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Around the NBA: Crying in Basketball?

 

Since when has there been crying in the NBA regular season?  Well according to Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra there was some going on in his locker room after his team lost yet another close game. (Perhaps a chance for Spoelstra to take a jab at the “warriors” on his team, or he’s just grasping at straws at this point.)  The Heat have dropped 4 in a row, falling to 3rd place in the Eastern Conference 4 games back of the Celtics and a full game behind the Chicago Bulls, who just completed the season sweep of the Heat.

Close games have not ended well for Miami this year.  They are 2-8 in games decided by 3 points or less with the wins coming against the Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons.  As you have probably heard by the now the team is shooting 1-18 from the field in the final 10 seconds of the 4th quarter or overtime when trailing by 3 or less.  (LeBron James = 1-7; Dwyane Wade = 0-5; Chris Bosh = 0-1.)

You know what?  Throw in a 0-9 record against Boston, Chicago, Dallas, and San Antonio and maybe there is reason to cry.

The Miami Heat would need to go 18-1 in their final 19 games to have the same record as the Cleveland Cavaliers from last season.

After watching the Heat fall in the final seconds to a good team once again on Sunday (including big missed shots by both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade), you have to wonder if Miami is really the toughest test for the Celtics in the East playoffs.  Do they have 2 of the 5 best players in basketball?  Yes.  Have they figured out how to maximize their talent?  No.  Can they still dominate lesser opponents based on just skill alone?  Yes.  Would you pick them to win a 7-game series against an elite team?  The answer has to be no.

I’m not dumb enough to completely rule out a LeBron-Wade team in early March.  But if you ask me the team that beat them yesterday looks like a more dangerous opponent come April and May.  The way the standings sit today, the Heat would have to go through the Knicks, Bulls, and Celtics just to get to the NBA Finals, let alone win their first of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6… or whatever titles LeBron promised South Beach.  If that seems like a murders row, it is.  A potential 7 game series with Carmelo-Amare-Billups to start then Derrick Rose followed by the Big 4 of the Celtics all before a match up with a team likely chuck full of Finals experience (Spurs or Lakers)… good luck.

The Heat thrive on beating up on the weak teams in the league.  If they can’t get back into the top 2 in the Eastern Conference, then they won’t even get the luxury of facing one of them in the playoffs.  My 1-6 in the East right now looks like 1. Celtics 2. Bulls 3. Heat 4. Magic 5. Knicks 6. Hawks.

Look Out NY! Watch out for the Philadelphia 76ers.  Doug Collins has his extremely young club two games over .500 and just a half game behind the New York Knicks for 6th place in the conference.  Did you see that coming?  Me neither.  They get the job done at home, and rather than relying on just 1 scorer who can’t lead on his own (like Andre Iguodala in the past) Philly is trotting out nearly 6 players averaging in double figures.  (Brand, Iguodala, Holiday, L. Williams, Young, and Meeks at 9.7).  Collins is doing a tremendous job coaching, despite the fact that the #2 overall pick in the draft barely cracked the Rookie-Sophomore lineup.  I still give the Sixers no chance at winning a first round series, but they could steal a game or two at the Wells Fargo Center.

Best Week Ever? Did you happen to notice what Minnesota’s Kevin Love was up to this week?  He played 5 games (2-3) and this is how they went: 37 points 23 rebounds vs. Golden State; 13-11 vs. Lakers; 20-20 vs. Detroit; 21-23 vs. Philly; and 20-21 vs. Washington.  What in the 1960s?  He averaged 22.2 points and 19.6 rebounds in his last 5 games.

The last game put him at 50 consecutive double-doubles, first guy to do that since Moses Malone.  His three straight 20-20 games, makes him the first player to accomplish that feat since Kevin Willis of the Hawks did it back in 1991, when Love was 3 years old.

K-Love has his season leading rebounding average up to 15.7 per game.  The last player to finish the year with over 15 boards per game was Ben Wallace back in ’02-’03, he also scored less than 7 points per game, while Love is the team’s leading scorer, currently 20.9.

He’s a ton of fun to watch (for those of you with NBA League Pass) but unfortunately is being wasted on a horrible team.  Imagine if he was on the Heat?

Next week on “Around the NBA” there will be a bit of a College Basketball feel with the tournament upcoming.  I’ll take a look at all the players who still could be in school if they were forced to stay 4 years… Something tells me there wouldn’t be as much “Jimmer Mania.”

  • Joel W

    There is zero evidence of the "can't beat big teams" theory. It doesn't predict anything. If the Heat pull down a rebound yesterday everybody is talking about how they overcame their demons, blah blah blah. The fact that they are 1 for 18 on those shots is a good sign for them going forward, not a bad one. Regression to the mean is a strong force.

    The last team that showed this was…the 2006 Miami Heat.

    • paul

      You tell'em, cowboy.

      Evil man, those celtics. Evil, evil man. I mean, where's the love?

      Lol. Please take your tears to the heat's blogs.

      • Joel W

        I'm a Celtics fan. I'm just sick of people using small sample sizes to make grand arguments about character.

    • Devin_in_Maine

      Really? So if you flipped a quarter 10 times and it came up heads all 10 times, does that mean that based on "regression to the mean" you have a better chance of getting tails on the 11th try? Will their year long 4th quarter shooting percentage be better than 5%? Sure. But that doesn't mean that they are "due" for a run of 4th quarter clutch buzzer beaters. Plus, they'd have to shoot 90% from the field in similar situations just for them to regress to the mean. Not likely.

      • No fool

        I'm not sure this guy knows what regression to the mean is. Regression to the mean just means that they'll probably go back to their typical percentages from the floor in the clutch, not recover their percentages this year to average their mean.

        • Joel W

          Yeah, they'll probably shoot 40% from the field in those situations in the playoffs, and win more of them as a result. It's not hard.

    • Brad Spead

      the 2006 Miami heat also had Shaq and a bench who had experience and talent. Take the "Big" 2.5 off the Heat and they would be a bottom feeder. Everyone else on the Heat roster is a 1 dimensional player who isn't being allowed to use that 1 dimension. Sorry, but you can't compare the '06 Heat squad to this years squad

      • Joel W

        Well, you can compare their 2-guard certainly.

    • Ian

      I agree, in part: the Heat have been unlucky on last shots, and their expected record in such games is better (and I think the equally talked about record in close games is almost totally worthless). Nonetheless, just because domination against bad teams is a better predictor of playoff success than performance against good teams does not mean that the latter says nothing. Look not just at the numbers, but how the Heat are losing. Recall how Spoelstra defended the recent play that resulted in a three-pointer by Bosh (.295 from 3 career) by saying that the play was designed for Wade, who actually has a worse career 3 point average than Bosh (.292). This season, both are shooting worse than Rondo from 3. yet if Rivers ran a play for a Rondo three and it missed, he would never hear the end of it.

      In general, the Heat suffer from having two otherwise dominant players who are indifferent (James) to outright bad (Wade) from near the arc. As much criticism as James got for the passes to House, that is how the Heat should approach late-game situations: run James or Wade at the rim with an option to a shooter. If 3 points are needed, run for a shooter as the primary. Part of the Heat's close-game woes are a result of bad luck; part are the result of running plays for the best players overall, not the best players for the shot in question.

      Also remember to keep separate close wins against good teams and non-close wins against good teams apart. Cose wins against good teams are not as good a predictor as dominations against bad teams because the former is not a good measure of a team's expected record in such situations: as you say, that one rebound would be the difference. Meanwhile, while ability to defeat a bad team is not necessarily a good measure of a team's ability to play good teams, if a team wins such games by large margins its record in such situations is a reliable measure of its ability.

      The difficulty arises from teams built to defeat lesser teams. The prototypical case would be the run-and-gun Suns: they could easily exploit defensive mistakes, but lacked the ability to score well enough against the crisp rotations of the teams that make the playoffs to offset their defensive weaknesses. I fear that the Heat may be such a team. Both James and Wade are hard to defend, but teams with strong team defenses have proven able to contain that sort of attack. The Heat have yet to demonstrate to me the sort of off-ball movement necessary to break down a strong defense in the half court. Meanwhile, on defense they have two of the best perimeter defenders in the game, but are weak at point guard and lack the defensive big that allows such teams as Orlando to cover their weaknesses. Thus, they will always be weak against teams with good points, such as Rose, Rondo, and Parker. And guess which three teams they have to beat after the rounds if teams keep their present seeds and all other series go to the team with the better record?

      Thus, while I agree that the simple statistics, 1/18, 2-8, 0-9, or whatever, is a poor basis for predictions of doom, it is as much an abuse of statistics to say that since those statistics did not matter for other teams, they do not matter to this one. What matters is whether what led to those statistics is a concern, and in Miami's case, I think that it is.

      • M.J

        Ian you're really smart, but if i'm gonna like your comment you gotta keep it to about 15 lines or less

    • kricky

      Ummm, yeah "zero evidence", like the fact that they are 1-9 against the best teams in the league and haven't hit a game winning shot all season.

      The idea that they will revert back to their normal shooting percentage of 40% in late game situations is misleading. You can't compare shooting in late big game situation to overall shooting percentage because the situations are different. The opposition picks up their defense and players have to deal with the added pressure of having the game on the line. The evidence thus far is that the Heat can't hack it in these situations.

      You make a good argument that people misuse stats. But you do the same thing. Using stats has become a way for people that don't know anything about a given subject to make arguments and claims on that subject. This simplifies reality and gives a patina of scientific legitimacy to what are really dumb arguments (See: 2008 Financial Crisis, reasons for).

  • someguyinsac

    Maybe Portland should hand out boxes of Kleenex to the Heat before their game Tuesday night, might help "set the mood".

  • Desso

    I would love to watch Celtics – Heat, but I don't think Heat can make it to meet Celtics.

    • Jay P

      I have hard time believing they get through Chicago, so I would agree with you.

  • Tom W

    Hey Rich, can we please never ever ever ever discuss Kevin Love going to the Heat again? That is an absolutely horrifying thought.

    • Chris O

      Agreed, very scary

  • Dan

    This all seems pretty obvious. The Heat have 2 guys that get it done all game long. Come the fourth quarter, they clearly are a bit worn down and aren't performing as well. To win games they need someone else to step up and that hasn't happened. In the playoffs, the games are twice as long with more and longer timeouts. I don't see this being an issue then.

    The best comparison is last season when the Celtics would get it done in the first half and then cruise. They lost a lot of close games – which amounted to absolutely nothing come May.

  • I_Love_Green

    Kevin Love to the Celts. Note that.

    • kricky

      Who would you rather have for Celtics 2012: Love or Howard?

  • Jay Hoova

    It's alright to cry if u lose in a championship game. But crying after a loss during a regular season not to sure about that. I do think the media is obsessed with the Heat, to the point where it's gotten out of hand. The Heat are under the microscope too much, but Wade, James and Bosh do share the blame of it. Regular season games don't mean much it's the playoffs. The same happened to the Celtics during last season's second half; the Celtics went down hill.

    When the playoffs came the Celtics got healthy and turned up their level of play knocking off the 4, 2, and 1 seeds. Even though I'm not a MIA Heat supporter if I were the Heat, I would ignore the media because they're paid skeptics. The media get's paid to pre-judge and over analyze. Now that the Bulls defeated both Orland and Miami, the media is now jumping on their band-wagon.

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