Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Worst of the Night: March 8, 2011

brilliant coaching
"Remember: None of us is as dumb as all of us!"

The Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade went off for 38 points on 12-for-21 from the field and 12-for-13 from the line (and, typically, 2-for-8 from downtown). Meanwhile, LeBron James shot 14-for-20 (but only 1-for-4 from the line) and nearly had a triple-double (31 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists and, of course, a game-high 4 turnovers). Two superduperstars playing at a superduperstar level.

In a losing effort.

At home.

In the team's fifth loss in a row.

Think about that. Five losses in a row. Four of them were in Miami. Three of them were collapses from a double-digit advantage.

By now you've all seen the damning stats. Miami is 5-13 (.278) in games decided by five points or less. And they've gone 1-for-18 (.055) in the final 10 seconds to win or tie a game this season. That is, by far, the worst crunch-time conversion percentage in the Association.

LeBron's Cavaliers -- with a roster populated by bums, has-beens, never-beens and never-will-be's -- didn't lose five in a row last season. Or the season before that. They lost six in a row during the 2007-08 season, but James was injured in the first loss and missed the next five. In 2006-07, Cleveland never lost more than three straight, and that happened only twice.

You'd have to go all the way back to 2005-06 to find a team with a healthy LeBron that lost as many as five in a row. That team began the season with Larry Hughes on the roster. And when they lost their season-worst sixth game in a row, they used a starting lineup that featured Drew Gooden, Eric Snow and Ira Newble.

Now LeBron is playing with another MVP-level player. And another All-Star.

Of course, as always, it's not LeBron's fault. It's never LeBron's fault. Remember: The numbers always vindicate him. Somebody leading the league in Player Efficiency Rating can't be the problem, right?

So...what is the problem in Miami?

Chris Bosh -- a.k.a. "The Boshtrich" -- has some ideas. To wit: After the game, in which he had one of his patented (Chris: edit time!) did not even live up to his usual double-single by going with a SEXTUPLE-SINGLE (7 points, 4 rebounds, 8 bricks, 2 fouls, 1 steal, 2 lost rocks), he called out his team for not getting him the ball more:

"It is common sense, we can talk about it, but I think it's evident," Bosh said. "I just have to get it where I'm effective. I'm a big man. I can shoot the ball but I'm a big man. So I have to get it where big guys get it. Then I feel I can start helping out this team more."

"I've got to get back in my comfort zone, I haven't been in my comfort zone," Bosh said. "A lot of things are new for me. I just have to be more aggressive in demanding my [the ball] comfort zone, you know I'll take the fault for that... I'm effective down in the low post area, so that is where I need to start getting the ball. I need to be assertive in demanding it."

"I'm saying what I need to do as a player, a closed mouth doesn't get fed," Bosh said. "I'm uncomfortable now so you might as well do something else. If there's a disagreement or something, that's fine, we can talk about it. If they don't want that, that's OK, but I just feel that I have to be my normal self. I'm not there right now. I haven't been there many times this season."
So is Bosh right? Here's some much-needed perspective from ESPN Stats and Information:

After a game in which he was held to 7 points on 3-of-11 shooting, Chris Bosh said he did not feel he was getting the ball enough in the post. Bosh had just 3 plays in the post against the Blazers. During the Heat's 5-game losing streak, Bosh has a total of 19 post plays, including just 6 in the second half/overtime of those games. However, Bosh's average of 3.8 post plays per game during Miami's 5-game slide is not far off his average of 4.2 in his first 55 games this season.
Ah, but now Bosh wants the ball, eh? Countered Wade:

"I think throughout this year we've all had spells where we wanted the ball more."
Speaking of Pookie, well, he gave the press all the right "O Captain! My Captain!" sound bytes in the immediate aftermath of CryGate. But after watching the bench contribute 8 points in a combined 63 minutes of PT -- and after seeing James Jones log three minutes while Eddie House earned another DNP-CD -- Wade gave Coach 'Spo a little under-the-bus nudging.

"That's going to be on our coach and what he felt," Wade said. "Whatever lineup he puts out there, we're going to do our best with it. Hopefully, guys can be aggressive and contribute more. Of course, there are guys on the bench that can help us, there's no question about it. That's all on Coach."

"Of course we've had guys like Eddie [House] to help us win games and James Jones, etc," Wade said. "But [Spoelstra's] going have to decide whether or not people are on the floor."

"Of course we'd be more dangerous if there were more productivity off the bench," Wade said. "But also guys have to play more. It's hard for guys to get into certain rhythms coming in and getting three to five minutes. That's going to have to be something that Coach is going to have to put the guys on the floor and give them confidence."
Countered Spoelstra:

"I'm trying to find anything to spark us and get us back in the game and get us over that hump," Spoelstra said.

"Right now, we're all being measured," Spoelstra said. "We will reveal a lot about ourselves as we move forward. Each and every single one of us, all of us collectively will reveal what our makeup is."

Some would suggest you already have, 'Spo.

Mike Miller: Remember how much the Heat wanted to sign this guy?

LeBron James, quote machine: From Basketbawful reader Factfinder: "How do we explain it? We can't," James said. "This isn't rock bottom for us. Crazy thing is, we could lose every game and still make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference."

Huh. I don't think you're likely to find that in a list of "The Top 10 Things an MVP Would Say In The Face Of Adversity."

Speaking of which, TrueHoop's Henry Abbott compiled a handy-dandy chart showing the common elements (PPG, Wins and PER) of the last 20 MVPs. I'd love it if Henry would add columns for Longest Losing Streak, Win Percentage Vs. .500 Teams, Winning Percentage In Games Decided By Five Points Or Less and The Team's Clutch Shooting Percentage.

I have a funny feeling that the last 20 MVPs would rate much better in those categories than LeBron would this year. In fact, I'd be willing to bet no MVP in the last 20 years ever lost five games in a row.

Oh, one last LeBron-themed goodie, from Nathan Nadeau via chris: "The Miami Heat were 31-9 (77.5%) before LeBron's Karma tweet. 12-12 since and cried after a loss. Down to 67.2%."

Phil Jackson, quote machine: From Basketbawful reader Marylander: "This is the NBA: No Boys Allowed. Big boys don't cry. But, if you're going to do it, do it in the toilet where no one can see."

The Atlanta Hawks: The Dirty Birds became the latest victim of L.A.'s "We're finally waking up for the playoffs" campaign. And I have to say, as much as I hate the Lakers, I do enjoy watching them get pimp-slapped by a contender so everybody gets to see how not contender-y they are.

Larry Drew, coach of the year candidate: Drew tried to counter L.A.'s size by using a small lineup, with Al Horford, Josh Smith and Marvin Williams the front line. Apparently, Larry to beat the Lakers with relentless fast-breaking.

Said Drew: "We tried to put a lot of emphasis on playing up-tempo, and it seemed like we ran out of gas."

So much so that your team feel behind by as many as 22 before losing 101-87, Larry. So, you know, great plan. Who's your battle strategy inspiration? General Custer?

The Cleveland Cadavers: The good news: The Cadavers built a double-digit lead after 12 minutes. The bad news: They were down by double-digits after 48 minutes.

Sad trombone.

Monta Ellis drilled a career-best six three-pointers -- he was 5-for-5 in the third quarter -- and the Cads got freaked out by J.J. Hickson's dislocated digit. Remember: They already lost leading scorer Antawn Jamison to a broken finger.

Said Cleveland coach Byron Scott: "I saw his finger pointing east and west. I didn't want to start crying in front of 17,000 people. It scared me. When he first ran off the court, I was like, 'You gotta be kidding me, another one goes down?' Luckily, he was OK."

But unluckily, your team is still bawful, Byron. Sorry 'bout that.

The Indiana Pacers: The Battle for the Eighth Seed continues! Remember when the Pacers were a surging 7-1 under interim coach Frank Vogel? Then they lost a nail-biter to the Heat and Roy Hibbert pulled a Devin Harris with the following stat curse:

"The rest of the season, we're coming. We're not backing down. We're not having any lackadaisical games. We're on the prowl. We're hungry."

Next thing you know, the once-surging Pacers have lost four in a row and six of their last seven games.

Last night, against the -- dare I say surging? -- Sixers (they've won seven of eight), Indy registered only 13 assists on 35 made field goals and gave up 17 points off 20 turnovers, got outscored 60-40 in the paint and trailed by as many as 21 points. At home.

Said Vogel: "Our guys have to do better. They understand it, I understand it. We're not getting it done defensively and not moving the ball enough."

Defense? What defense?

The Pacers are now only one game up on the Bobcraps for the East's final playoff spot.

The Washington Wizards Generals: Yeah, Andray Blatche got hurt less than four minutes into the game. Yeah, They had five rookies on the court together -- John Wall, Crawford, Trevor Booker, Hamady Ndiaye and Mustafa Shakur -- at one point late in the first quarter and early in the second. (According to the AP recap, the last team to use an rookie-only lineup was the Houston Rockets on March 1, 2010.)

But c'mon. They trailed by as many as 25 and lost 95-76 at home to the Bucks. You know, the team that's 14 games under .500 yet only 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the East. Man, LeBron wasn't kidding when he said the Heat could lose the rest of their games and still make the playoffs.

The Houston Rockets: Houston's D "held" the Suns to 113 points on 54.3 percent shooting. Oh, and that same defense "limited" Hakim Warrick to a career-high 32 points on 14-for-19 shooting. Fortunately for the Rocketeers, the Suns kept them in the game by giving up 17 points off 17 turnovers. End the end, a close game and a chance to win was denied them by...

Brad Miller: If somebody submits this video to the Heat, they might decide to trade for Miller this summer. His clutch resume will definitley put them over the top. From AnacondaHL:

Kyle Lowry: Sure, the kid scored 32 points and nailed a career-high seven triples. But man, as bad as that buzzer-beating airball by Miller was, you have to admit that Kyle put Brad in a bad position by throwing him the hot potato.

Said Lowry: "I should have shot the ball. I should have shot it. I should have made it a clean look."

Vince Carter, quote machine: "I'm not afraid to fail or be afraid to be in that position, to win games for my team. At the same time I hate losing and I hate failing."

That quote just says everything you need to know about Vince Carter, doesn't it?

Chris's Amazing Lacktion Ledger:

Warriors-Cadavers: The Warriors' Reggie Williams bricked once from Euclid Avenue for a +1 in 3:22.

Bucks-Generals: Chris Douglas-Roberts burned one piece of masonry from Gallery Place for a +1 in 2:07, while Washington's Mustafa Shakur rapped his own piece of masonry from the Post Office Pavillion along with two fouls and a turnover in 5:59 for a +4!

Frail Blazers-El (Oh El) Heat: Joel Anthony, like the rest of the Heatles, went down the long and winding road of sucktitude, negating two boards with two fouls and a giveaway in 13:29 for a 3:2 Voskuhl. James Jones put all his money in a big brown bag - 1.5 trillion (1:31) to be exact!

Rockets-Suns: Mickael Pietrus gave Phoenix a +2 in 5:01 via brick and foul. (Chris: And commenter Jabari notes, Pietrus not only had his +2 in 5 minutes, but he only had 5 minutes because he got 2 Techs for arguing with the refs...)

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