Much like the first game of the season against Boston Celtics, the Miami Heat played mostly flat throughout the game and yet they still mustered enough to narrowly steal a win on the road. The Heat never led in the game until the very end and let it slip away with a Dwyane Wade turnover. All three of the Superfriends played beneath their talent-level though Wade fared the best with 28 points and 10 rebounds, though his 7 turnovers proved to be costly. LeBron was tentative throughout, perhaps an after-effect from his shin injury that caused him to miss practice yesterday in Miami.
Chris Bosh was mostly invisible except for some nice jumpers that connected in the third quarter but more most be done in nearly every facet of his game. One rebound from such a great player is unacceptable and so is letting David West and Emaka Okafor score practically at will near the basket. Zero blocks and zero free throws also translate into lack of aggressiveness on his part. He was continuously pushed around by the Hornets big men without much help from Joel Anthony or Udonis Haslem who looked tiny even though New Orleans isn't particularly big upfront. Even former Heat draft pick Jason Smith got into the act with several high-energy plays as well as some good-looking midrange jumpers.
Okafor had one of his best offensive games ever with 26 points from an unreal 12 for 13 shooting to go along with his 13 rebounds (4 offensive rebounds). It was just one of those days where everything was clicking for him and he was continuously at the right place at the right time to grab loose balls and be a nuisance in the paint.
Carlos Arroyo was playing well the last couple of games, including a promising show against Jameer Nelson of the Magic that gave a bit of false hope that the Heat's glaring talent deficit at the point guard position wouldn't rear its ugly head against the best of the NBA's point guards. Well, today it did and Arroyo was quickly yanked from the game in the first quarter. He ended up with 0 points and 1 assist in 17 minutes, not the kind of production a championship-contending team should be getting from their starting point guard. Eddie House fared better but his shot was off at the three point stripe, as was the whole team as they shot a putrid 23.8% on 5 for 21 shooting. James Jones' normally reliable shot beyond the arc also failed him for the first time this season. Some were forced attempts but generally the Heat had decent looks the whole game but they just couldn't go in. If just one more had connected this game could have ended differently.
The poor shooting beyond the arc was only part of the problem with the Heat offense. Much like in the Celtics game, the offensive flow was too static with players waiting around to see what the teammate with the ball would do. Too many jumpers were attempted while backdoor cuts to the basket or high-screen pick-and-roll plays were few and far between to give Wade and LeBron the space needed to create. Even when they were shooting long jumpers, the Heat went 9-24 on shots 16 to 23 feet away from the rim. The only player to acquit himself from that range was Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
As a point of reference, the Cleveland Cavs and LeBron lost their first two games of the season last year and went 3-3 before cruising to a 61 win season.
Mario Chalmers was nowhere to be found in the rotation despite playing decently in the last game with 8 points and 8 assists against the Minnesota Timberwolves in 18 minutes, the most he's played this season. He had only played 7 total minutes in two prior games.
The Hornets played well on both sides of the court at home and the Heat can't win every game this season. There are plenty of lessons to be learned and it's still too early to make a rush to judgement. But a team with this much talent shouldn't be playing catch-up the entire game with LeBron and/or Wade on the floor at all times. That's the bottom line. Coach Spoelstra and his players must put it behind them and take care of business at the AA Arena against the New Jersey Nets on a back-to-back set.