie is that he was great, but couldn’t win a championship w/o Jordan. LeBron’s skill is much greater (took cleveland to the ECF, best record in the league- hence the ‘steroids’ remark I guess) but still the similarity holds up in that they need some other elite player to be with them to win a championship.

      • blueintown - May 16, 2012 at 4:40 PM

        Scottie never won a championship without Jordan, but Jordan never even sniffed the conference finals without Scottie. This contributes to the whitewashing of legacies by those who feel inclined to even simply acknowledge LeBron being an “okay” player.

      • cantonbound13 - May 17, 2012 at 2:12 PM

        The steroids remark is due to his receding hairline, if you think this guy never did PEDs you’re just ignorant.

  2. ezmagic - May 16, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    I said it last season and I’ll say it again.. You can’t win a championship with 2/3 superstars and a bunch of has been scrubs. Dallas beat them with 1 superstar and solid role players last season.

    It’s not all lebrons fault. Blame the coach for such bad play calling too. Lebron needs to be the play maker in the final 2 minutes. I don’t think Phil Jackson ever drew up a play without telling Jordan its his decision to drive or take the shot if he has it, if not pass it to the open man…
    KARMA….haha!

  3. sageandjudahsdad - May 16, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    It is, was, and will always be Spolstra’s fault! He arrogantly and stupidly claims “we don’t make adjustments, they have to adjust to us”. He was out coached by Carlisle last finals and he will continue to be out coached this year too.
    Mario chalmers taking the last shot in a play drawn up for him???
    COACHES FAULT! Not LBJ’s

  4. sageandjudahsdad - May 16, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    Playoffs are about adjustments!
    Quarter to quarter, game to game!
    Coach Spo is no good at this.
    He’s gotta go. Bring in Jackson!!

  5. charlutes - May 16, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    Actually it is their only problem because they’ve decided to front load their talent and use all their cap money on three players. Lebron is by far the best of the 3 good players on that team, and he has to be an unstoppable beast every game or they won’t win.

    • silencegooddoer - May 16, 2012 at 1:18 PM

      Wait a minute…….Isn’t that why he left Cleveland????

      • hwatt - May 16, 2012 at 2:15 PM

        RIGHT, there is a major mental issue with him, he took the cavs to the best record in the league and got very, very deep into the playoffs, yet he complained about being expected to be the man all the time(!). Well maybe he should take ‘chosen ONE’ from off his back. It’s just odd he would ditch all that on the court success in Cleveland for some made up bs. Feeds the whole ‘delonte west-Lebron’s mom’ thing

  6. mungman69 - May 16, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    What do you mean, sorry Boston but Indy is better than whomever Miami faces in the next round? Maybe, just maybe, Philly is better than either Boston or the Pacers. We shall see.

    • drunkenjunk - May 16, 2012 at 11:15 AM

      no, they’re not. Philly would get smoked out by the Pacers if they make it to the next round. I like Philly but its still to soon.

  7. turnmymicup - May 16, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    This is exactly why so many ppl don’t like LeBron. DWade has a bad night so lets blame LBJ. Team shoots 1 for 16 frim three lets blame LBJ. Spolestra calls a bad play at the end of the game let’s blame LBJ. Even though he had 28 pts, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 6 steals. He missed some crucial free throws down the stretch ill give you that much. Even a MVP can get worn down battling in the paint. This whole not being clutch thing is getting old. Just a few days ago everyone claimed his award didn’t mean anything. Now he has to prove to some of you (whom can barely even dribble a basketball) that he deserves credit. Be serious.

  8. cosmicatomic - May 16, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    The sun rose this morning, predictably followed by Kurt rushing to LeBron’s defense.

  9. davidly - May 16, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    Spot on. Ask any coach or player what one guy they’d wanna add to their squad and James would be the top answer. The guy’s a phenom.

    So the Heat’s biggest problem, as I view it from watching the last 8 quarters: They just assume they’re supposed to win and don’t want to lay it on the line at a playoff level for 48 minutes every game. Like, they should be able to crush their opponents with their intensity for one quarter to one half, and their opponent will just roll over and die.

    In another sense: At this point, the Heat’s biggest problem is a Pacers team without a championship trophy monkey on their back. From top to bottom they’re just looking to win the game their playing. I wouldn’t count them out of any game, which means they got a chance to win the series, no matter what anybody says.

  10. lakerluver - May 16, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    I will not even verbally attack LeBron. After all, his weaknesses are out there for the whole world to see. Only the diehard LeBron fans can’t (or won’t) accept the facts. As for the MJ comparisons, they were never accurate. I believe there have been several players with MJ’s killer instinct (minus his skills) but LeBron’s not one of them. The Heat are in trouble. My question is if not this season, then when? OKC’s “Big 3″ are all younger and just as talented as Miami’s. Wade is already past 30 and increasingly injury prone.

    • borderline1988 - May 16, 2012 at 12:55 PM

      It was one game. They lost one freakin game. Who knows, maybe the Heat will win the next 3 in blowouts and all of the idiots like you who jump to conclusions to simply fit your own biases will have to eat your own words (you won’t of course – you’ll chalk it up to the referees or something and then start spouting your nonsense again when the Heat lose one game to the Celtics or 76ers).

      This kind of reminds me of the Bulls series last year. Remember when the Bulls won game 1 and they looked like a far superior team than the Heat? And all of the idiot haters were out in full force?

      Give credit to Indiana. They are a tough, gritty, and balanced team, and they deserved the win last night. They probably won’t win this series, but everyone knew that this series wouldn’t be easy for the Heat…I guessed Heat in 6 from the start, and I’m sticking to it. Probably they will split the 2 in Indiana, and then the Heat will win the next 2.

      The Heat will win the Easter CF. The trouble will be with whoever comes out of the West, especially if Bosh isn’t fully healthy by then. OKC looks terrific and the Spurs have been dominant. The Spurs scare me more b/c at least Miami has the players to match up with OKC’s stars.

  11. rueg10 - May 16, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    another year… another mvp trophy… another playoffs with lebron not stepping up! i dont care how great the guy was in the regular season, that doesn’t matter now. what matters is winning championships, and the really great players now how to step up.

  12. secdominance - May 16, 2012 at 1:15 PM

    Isn’t the bigger problem Lebron playing 43 minutes including the entire 2nd half? Someone on the front line is goingto have to come in and provide some relief

  13. joeksnuffy - May 16, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    Is it just me, or has Dwayne Wade become the biggest whiner in the league? If he makes a mistake or is outplayed or outhustled on any play, he glares at the ref, whines like a bitch, or goes after the player that showed him up. Last night’s flagrant was Wade’s response to not getting a call. What a baby. The more I watch the Heat, the more I hate them.

    • david8726 - May 16, 2012 at 3:41 PM

      Obviously you’ve never seen the whining that members of the Boston Celtics partake in on a regular basis.

    • florida727 - May 16, 2012 at 5:10 PM

      I have to agree with #joe. Being from Chicago, Wade used to be the player I wanted to watch most, regardless of who they were playing. Now I couldn’t care less. Not sure I was ever a “fan” of his per se, but now I view him as nothing more than a cry-baby. Now he just plain annoys me. Sorry, Dwayne, but you need to grow up, man.

  14. sageandjudahsdad - May 16, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    D wade us a punk !

  15. 1dolfan - May 16, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    Its funny to me how people hate Lebron…..the only reason to hate him might be The Decision….but other than that he has fullfied his contracts in Cleveland unlike like other superstars that make their teams trade…Carmelo, Chris Paul oh and now Dwight Howard and they get a free pass !!!

  16. 11jlacy - May 16, 2012 at 6:16 PM

    Lebron choked!!!!

  17. quancao - May 16, 2012 at 9:45 PM

    It is really unreasonable for this hatred for James to continue whether you are a Heat fan or not. We watch sports to see players do things we aspire to doing, so we should all be motivated enough to wish the best instead of the worst for them. Indiana has the horses to give Miami a good series, and much of the credit can go to a Larry Bird for the character of this team he has assembled. He is succeeding where Isaiah Thomas and Michael Jordan have failed in that role.

  18. steelerswin6 - May 17, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    LeLoser is doing it again as predicted. He doesn’t have ‘it’ – never will.

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