'Crygate' exposes Heat's flaws
By JOHN McMULLEN, Sports Network
|Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra argues a call on the sidelines during a game against the Bulls in Miami, Florida on March 6, 2011. (HANS DERYK/Reuters)
"Crygate" is about far more than losing a basketball game.
It's about a group of guys succumbing to the pressure they placed upon themselves.
Miami's struggles in close games and against the top teams in the NBA have been well-documented. The Heat opened a six-game homestand by losing a heartbreaker to Chicago on Sunday and are now a dismal 1-9 against the league's top five clubs, including two losses to the Bulls as well as defeats to San Antonio and Boston over the last three weeks.
The numbers in close games are even more disturbing. According to YAHOO! Sports Miami has lost 11 bouts this season in which they had a chance to take the lead or even the score in the final 12 seconds of regulation or overtime. The team is shooting a miserable, almost unheard of 1-for-19 in crunch time with the one make being a LeBron James dunk and the Heat still lost that game.
The two-time reigning MVP is 1-for-8 in tight, end-of-game situations while Dwyane Wade, traditionally one of the NBA's best closers, is 0-for-3 and the rest of the club is a combined 0-for-7.
The problems lie in the team's top-heavy roster. "The Heatles" of James, Wade and Chris Bosh average a combined 69.9 points per game, 68 percent of the team's offense. In stark contrast none of the NBA's other championship contenders rely on their top three scorers like that. The Spurs, who possess the NBA's best record at 51-12, are the least reliant on their top three, which produces just 46 percent of their offense.
Miami has simply lacked consistency at point guard, is weak at center and can't count on anything from its up-and-down bench. To be blunt the Heat make it very easy for opposing coaches to devise defensive schemes in crunch time.
After the latest loss to the Bulls, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said there was "a couple guys crying in the locker room" before attempting to diffuse the situation later by claiming he saw "glossy eyes, but heard no whimpering."
"This is a classic example of sensationalism, looking for a headline," Spoelstra said after the team's two-hour film session and workout on Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena. "I really think you guys are probably reaching for this. Guys were very emotional about it in the locker room. Heads were down. I saw glossy eyes, but that's about it. I think everything else is probably an exaggeration."
The fact that Spoelstra didn't realize his original statement would create a firestorm speaks to his failings as a coach, something not unexpected. It was a stretch to think a guy like that would have the kind of cachet to get "The King" or Bosh to work on their post-up games or encourage D-Wade to emulate Reggie Miller or Ray Allen off the ball.
Sadly, Spoelstra's chief role has been get out of the way, roll out the Spaldings and hope the Heat's talent advantage is enough to get them over the hump on a nightly basis. Telling tales out of school and intimating that grown men cried over the 63rd game of the NBA season isn't exactly getting out of the way, however.
In the end, whether grown men were crying is really inconsequential. The real problem is that the star-studded Heat simply can't beat the NBA's top clubs, teams that actually play like teams and don't rely on one player to create and save things in the waning seconds of close contests.
Meanwhile, when the Heat do lose, the entire country seems to cheer.
"The world is better now that the Heat is losing," Wade sarcastically said after Sunday's loss to the Bulls.
Of course, if James, Wade and Bosh thought they would be treated as conquering heroes in any other place than South Beach after concocting a plan to play together, they seriously misjudged things.
James seems fine playing the villain and Bosh is really under the radar but Wade is cracking like he's Charlie Sheen. The only thing missing is the rambling rant on UStream, the fake can of Tigerblood and a couple of goddesses flanking him.
To be fair the Heat are still playing .683 basketball, possess the league's sixth-best record and are third in the Eastern Conference.
But being good is never what this whole thing was about. Remember, James' Cleveland teams were real good.
This was about winning championships and just about everyone not named Sheen doesn't like the Heat's chances.