The Miami Heat are (is?) in distress. Last night, they lost at home to the
, their fifth defeat in a row. After their previous loss, to the Chicago Bulls, coach Erik Spoelstra told the press some of his players were
. Now forward Chris Bosh has added whining to the crying, complaining that he’s not getting the ball ”
What’s gone wrong with a team that was supposed to threaten to win 70 games, thanks to an allegedly unprecedented gathering of three superduperstars? Not enough talent.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Heat’s two best players, combined for 69 points against Portland. The two Trail Blazers with the highest points-per-game average, LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews, only had 36 points between them.
But the rest of the Trail Blazers outscored the rest of the Heat, 69-27.
The trouble with the Heat isn’t the chemistry between James and Wade; it’s all the inert elements Miami puts on the floor. Most nights, the fourth- and fifth-best players on the Heat are worse than the fourth- and fifth-best players on the other team—much, much worse. So are players six through 12. James and Wade may create two huge mismatches, but when the other team has 9 small mismatches going the other way, it adds up pretty quickly.
So the Heat’s success pivots on (or shoots an
with) Bosh, the team’s third-best player. The final member of Miami’s Big Three, it turns out, is an unremarkably decent forward—the sort of guy who sometimes makes the All-Star game with good numbers on a bad team, but fades into the background if real stars are around. With Udonis Haslem gone because of a foot injury, Bosh has no one to turn to for help in the middle but the clanking bones of Erick Dampier or Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Miami’s sadness is not such a mystery. Why do they blow huge leads? Because the deeper into the game they go, the more minutes their putrid, overmatched bench accumulates (Portland’s bench outscored the Heat’s, 41-6). Why do they always lose to the top teams in the NBA? Because the top teams in the NBA tend to have a big man who is much, much better than Chris Bosh. And when that’s the case, the Heat are getting outplayed at three out of five spots on the floor.