Back in early November I posted a blog stating why I felt the Miami Heat could not win the Eastern Conference, let alone a championship this season. In fact I gave 5 reasons. Some readers felt I didn't know what I was talking about (shout-out to the haters) but deep into this NBA season one thing is clear to me, the Miami Heat still don't have a team that can win a ring for the King. Heading into today's game with the defending champs they have lost 5 in a row. Their longest such streak of the season. That's why this game today needs to be a statement game against LA. Miami's so called Big Three need to step up, if Miami lose this game forget about them even getting past the second round of the playoffs. They will be entirely in disarray.
Their record against championship contenders? A paltry 3-11. If you include Oklahoma City it drops to 3-12. Miami are fantastic against lower teams where their role players are not required to do much other than make sure they clear way for LeBron or Dwyane Wade as they drive to the lane. Against the better teams in the League, a total team effort is needed because a good defense such as Boston's or San Antonio know how to limit the effectiveness of the stars. That's where the problem lies for the Heat. There is no ball movement. Too many times the team falls into 'Cleveland mode'. They stand around as James dribbles the ball until the shot clock is winding down before taking a bad shot, or when Wade is forced into shooting off balance J's as the defense collapses. Miami are second last in the League in assists per game. Second last! For a team that has one of the most unselfish stars on it's team, where is the ball movement?
The Lakers game is the third of a six game stretch at home for Miami but the schedule does them no favors. Following Los Angeles is an in-form Memphis squad, then San Antonio and Oklahoma City before travelling to Atlanta then back home for a Nuggets squad that is surprisingly playing improved basketball without Carmelo Anthony. This is the stretch that will define Miami's season. Questions were asked earlier in the season when the franchise was 9-8. They then began a 12 game win streak and have also had two other seperate ones of 8 and 9 games respectively, but they were largely done against inferior opponents. These games coming up will test the Heat's resiliency. Are they strong enough to push through adversity?
Chicago have overtaken the Heat and created a little breathing room by jumping into the second seed in the East, Miami are 2.5 games back but the Bulls also own the tie-breaker having defeated the Heat in both their games this season. Orlando are right on the heels of their Division leading rival, a mere 2.5 back of Miami. It was only a month ago that experts were writing about the demise of the Lakers and practically crowning the Heat as Finals certainties. My how things change, the Lakers are rolling into town on the back of an 8 game win streak and for Miami, never before has a mid-March fixture been of such high importance.
Los Angeles may be looking for revenge for their embarrassing loss on Christmas Day but even if they lose they will still have the confidence befitting a two-time champ that they can turn it on whenever they need to. The Miami Heat do not have that luxury.