Through the virtues of NBA League Pass, I have watched a tremendous amount of Miami Heat basketball over the last two months, and I am concerned. The supporting cast as it exists is what it is, and the only question of significance is how much quality basketball D-Wade will provide in the playoffs. My concern is with Lebron James.
He appears to be laboring under the astounding work load he carries for the Heat. Defensively, and this may be entirely related to coasting, he is not the lockdown force we have seen in other playoff runs. He is by no means a liability, but his ability to shut down the likes of Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Paul George on command gave the Heat a decisive advantage in the vital closing minutes of playoff games. Too many times in recent weeks, he has beem scored on in fourth quarter one on one situations.
Secondly, James jump shot shows up every third or fourth game. This is critical because a reliable jumper creates easy points (less wear and tear), and does not allow teams to play as much sagging defense. The obvious lack of confidence has made James a ball stopper on offense and drawn the Heat into some ugly sub-100 point games highlighted by significant scoring droughts. These droughts have cost the Heat some wins, and made several games uncomfortably close.
In the playoffs, James must move the ball quicker, and spend more possessions in the post or off the ball as a screener/cutter. This will create more easy baskets and keep the component parts of the Heat attack engaged and potent.
The Heat will not fall to the Pacers with Roy Hibbert in current form. Hibbert was anonymous in this week’s 12 point loss to the Heat, as he was in the Heat’s other regular season win over Indiana. In the match up of these two teams, Hibbert is decisive. When playing well, his rim protection and post offense are a mismatch the Heat are ill-equipped to offset, but when Hibbert is hibernating, the balance tips substantially in favor of the Heat.