Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Heat have run out of mulligans and face the reality of a second high-profile collapse in the NBA Finals if the team can’t right the ship in Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs.
The most basic things the Heat need to do to get back on the winning track is to turn up the defensive pressure, hit shots from the field, and figure out if the team can get anything out of point guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.
The Heat’s defense was shredded by the Spurs in Game 5. San Antonio shot a remarkable 60 percent from the floor and 41 percent from behind the three-point line. The Heat’s problems with the Spurs’ ball movement were especially evident in the second half.
During one sequence late in the game, the Spurs moved the ball at will and eventually found a wide-open Danny Green for a three-point shot. No Heat player was within ten feet of Green when he went for the shot, which somehow he missed, a rarity in this series.
It broke down to San Antonio simply wanting it more than the Heat in Game 5, just like it was in the Game 3 blowout.
“Everything. Come on, they just absolutely outplayed us,” Heat coach Erick Spoelstra said after the game. “At times they were just picking one guy out at a time and going mano y mano. That will change.”
One player who was picked on a lot as the game went on was Mike Miller. While Miller shot the ball well the first few games of the series, San Antonio attacked Miller by forcing him to switch onto a Spur like Tony Parker and the point guard went right by the Heat forward multiple times.
It was the sign of a bigger problem the Heat had during all three games in San Antonio, no protection at the rim. After having a relative block party in Game 4, the Heat were the ones getting blocked left and right in Game 5 with San Antonio blocking 8 shots in the game.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that we didn’t give that same defensive effort that we had in Game 4 and they picked us apart,” Chris Bosh said. All night he was supposed to be the rim protector but he couldn’t do that and keep Tim Duncan off the glass.”
Bosh was one of the only players who came out with intensity throughout the game and he finished the game with 16 points and six rebounds while limiting Tim Duncan to just 17 points and 12 rebounds in the game.
Another Achilles heel for the Heat has been horrific shooting performances. The Heat shot nearly 50 percent from the field in the regular season and have seen that drop to just 46.1 percent in the Finals. While some of that is the Spurs’ defense, it’s also Miami just not hitting open shots.
“I think that’s where it starts for us, honestly, LeBron James said. “Getting into the paint. I think between the two of us, we probably missed 12-lay-ups tonight. Transition lay-ups that we usually convert. I missed a lob. I missed two lay-ups.”
James is shooting approximately 44 percent from the field during the 2013 NBA Finals which is more than 12 percent below the 56.5 percent clip he had during the regular season. James is also shooting nearly 10 percent less from behind the three-point line in the playoffs.
The one player who has been consistent for the Heat has been Dwyane Wade who is shooting 47.8 percent from the field in the Finals, which is just below his regular season average of 52.1 percent. But Wade has increased his output in the last three rounds of the playoffs, despite battling injuries.
Wade is averaging 20 points per game in the Finals and done it all without hitting a three-point shot. He has looked rejuvenated in the series and is closer to the player he was during the regular season than at any point in the postseason.
Finally, the Heat has to figure out what to do at the point guard position. Chalmers and Cole haven’t been able to hang with Spurs guards Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and Danny Green on a consistent basis in the Finals.
After leading all scorers in Game 2, Chalmers went into a shell during the Heat’s time in Texas. Chalmers is shooting just 31.7 percent from the field and averaging just 8 points per game. Cole has been even worse, shooting 6-22 from the field or 27.2 percent and has nearly as many personal fouls (9) as he does assists (12).
The Heat entered the NBA Finals looking like the deeper team. However, Miami has gotten nothing from Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller has been the definition of streaky, and Chalmers and Cole have been nothing but inconsistent.
If the Heat goes down to the Spurs, the Big Three era will be deemed a failure by many pundits. Still, Bosh, Wade, and James can only carry a team so far; as San Antonio proved, the role players have to step up to get over the hump.
Will any role players step up for Miami in Game 6 remains to be seen.