Miami Heat Lose 5th Straight Game: Time to Panic (or Rejoice)?

9 Mar

The Miami Heat have recently embraced Charlie Sheen's definition of winning; in other words, they've been losing...a lot.

 

In the aftermath of the Miami Heat’s fifth straight loss, this time to a Portland Trail Blazers team that displayed more composure and better execution from start to finish of last night’s contest, the panic level of many Heat fans appears to have risen to extreme levels.  After all, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade combined to score 69 points between them last night while each played more than 40 minutes in the game.  Collectively as a team, the Heat shot better than 50% from the field.  And they faced a team that they had beaten on the road earlier this season (albeit in an OT game, one of the few this season in which James attempted and actually made clutch shots in the 4th quarter and OT).  And they still lost.  But this panic reeks of short-term thinking and undermines what the Heat have accomplished up to this point in the season.  Remember, Miami rattled off 21 wins in 22 games from December through January, and while many of those wins came against mediocre to sub .500 teams, the streak did include victories against the Lakers and Trail Blazers, with the only loss coming in a tight game against the Mavericks.  This 5 game losing streak is not some sort of anomaly that never occurs to elite NBA teams; with the exception of San Antonio, all of the league’s elite teams have suffered similar rough patches this season:

Celtics:  2 stretches of close to .500 ball, with records of 6-5 and 8-6 from December – February.

Mavs:    1-7 stretch in January that included losses to the Pacers and Pistons

Bulls:    Started the season 9-8, and had a 5-4 stretch that saw them lose to the Bobcats twice

Lakers: 2 separate 3 game losing streaks, as well as a 4 game losing streak to close out November

Even after this current 5 game losing streak, which has the potential to stretch to as much as 8 or 9 with upcoming home games against the Lakers, Grizzlies, Spurs, and Thunder, the Heat still rank quite well in many statistical categories that are proven to be effective predictors of playoff success:

Category Value NBA Rank
Pts Scored 101.5 9th
Pts Against 95.0 6th
Pts Diff. 6.5 4th
Reb Diff. 1.8 6th
FG % 47.6 T-2nd
FG% Against 43.1 2nd

 

The statistics don’t lie.  Of course, anybody could choose to cherry pick stats and select some that paint a bleak picture of the Heat’s future, whether it’s their near NBA worst assist percentage, mediocre free-throw shooting percentage, or NBA worst shooting percentage when attempting game tying or winning shots late in the fourth quarter.  But take a look again at those above stats: the Heat are still an elite offensive and defensive team; despite lacking an adequate center and having a power forward who oftentimes plays softer than Charmin toilet paper sprinkled with angels’ tears and wrapped in a cloud, they more than hold their own in the paint when it comes to rebounding and blocking shots (9th).

You can blame a whole host of things on this recent five game slide: LeBron and D-Wade choking late in games; Chris Bosh appearing scared to even be on the floor in the fourth quarter; Mike Miller shooting more inaccurately than Stevie Wonder on a pheasant hunt; Joel Anthony delivering passes directly to fans in the floor seats (check out the highlights); and coach Erik Spoelstra seeming confused on what plays to run in crunch time.  However, there’s still time for the Heat to correct these problems, and they’ll have the luxury of doing so with a very easy schedule after the OKC Thunder leave town.  The Heat could easily close the season 14-4 or 13-5, giving them 56-57 wins that would be plenty good enough to lock up the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  LeBron, D-Wade, Mike Miller, and yes, even Chris Bosh, have good track records when it comes to delivering in the clutch.  Their woeful end of game shooting will not continue.  Their defense, which is already at an elite level, should continue to be strong.   And don’t forget the pending return of Udonis Haslem, who has been a key contributor to the Heat on both ends of the floor that brings a level of physical and mental toughness they’ll desperately need in the playoffs.  Sure, the King’s quest for a ring isn’t looking too rosy at the moment, but there’s still plenty of time for his team to get on the right track and make a serious run at an NBA title.  Whether you enjoy rooting for the Heat or against them, one thing is certain: the final chapter of their 2010-2011 season is far from being written.

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