Monday, March 24, 2014
3-on-3: Heat vs. Blazers
Greg Oden is expected to start for the Heat on Monday night when Miami plays Portland -- Oden's former team. Our 3-on-3 crew weighs in on the game.
1. What's the source of LeBron James' biggest frustration?
Tom Haberstroh: A little bit of everything. He turned his ankle in a loss to a team that was 12 games under .500 in a game that Dwyane Wade did not play. Those three details -- the ankle turn, the loss and the Wade absence -- provided some fertile ground for vented frustration.
Michael Wallace: There's no politically correct way to put it, but LeBron has been uncomfortable all season with the Dwyane Wade maintenance plan. He has talked about how Wade being in and out of the lineup has disrupted his comfort level and has affected the team's chemistry. Getting Wade healthy for the playoffs is the ultimate priority, but it has been a painfully frustrating process at times for LeBron. He's no longer hiding it. Considering the load he has carried, LeBron could use a night or two off for physical and psychological rest. It's clear his patience has been wearing thin in recent weeks.
Brian Windhorst: Losing. In the past six seasons, this is one of the worst streaks he has been a part of (remember, he won 60-plus games his final two seasons in Cleveland). After that 9-8 start in 2010 -- which everyone on the Heat speaks of as if it were childbirth -- this has been the toughest regular-season stretch in years. So he's not used to this and he's not used to him and his teammates not responding. There are individual details that are bugging him, but overall, it's about the losing.
2. Is Portland or Miami coming off the more disappointing loss?
Haberstroh: Portland. In the great scheme of things, Saturday's Heat loss did little for Miami's playoff positioning, but the Blazers not only got blasted by a sub.-500 team, they also failed to create a more comfy cushion ahead of Golden State, which is a game and a half back for the 5-seed. That hurts.
Wallace: It's Portland, and not just because a 30-point blowout on the road is worse than the 10-point loss Miami suffered in New Orleans. The Blazers are in a true identity crisis right now as they fight for playoff position. It's been a tale of two halves of the season for Portland. A strong case can be made they lost to a Charlotte team headed for the playoffs and Miami's loss was to the lottery-bound Pelicans. The difference is the Heat have a longstanding track record of what they are. We're still trying to figure out exactly what these Blazers are all about.
Windhorst: The Blazers are having a miserable month because their fairy tale season has hit the skids with uneven play, bad defense, and after months of near-perfect health, some derailing injuries. That 30-point loss to the Bobcats to start a five-game road trip was perhaps a low point of the season. The Heat are not in a good place right now, but they didn't get beat by 30.
3. From 1 to 10, what is the level of concern for the Heat right now?
Haberstroh: 5. No major injuries, and they'll still finish with just under 60 wins. Things could look a whole lot worse. The Pacers have been a mess as well, so Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and team president Pat Riley may lose some sleep, but we haven't nearly reached DEFCON 1/2011 levels.
Wallace: 7. The Heat have treated this season like an 82-game exhibition slate. Between the injury and rest issues with Wade to the uncertainty surrounding Greg Oden and Michael Beasley, this team has been shuffling and reshuffling all season and never really settled into a sustained offensive rhythm. They're not as good as they were the past two title seasons defensively. The supporting cast consists of guys in their mid-30s and they just don't seem to have the same matchup advantages against stiffer competition they once did. The league has closed the gap on Miami. That said, they are not likely to be pushed to the brink until the conference finals at the earliest.
Windhorst: 4. Completely agree with Chris Bosh's assessment Saturday when he described the situation as "not troubling but upsetting." In general, the Heat have their health, and that is what is most important. They have the ability to get themselves together -- everyone knows and believes this. The fact their defense has been lagging is a concern because defense is a habit, and that's the only reason I have a "4" up there. After everything the Heat have been through, seriously, right now this ranks low on the scale.