Does Miami lack coaching, mental toughness, or heart?

Does Miami lack coaching, mental toughness, or heart?

Watching the Thunder/Heat game last night where the Thunder rolled the Heat whom seemed to mentally check out of the game. Miami will finish with a great regular season record. At worst, third best in the NBA, and they could easily finish with the best or second best. They have an unbelievable array of talent, enough talent that they should dominate the league. Yet it feels like something's missing.

There are only three things that come to mind, if you hadn't guessed from the title, coaching, mental toughness, and heart.

This is a team with more talent than anyone in the NBA. They have the best player, arguably the second best player, and another guy in the top 15. They have the talent to break the 72 win barrier set by Jordan and Pippen, but they've already lost 12 in this 66 game season, and it's hard to predict them ever putting together a 72 win season together.

Coaching flaws

Their head coach has never found a way to get a quality two man game out of Wade and James. The team plays to far less than the sum of its parts because James and Wade still effectively take turns rather than developing a two man game together. The Heat get a few huge advantages over having two superstars despite their lack of a two man game:

1: They can always keep a superstar on the floor by staggering their rests
2: Their superstars are fresher for not having to carry the load the whole game
3: They can ride one star or the other based on whether a team is more equipped to stop one of the two
4: They are virtually unstoppable on the break with both of them in the game

Those things are all great and make the Heat difficult to stop, but for a team that might have the two best players in the NBA, that's a pretty short list of strengths relative to the strength of their two star players. James and Wade are each putting up monster stats, but they seem so much less than the sum of their parts, and I can think of no bigger indictment of the coaching staff than to say the team is less than the sum of its parts.

Do they lack mental toughness?

And by "they", I might simply mean LeBron. LeBron choked away a ring last season. There was no reason for Miami to lose to Dallas except that LeBron played like crap and folded in the moment. Now, we would have said the same thing about Dirk 5-6 years ago, and he went into that finals and in one year crafted a legacy that lands him in the top 10 all time discussion, so LeBron will certainly have many chances to make up for it.

However, LeBron doesn't always seem to rise to the moment. He carried his team through the pathetic Eastern conference to the finals early in his career, but afterwards, his Cavs teams were a relative disappointment. They failed to get out of the East as the #1 seed twice, and both times lost to teams they should have beaten. He's had moments where he's seemingly given up or frozen up at the biggest points in his career.

Again, plenty of time to turn that legacy around, but that's where I'm at with LeBron right now. His playoff losses in the past three seasons guaranteed that he'll never pass Michael Jordan as the greatest player of all time, and he has the physical package to have done so, but the mental side just isn't there. If he wins six straight rings, he'll still have choked away one more and go down as the primary reason his team didn't win a ring in at least one season.

Do they lack heart?

The Heat just dropped a game to OKC and lost to Chicago without Rose. These are games against what should be the Heat's two biggest rivals. Teams they want to make a statement against. Instead, it was the other way around. The opposing team made the statement by handily beating them both times.

Miami will get another shot, they have one more against OKC and two more against the Bulls. They can still change this narrative around fairly easily, but when you get towards the end of the season and you've got games that will determine the #1 seed and come out flat, it just shows a lack of heart.

A win against a Roseless Bulls team would have come close to locking up the #1 seed for the Heat, and they couldn't do it, and they didn't feel like they really made an effort to do it until the fourth quarter when the Bulls fought off a furious charge. The Bulls won by simply wanting it more and playing with more heart.

How do you go into a game like that and not want it enough to win? How? It's just inexplicable.

Will they put it together?

I've always thought they would. I've always thought this team would mend the cracks in their armor. LeBron obviously worked hard this off-season rather than partying it up in south beach during the lockout. He's come back with a post game, he's come back with perhaps his best statistical season in the NBA.

But right now? It feels like they're still missing something. It still feels like they haven't found a way to put it all together. I'm still scared to death of Miami. Whatever cracks in their armor we see now were even bigger this time last season when they still trivially put things together to romp all over Chicago in the playoffs.

Yet, I thought they'd come back unstoppable, and they haven't. They've come back quite beatable still. We'll just have to see if Chicago is up to the task this season.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Tags: chicago bulls, miami heat, nba

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  • In Spoelstra's defense, I'm not sure Lebron and Wade would listen 100% to any coach, including Pat Riley. My biggest problem with Spoelstra are his robotic rotations, similar to Thibideau.

    As to the lack of mental toughness and heart, while that does appear to be an issue, I've learned not to get too emotional about the regular season. While I certainly consider the Bulls and Thunder to be viable adversaries, the only analysis that matters is in June. I might make the Heat the slight favorites, but this is clearly a 3 horse race.

  • In reply to RichG:

    I agree with what you're saying, except I'd probably put in that Miami is bigger favorites than you would.

    I'm interested to see how they do in the post season after having sometimes up and down levels of intensity in big games during the regular season.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Perhaps my "slight favorites" remark comes on the heels of looking bad against OKC last night. However, I still give Chicago and OKC a real shot against Miami. I'm amazed at the Bulls record without Rose. Not even the most feverish of Bulls fans would have predicted that.

  • In reply to RichG:

    I've been saying since last year the Bulls are a "Pistons model" team built on a lot of contributors, not a star centric team. The Bulls being this good without Rose doesn't really surprise me. The 12-4 record probably overstates how good they've been though - it's a lockout year and most teams have come back playing worse than they would normally, while the Bulls remained motivated and also had consistency of personnel.

  • Miami is "beatable" (maybe). Because of the spectacular talent gap between Miami and the rest of the league, every single loss is analyzed ad nauseum. Analysts and fans search for an explanation for every Heat failure. Once a weakness is found, we fixate on it. But the truth is that every team experiences lapses (D Rose has missed his share of late free throws). These lapses reduce in the playoffs, when teams/players are more focused and have more time to prepare. These momentary failures do not define the Heat. There's a reason they're the favorite to win the Finals: they're better than everyone else.

  • If you think about last year's series against Miami, it was more about Chicago losing than Miami winning.
    1. Basically, the Bulls choked on defense a lot in the 4th quarter because of "tiredness" and "inability to focus"
    2. Noah/Boozer were not even average in that series because of injuries, chemistry, rhythm
    3. Rose was apparently slowed down with his ankle injury and honestly he was tired(both mentally and physically) and he was like a deer in the headlights as it was the first time so deep in the playoffs. It was definitely too much for him with the MVP season and learning Thibs's system, meshing with his teammates and it showed. And it looked like the Bulls mentally were in a way happy to be there so deep last year.
    4. The main biggest issue was Bogans. How can anyone justify him. If Thibs had even played Brewer and Rasual Butler, it might have worked better. That's why Rip is so crucial this year.
    5. Deng was exhausted too with his minutes to guard LeBron(decently) in the 4th quarter
    6. Losing Asik changed the momentum big time in that series because of Noah/Boozer's inability to function in that series.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    one thing is sure : bulls won't get away as easily as last year !! and if we can overcome Rose's double-teams by using JL3, we can make the finals.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    Yeah I still say that sequence of fouls that started on a CJ Watson clean steal that was whistled a foul started the momentum swing in that series. Haslem came back and had that one good game and they stole home court advantage. But you also have to credit their defense on Rose to a degree. Rose could seal the deal in a few last moment games. Was it game 5 Rose could have won?

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    It's hard for me to put any blame on Bogans who had a solid series. He was very good defensively and hit a fair chunk of his shots.

    I think the biggest reason teh Bulls lost was Derrick Rose played to a very low statistical level. You could argue he was forced into that play due to the supporting cast not stepping up, but Rose shot around 30% for the series.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    Look at the games the Bulls have lost this year where talent said they should have won by 20 pts! This stuff happens a lot. In fact, one game Thibs said he saw it coming at the shoot around - no focus.

    In the last game of the ECF last year, the Bulls were up by 12 with 3 minutes left. Miami outscored them 18 to 3 in the last 3 minutes to close out the series. It was painfully obvious who had the mental energy and who did not.

    A lot of injuries to the Bulls impacted the playoffs last year, all 3 of the series. But guess what we are seeing this year. A lot more injuries!

    The Heat had all the breaks up to and in the ECF - Bulls players hurt, biased treatment from the refs, making quite a few wild 3-pt shots (that did not fall against Dallas, BTW). Don't be surprised if it happens again.

  • "There's a reason they're the favorite to win the Finals: they're better than everyone else." That apologist speal, by any chance you wouldn't be a Heat fan would you?

    The other guy, Rich G, as a Heat fan posts here, but seems balanced and doesn't push a pro Heat theme so what ever floats his boat. You on the other hand, why do guys like you come to other teams web sites to apolgize for their team or tell people why they're better. Really? Nothing better to do?

    Miami has better talent than anyone else. That doesn't mean they're the best team. You speak of "every team experiences lapses." LeBron's gagging is not a "lapse." It has defined who he is. Until he gets over that hurdle, it is primarily he who is in question, and it is certainly a legitimate one.

    We've seen LeBron destroy lesser teams, but become El Foldo against Boston where he simply just checked out. I mean that was shocking the way he mailed it in right in the middle of that series. You'll never see that from a Magic, Michael, Kareem etc. Never. Same thing against Dallas: a legitimate threat - baggage claim, taking the first mental flight available out of Dallas. I don't know what his stats were against San Antonio but his team got absolutely rolled. That Finals was an embarassment.

    For a guy who refers to himself as "the King," he sure has done a lot of abdicating.

    LeBron will probably win one or more championships with Wade, but as a player who is" better than anyone else" he wil have lived as a weak link who couldn't measure up for a significant part of his career. Yes he will probably overcome his fears at least somewhat at some point, but it has still been a rather weak display for what was once thought of as the next "greatest player of all time."

  • The best way to beat miami is to lock the big 2's supporting cast. In others words, let Lebron, Wade play their game and focus defensively on the rest of team+bosh !!! Because even if Wade and Lebron play very well, they won't win unless bosh and role players show up.

  • I do think that every MIA lost gets analyzed over and again but after watching that game last night, its obvious that it's all Mental with Lebron. I dont think he can help it, once someone doesn't back down from him and goes at him he looks like he's nervous. So he tries to come back and score and if he misses it's down hill from there. IMO anyway

  • In reply to insertclichehere:

    One great sequence from last night was when Lebron was going through the lane area and was just pushing Thabo out of his way and Thabo got called for the foul and was obviously upset. After the play restarted, Thabo stole the ball, I think from a poor Wade to Lebron pass, went on the fast break straight at Lebron, got fouled and made his FT's.

    I just love to see when a "lesser" player like Thabo gets screwed by the ref giving Lebron the star treatment, then doesn't back down and goes hard back at him and has success.

  • In reply to NateTags:

    I wonder how many points opposing can take away by just making sure Wade is not free at the other end freelancing or cheating on his defensive responsibilities and LeBron throwing a long pass to him.
    Also, the Bulls have played a heavier schedule and I wonder what the busy schedule until the playoffs will do to the Heat's health especially Wade/Bosh.

  • They look disinterested. Beatable. But the in playoffs they will get calls and play much better. Fact.

  • In reply to SoulEater7:

    That's not true. They definitely wanted to win. They were all high energy chest-bumping before the game. That said, I think LeBron's elbow is hurting a little bit. I hope the next time the Bulls play(if soon), Deng takes a "whack" at LeBron's elbow.
    The call thing is not true. It looked like they got some last year but I am sure Thibs/GarPax have prepared a video of Wade/LeBron's tendencies to get "so called" calls and would have reviewed with the refs.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    Maybe Lebron will whack Deng's wrist before Deng whacks Lebron's elbow.

  • In reply to RichG:

    Since LeBron, reportedly, was already intentionally trying to hurt Deng by wacking at his wrist, I would imagine that this will be the case.

    A wrist is much easier to wack than an elbow anyway. For plays like that it's a shame the Bulls don't have Kurt Thomas or another enforcer to level some revenge on LeBron.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    It just sounds juvenile to argue whose favorite players can be more effective in trying to reinjure an opposing player. We should be debating points, rebounds, and assists. Afterall, this is not the NHL.

  • In reply to RichG:

    I wouldn't debate who could injury who more. I'm only noting that LeBron has [reportedly] already gone out of his way to attempt to injure Deng. I don't think it's right, nor do I think it's right for the Bulls to hope to injure LeBron.

    However, I do think it's right that if a guy is targeting someone on your team in an attempt to injure them that you take a flagrant foul or two in an attempt to cause some serious pain to dissuade them from their present path of attempting to injure your guys.

    Of course, it'd be better if none of it was allowed, but LeBron's attempts to wack at Deng's wrists really can't be monitored in any meaningful way.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    If Lebron's attempting to injure Deng, then Lebron's wrong. However, in Lebron's defense, maybe it's some silly NBA protocol to go after an already injured player's current injury.

  • In reply to RichG:

    I think this is a generally accepted sports protocol. You hear about it all the time.

  • In reply to RichG:

    I haven't heard of any "silly" NBA protocols. I would think it is more of a calculated move on LeBron's part to make a strategic piece less effective without making it look like how Dwight Howard fouls Rose when he goes to the basket. We all know LeBron is super desperate to win a c'ship this year and the Bulls are the biggest hindrance to that goal.
    He whacked Deng several times in the previous game and Deng has become worse after that of whatever reduced level he was playing. So, if LeBron can do legally(NBA rules), then Deng should retaliate legally too.

  • In reply to SoulEater7:

    This year has been much better than past seasons in terms of calls/refs. They've largely let the players play this season, hopefully it'll hold up over the postseason. I just hate it when there are so many phantom calls/star treatment calls for breathing on superstars, and that includes Derrick (he's had a few).

  • In reply to bpmueller:

    Refs definitely anticipate calls. It's unbelievable how difficult the refs job is, and how good they are relative to the circumstances. As such, any player who gets a lot of calls is always going to get more benefit of the doubt because the ref is anticipating a foul before the play.

  • Watching LeBron's combination of basketball skill & testicular fortitude is like watching a pacifist operate a 50cal.

  • The Heat and Thunder are similar in many ways. Both are athletic teams with multiple scorers, both excell at transition baskets and creating offense from defense. Both are masters at getting to the line. The Bulls should focus on getting an athletic shooting guard to pair with Rose. They should put a package to land Eric Gordon and forget about Pau Gasol for now. Xavier Henry is playing well for the Hornets, they might just bite on a deal, especially if Gordon lets them know he doesn't want to sign longterm with them.

  • Again, I am posting comments too quickly on my first comment of the day, how the hell is that possible.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    You travel faster than the speed of light, and time is relative.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Funny. We did not know that you were a physicist, Doug.

    The same thing has happened to me, BigWay. And I think it was after midnight. Maybe the site was too crowded?

    If the Bulls are all healed for the playoffs, they certainly can win it all. But right now that appears to be a big IF. 25-pt games from JL3 would really help, even every game! It actually could happen.

  • Sorry - I meant every other game from JL3.

  • LeBron was unstoppable verse the Bulls last year in the ECF. Him and Wade to a lesser degree where automatic in the late 4th Quarter it was crazy. That didn't happen against the Mavs personally I am hoping we play that heat team verse the one we got last year.

  • When you start talking the 72 win team you're not really talking about the difference between LeBron/Wade and Jordan/Pippen, the real difference is Bosh vs Rodman. Now I like Chris Bosh and wish we'd been able to get him instead of Boozer. But compared to Dennis Rodman, especially on a team that already has two star offensive players? Get out of here, it's night and day difference. I'd hold very little hope of the Bulls beating the Heat if they had Rodman, he'd completely turn around the Bulls biggest advantage: rebounding.

    As far as the two man game between LeBron and Wade goes, I wonder if it's not largely because the way the league has changed. Teams get nowhere without three point shooting these days, where as in Jordan and Pippen's day that was much more of a nice to have. I wonder if Jordan and Pippen would have done so well in today's NBA (of course if they came into the game today they may have been more motivated to become better three point shooters). It's not just on offense that it changes the game though. You note that LeBron and Wade do best in the open court, but there's less chances for that now days. Teams are shooting threes and spacing the floor, which means they're not in position to crash the offensive boards, so they get back on defense instead, leaving less transition chances now than in earlier eras.

    As for what it means for this season: I think we need to let go of the idea that the Heat will suddenly become this unbeatable juggernaut that was predicted. If it was going to happen it would have already happened. They're still a very good team ... but so are the Bulls. Games aren't played on paper, it doesn't matter how much "talent" it looks like the Heat has, the results on the court say the Bulls should be considered about a 50/50 chance to knock the Heat off.

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