x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Heat coming off tough week but there is no panic in Miami

The ebb and flow of Miami depends on who they are playing as they match up well with the contenders and tend to take it easy against the minnows, writes Jonathan Raymond.

Mario Chalmers, left, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, of the Miami Heat are coming off a tough week but it is not time to panic. Mike Ehrmann / AFP
Mario Chalmers, left, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, of the Miami Heat are coming off a tough week but it is not time to panic. Mike Ehrmann / AFP

It seems like such a silly question to ask.

One, because this is something we have seen before.

Two, because it feels almost unfairly speculative.

Yet, what has happened in the past couple of weeks simply begs it.

Are the Miami Heat vulnerable this year?

The past six games must have the champions feeling a bit shell-shocked.

First, they went on a three-game road swing from March 4-9 that took them to Houston, San Antonio and Chicago.

They came away with zero wins.

That is easy enough to forgive. Houston and San Antonio are both elite teams and Chicago are no slouches either, especially at home.

The Heat returned to Miami and beat Washington last Monday. Then things got really curious.

Miami fell in back-to-back games at home for the first time since 2011 and not to teams like San Antonio and Houston, but to Brooklyn and Denver.

They have seen the full spectrum of poor play in that 1-5 stretch.

They could not defend against Houston or Denver (106 and 111 points allowed in those two games).

They could not score against Chicago or Brooklyn (88 and 95 points in those two contests).

They could not do either against San Antonio, in a 111-87 loss.

There is the argument to be made that this is simply what the LeBron James-era Miami Heat do sometimes. Despite the expectation when James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh teamed up that they would form an unstoppable force, that never materialised in their first two regular seasons together.

They posted winning percentages of .707 in 2010/11 and .697 in 2011/12, quite good, but only enough for second in the Eastern Conference.

Last year, finally, they stormed to 66-16 and looked like the team worthy of being the heir to the 1995/96 Chicago Bulls (who went an NBA-record 72-10).

So it is a little surprising to see them dip back to that previous level, now 44-19 this year with a .698 win percentage, losing to the likes of the Nets and Nuggets. But does it mean that, come play-off time, they stand any better chance of being dethroned?

The honest answer is probably not. A remarkably high number of their losses, 14, have come against relative non-contenders.

The Heat, it seems, simply know when to flip the switch and when to take a breather.

These past six games illustrate, though, that at least at present, the switch still needs flipping.

jraymond@thenational.ae

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