The Miami Heat are in for the fight of their lives against the Indiana Pacers, and although no one is talking about it, it all boils down to one man.It’s not Lebron playing like a demon both ways.It’s not Wade and his gimpy knee.It’s not Bosh doing his best Houdini disappearing act.It’s not Paul George becoming a superstar in front of America (even though he’s not really playing all that well in this series).It’s not Lance Stephenson playing smart and dumb at the same time.And lastly, it’s not Roy Hibbert, who has completely dominated the Heat most of the series.The Eastern Conference Finals rests in the hands of none other than Erik Spoelstra.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel is essentially an above average NBA coach.Compared to Spoelstra, he looks like Vince Lombardi.Vogel removes Hibbert in the last second of game one because he was afraid of Bosh hitting an open jumper for the win.Since he left Toronto has anyone, ever developed a scheme specifically just to stop Bosh???Coach also needed all of game 3 to figure out he needed to bring help for George when Lebron posts … after his team allowed 70 points at halftime.Lastly (for now), even though I know the starting guards need a breather, he plays DJ Augustin extended minutes in each game.Augustin was last useful in 2007 when he played for the University of Texas.All of this digression shouldn’t take away from Erik Spoletstra ineptness.
Miami has played a position-less brand of basketball since the NBA Finals last year, and it has done wonders.This works firstly because he has Lebron James, secondly because he has D. Wade who can play either guard position and defend 3 positions, thirdly because he has Bosh who has the range of guard, and fourthly because he has role players who are traditionally consistent 3-point shooters.Four games into this series and it’s obvious that there are a few links broken in this chain unfortunately. Wade is not Wade right now.If he has no explosion he is very mediocre on offense because his jumper is so awful.Bosh has the range of a guard, but he also has the physicality of a guard.Having him guard Hibbert doesn’t work because he’s not big, strong, or tough enough, and it takes away from his offense.Furthermore, all the 3-point shooters seem to be in a slump because all of their shots aren’t wide open anymore.Lebron can get them open shots, but Wade can’t anymore.Their looks are more highly contested, and the results aren’t good as expected.Yes it’s easy to be Monday Morning Quarterback, but Spoelstra literally hasn’t made any changes in 5 games.The position-less system has worked once in this series, and that’s when the Heat shot a blistering 55% from the field and only committed 5 turnovers.That won’t happen again against the strong Indiana defense.Right now Lebron’s greatness is the only thing keeping Miami from getting obliterated in this series.He’s getting no help from his team, he could at least get some help from his coach.
There are a few things Spo can do to help Lebron win this series.#1 is lessening the amount of time James has to guard David West.Playing someone his size wears on James and keeps him from coming in from the outside and using his athleticism to get rebounds.It’s hard to rebound with 250 lbs leaning against you.This change would require playing Udonis Haslem 6-8 more minutes each game.UH is not a stud by any means, but he’s tough, smart, and will not back down.The one game where he got a little extended run he scored 17 points.Spo can also spot play Battier at the 4 for stretches to spread the floor and give James a defensive breather.Finding a way to keep Birdman on the floor a little longer is critical.If he is only allowed to play at 2 minute intervals, then so be it.His energy and hustle is too dynamic to only play for about 15 minutes per game.Think about benching Ray Allen.We all appreciate his accomplishments, and he’s the most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history, but he’s not hitting shots.If he’s not hitting shots he’s more or less worthless because he’s a liability on the defensive end.Is this any different than Mike Miller or James Jones?Neither guy has the pedigree of Allen, but both will hit open threes and play crappy defense.If Allen is in a slump (he’s been all playoffs) it may be time to give Miller some more burn.Remember what he did with a little more time in game 6 of last year’s NBA Finals?I don’t know if Spoelstra will do any of these things or anything else, but I do know that he has to make some changes or Miami will lose this series.The refs are letting the teams play physically, and the Heatles can’t match up with Indy in such a scenario.So if the Heat go down don’t put this on Lebron’s legacy, blame it on the one guy who can possibly stop the king’s quest for greatness … Erik Spoelstra.