No doubt there are significant issues with the Big 3 and their collective failure to close out tight games this season.
Erik Spoelstra has to shoulder some of the blame as well. He's getting out-coached badly as of late and with each loss there has to be questions about whether these stars truly respect the young coach, who's weathered plenty of criticism early in the season and now must get this team back on track with time running out before the playoffs started.
The Chicago Bulls played as a team led by a superstar.
The Heat play individually with Wade, LeBron and Bosh taking turns attempting to score.
We could pick apart why Wade, LeBron and Bosh didn't do this or that at the end. But ask yourself why the team is playing so many games down to the wire in the first place?
Collectively, you can't ask for more production from three of your best players when they bring in 69 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists. Bosh bounced back from his recent horrific game in Chicago and had a very efficient game. Mario Chalmers was pleasantly decent with 11 total points, a three pointer and two layups to keep the team afloat when it desperately needed a score in the fourth quarter. The team defended the Bulls pretty solidly for the whole game and led almost the entire way (the Bulls' biggest lead was 2 points back in the first quarter until they got the lead back in the fourth).
The biggest problem by far right now is simple. It's not the Big 3. It's the other 12 guys.
Let's just focus on something simple like scoring. Six points and just two field goals from the bench? Mike Miller had just 1 point, 0-5 FG and 4 of them from the three-point line. When is Miller going to step up and have a good game again? If he could have just hit a couple of his WIDE OPEN jumpers this game would have ended differently. As frustrating as his up-and-down play has been this season coming back from his injury, he's not the only one. Zydrunas Ilgauskas only had 2 points as his normally reliable shooting stroke has failed him the past month. James Jones had one three-pointer, his first one since the first game back from winning the shootout at the All-Star Weekend. Erick Dampier had zero points as a starter. Same goes for Mike Bibby who for now gets a pass but he is taking minutes away from Eddie House who has the ability to get hot and score in bunches.
I asked LeBron after the game about the bench scoring:
I feel like the guys were involved. I felt like Mike (Miller) had some great looks, he just missed them. The rest of the bench, they tried to come in and make an impact. I think Mike Bibby had a few good looks too. We know we're a much better team when our bench is scoring, when they're making a big impact on the game. We just have to figure it out.
Yes, the Big 3 take too many jumpers when they should be attacking the rim but at least they can make them on a fairly consistent basis. The rest of the team isn't hitting them at all. They can't take advantage of all the open looks they're getting, which was supposed to be the biggest benefit of playing with the superstar trio. When the '06 team won it all, it came about with Gary Payton, Antoine Walker, Jason Williams and James Posey getting the job done by stepping up and scoring when Wade and Shaq didn't. Look at the fat contract Jason Kapono got from the Toronto Raptors.
Again, the team's performance in crunch time has been atrocious. According to Tom Haberstroh, the Heat have shot 1-for-18 when trailing by 3 or fewer points with less than 10 seconds to go in the 4th quarter and/or in overtime. (That one field goal was House's game winner in Oklahoma City.) In a tight game like this where there is no margin of error on either side of the floor, the Heat somehow allowed an offensive rebound on a missed free throw that would have kept the game tied that at the very least would mean the game would go into overtime if a last-second shot didn't fall in. But it's fairly easy for the defense to plan their strategy when they know the role players won't burn them if they concentrate on the Big 3.
The current squad is guaranteed to lose if one of the superstars struggle because the math simply doesn't add up if no one else contributes. In this game, both teams were evenly matched with everyone on the Bulls team contributing and yet they only won by a single point. The Big 3 did what they could but it can't be 3-on-5 basketball. If the rest of the Heat had played up to their abilities it likely wouldn't have been close. Instead, the Bulls have swept the season series and are the clear #2 team in the East right now. Who's going to help the LeBron, Wade and Bosh change that?