The “Boo-Birds” are back and they are out in full force, after the Miami Heat lost their third straight game to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night, by a final score of 94-90. The loss takes away Miami’s home-court advantage in the match-up and the Celtics could send them home for the summer if they win Thursday night at the “New Garden” in Boston.
The same critics whose insults stopped when the Heat recovered from a 2-1 deficit to defeat the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, are once again calling Miami bench boss Erik Spoelstra a terrible coach and criticizing All-Stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade for not coming through in the clutch. They can not believe that an aging Boston Celtics roster, with a talented but temperamental point guard, that survived a rumored purge before the NBA deadline took effect has taken the lead in this series.
Although I would rate Spoelstra the weakest of the four coaches remaining in the Post Season, the young man is certainly not a terrible coach. Even though James has a history of disappearing in key moments in his career; while Wade has played the entire Post Season banged up, they are not to blame for trailing their opponents in this match-up.
The main problem with the Miami Heat is that they are working with a flawed blueprint for success. They built their roster on the concept that having two of the top ten players in the Association, plus an All-Star forward in Chris Bosh, would be enough to be able to carry them to a string of NBA Championships. Team President Pat Riley believed that by having these three players on his squad, he could fill the rest of his roster with mostly has-beens, wannabes and never-weres. Bosh being out up until game five of this series, only made the team’s weaknesses more apparent.
Miami has been very fortunate in this Post Season that they have not had to play an Orlando Magic with a healthy Dwight Howard, or a Chicago Bulls team with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah both at full strength. Even with the deck being stacked in their favor, they still lost a game in the first round to a New York Knicks team with a one-handed Amar’e Stoudemire and three guys named Moe at point guard. They would fall behind the Pacers until James stepped it up in game four and the Pacers inexperience led to a meltdown. This series is their biggest test in the Playoffs this year and right now it seems like they could fail it.
It is ironic that the term “Big Three” has taken on the negative connotation that it currently has. That has really been the makeup of Championship teams since the eighties. Think about it; Lakers: Kareem, Magic and Jamal Wilkes who would eventually be replaced by James Worthy. Celtics: Bird, Parish and McHale, Sixers: Dr. J, Moses and Maurice Cheeks, Pistons: Thomas, Dumars and Mark Aguirre, Bulls: Jordan, Pippen and Grant in Phase 1, Jordan, Pippen and Rodman in Phase 2.
The difference then was you had a strong complimentary package around them; Nixon, Scott, Rambis with the Lakers; DJ, Ainge, Archibald, Walton with the Celtics; Salley, Rodman and the Microwave, Vinnie Johnson in Detroit; Cartwright, B.J. Armstrong and others with the Bulls. Those role players came up clutch in big games and helped their clubs to win the NBA Finals.
The Western Finals refute conventional wisdom; that only Big Market teams can compete. The Knicks have not won a title since 1973, and the Association has flourished. The Clippers did not have a clue until this season; yet they are based in the second biggest market in the nation. The San Antonio Spurs have truly been the Platinum Standard in the Association over the last decade and now the Oklahoma City Thunder has found success following their model.
As I wrote during the Lockout; any NBA Team Owner that has lost money over the last few years, is just a bad business person and should sell the franchise to someone who can run it correctly. The Hawks were the laughingstock of the Association from the time Dominique Wilkins left until 2008, look at them now. If Ricky Rubio does not get hurt the T-Wolves may have made the Playoffs, one year after being the worst team in the NBA.
Parity is far more a part of the Association than it was in the eighties; when you had just five different teams that went to the Finals and for most of the decade just four; Lakers, Rockets, Sixers and Celtics. With a more restrictive Salary Cap and Luxury Tax in place thanks to this new CBA, it will be harder and harder for teams to do what the Heat did in 2010. That will not be the way that General Managers will assemble most teams, even if Miami does eventually capture the brass ring.
I am not about to count Miami out of their series against the Celtics, as an injury could easily derail Boston’s attempt to make their third Finals in the last five years. However even if Miami is fortunate to make the Big Dance for the second year in a row; their lack of depth on their roster will keep them from defeating the Spurs or the Thunder.