I’ve watched the last four Heat losses, and I’ve figured out what’s wrong. They have three related problems that are submarining them in the second half of games.
1. Their bench gives them almost nothing. All their offensive production comes from Mario Chalmers and the big three. That makes them a very shallow squad.
2. Their team schemes are very energy intensive on both ends of the floor. James and Wade in particular work very hard to get their points, either sprinting and exploding full court or working hard off the dribble in the half court. On defense they have a lot of trap and recover responsibilities, again James and Wade specifically. This a physically and mentally demanding strategy to execute.
3. They rely heavily on getting to the free throw line.
So you have a team relying almost exclusively on a handful of players to do all the work. The work that handful of players has to do is taxing, even by NBA standards. One of the major advantages that the handful of players enjoys is the ability to get to the free throw line more often than most. Well what happens in the 4th quarter when the energy starts to dip, the opposition tightens up, and the refs swallow their whistles on the frequent contact drawn by Wade and LeBron? Losses. The trap and recover changes to a trap and run out and hope. The full court scoring disappears. The drive and explode turns into a drive and flail. It’s a losing scenario.
This speaks somewhat to the makeup of the team, which is essentially an attempt to win with three dominant perimeter slashers and nothing much else. It also speaks to the current stat-head notion that scoring a high percentage of points at the free throw line is indicative of player’s ability. It is certainly indicative of efficient scoring prowess, but what happens when getting to the line is crucial to a player’s ability to score, and the refs don’t cooperate? We can knock Kobe for always taking those ridiculously difficult last second pull-up fadeaways, but he certainly takes the officials out of the play.It kind of reminds me of the saying in boxing and mixed martial arts, “Don’t leave it to the judges.” Finish the fight with a knockout or a submission if possible, because even if you dominated the fight, the judges’ opinions may not match reality. Miami doesn’t seem to have an option except to leave it in the hands of the judges in close games because their best bet is always a drive to the rim to try to score through a set defense or draw the foul, and lately they are not getting those fouls called in close games. You can blame it on the officials, but frankly, with a few exceptions –cough GAME 7 NBA FINALS!!!!!!!!cough– the refs don’t call questionable contact late. Hell remember when Fisher landed ON TOP OF Brent Barry while he was shooting a game winning three? No whistle. Jordan shoves Russell? No whistle. Reggie shoves Jordan (and Childs), no whistle.
Don’t leave it to the judges.