The last seven games have revealed the best and the worst of the Miami Heat. Starting on Nov. 22, the Heat beat the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves and Chicago Bulls for a modest 3-game winning streak. In the next four games, the Heat lost 3 of them, trailing by over 30 points in each loss at some point. With each passing game the possibility of being a lottery team 3 out of 4 years becomes increasingly real.
Numbers reveal an ugly picture difficult to face in a mirror. In the last five games the starters have an NBA worst plus/minus of -60. Dividing by 5, that means the starters, on average, put the team in the hole by 12 points when they’re on the floor. The Heat starting five under-performed those of the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns, or in other words the starters from all the other 29 teams in the last five games.
No wonder the Miami bench appeared lifeless having to rescue the starters once again in the third quarter in the Golden State Warriors game. There's only so much the bench can overcome when the starter's offensive reminds fans of the Heat's former defensive ace, Joel Anthony.
As Tom Haberstroh wrote a few years ago,
“When the Heat signed Joel Anthony to a five-year, $18 million contract this past summer, it sent shock waves throughout the league. But no one was more floored than Anthony.”
God bless his heart, Anthony always gave Miami a 150% of his abilities. He was known as "The 'no-stats' regular."
"The one thing you learn from watching Anthony every day is that he’s actually a very productive basketball player -- just not through the lens of the box score."
"Point guards can’t turn the corner on a pick-and-roll because of him. Post players can’t get around him on the block. Penetrators can’t get a good look at the rim."
Back in the days of Miami’s "Big 3" Anthony was loved enough to receive chants of M-V-P.
"But there's another variable to the Anthony sensation. The crowds at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami aren't chanting M-V-P when Anthony steps to the free throw line because they like his plus-minus numbers or even because he brings a unique biography or hustle to the game..."
Joel Anthony defined Heat Culture in his day, but today Miami faces other problems as outlined by Bleacher Reports.
“The Miami Heat are closer to earning a full-fledged tanking endorsement than they should be. They are overwhelmingly average, with a sad-sack offense that doesn't get out in transition and struggles to score in the half court.”
“The Suns will get the Heat's pick if it falls outside the top seven, and organic tank jobs in Atlanta, Chicago, Sacramento and Phoenix itself make it almost impossible for Miami to eliminate disaster draft-lottery scenarios.”
“Face it: The Heat are stuck.”
Perhaps the return of Hassan Whiteside and Rodney McGruder can bring the starting five's offense back to life. Without the help of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, a team starting a Joel Anthony-type of player or two faces a difficult road ahead over the remaining 59 games.