The Miami Heat just got served up a dose of reality last night after suffering their worst loss of the playoffs at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. They now face 2-1 hole with another game in front of a raucous Spurs crowd awaiting them Thursday night, so is it time to panic for defending NBA champions?
The answer is 100 percent yes.
LeBron James seems to have reverted back to his 2010 Finals persona where he is strictly a distributor and has little impact as a scorer. It seems impossible, but James has not reached 20 points for three straight games. If you want to find out why this is, you have to look back to before game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, where Dwyane Wade mentioned he needed to get the ball more. This must have made James’ aggressiveness that he displayed throughout the playoffs completely dissipate because in that game, Wade was the primary star and LeBron simply chipped in here and there.
They were able to win that game, but the long term repercussions may prove to be fatal to the Heat’s title chances. The reason is the timid style of play has followed James into the first three games of The NBA Finals. Wade is playing average as can be and Chris Bosh has regressed into a jumpshot only player, as he looks terrified to even attempt a shot in the paint.
So, the only real source of scoring from secondary sources is coming from Mike Miller, who has been the Heat’s best player the last two games (think about that for a second and let it sink in). This means the fate of the Heat in the finals relies on one thing and one thing only, the aggressiveness of James.
Greg Popovich was able to take advantage of James’ over aggressiveness in the 2006-07 NBA Finals and now he seems to be using his passiveness to the Spurs’ advantage as well. Kawhi Leonard has become James’ kryptonite and the way he’s doing it is by letting LeBron have the open jumpshot whenever he wants it. Gone are the aggressive drives to the hoop by James that made his 2012 season such an incredible one. Leonard has dared the King to shoot all series long and so far, it has worked to perfection.
This is more than just one NBA Finals to LeBron James, it’s the defining moment in his legacy. If he loses, forget the Jordan comparisons, he’s just another great player. If he finds a way to win though, he is well on his way to being crowned the greatest to ever play the game.