Should the Heat be worried?

The Heat dropped Game 1 yesterday, 107-96 in Indiana, and were pretty thoroughly outplayed start to finish. A loss like yesterday’s certainly poses the question as to whether Miami’s run of dominance in the East has come to a finish. So should they be worried? Not yet.

Of course losing the first game of a series is not ideal, but it hasn’t seemed to bother the Heat since LeBron, Wade, and Bosh joined forces:

I went back and took a deeper look at their playoff history together. Heat series openers on the road have gone as following:

  • 2011 Eastern Conference Finals @ Chicago. Loss 103-82
  • 2012 NBA Finals @ Oklahoma City. Loss 105-94
  • 2014 Eastern Conference Finals @ Indiana. Loss 107-96

Small sample size, of course, but clearly the Heat have struggled to open on the road, falling behind each time, yet followed those losses in 2011 and 2012 with wins in the second game of each series. The Heat when on to win each series. Their ability to bounce back in the series speaks to their team maturity. This is a veteran team that doesn’t easily rattle. Further proof of their ability to shake off an opening game loss:

Why the Heat have come out sluggish at times in series-opening games is anyone’s guess. Zach Lowe from Grantland alludes to Coach Spoelstra’s habit of experimenting in the opening game, which is one plausible explanation:

Despite the Heat’s track record as a unit, many are fairly beginning to wonder if this Pacers team at their best is too much for Miami to handle. Gregg Doyel from CBS Sports writes “The Pacers also have a matchup nightmare at power forward named David West. And one of the best young players in the game in Paul George. And the outrageous Lance Stephenson, who saw he had the 6-foot-9, 275-pound LeBron on him during the second quarter and chose to back him down for a bucket. The Pacers have a lot of size, and a lot of girth, and a lot of moxie. And the Heat are in a lot of trouble.” Here’s the rest of his column. The reality is that if Roy Hibbert plays to his abilities as he did Sunday, and Chris Bosh scores 9 points on 4-12 shooting, the Heat could very well be in trouble.

The main reason I am confident that the Heat will continue the trend of bouncing back after an opening loss on the road is pretty simple; LeBron’s ability to make adjustments and respond from one game to the next is pretty impressive:

  • 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 2 @ Chicago- 29 points, 10 reb, 5 assists, 3 steals
  • 2012 NBA Finals, Game 2 @ Oklahoma City- 32 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal

Clearly, he doesn’t let his losses carry over into the next game, and responds accordingly.

It’s not just Game 2 when he makes his adjustments, of course, as the deeper the hole the Heat dig the more spectacular he plays:

  • 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 4, @ Indiana, Heat came in trailing 2-1. LeBron- 40 Pts, 18 Reb, 9 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Blk
  • 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 6 @ Boston, Heat came in trailing 3-2. LeBron- 45 Pts, 15 Reb, 5 Ast (it was epic)

The Heat, and LeBron in particular, have consistently shown the ability to kick their game into a higher gear when they need to most. It’s how they’ve been able to coast for long stretches during the regular season the last few years, yet still win two titles, and three conference titles. Of course there’s the infamous 2011 finals when James disappeared against Dallas, but that has become an outlier to a now storied post season resume. Over the next few games I’d expect to see much more Udonis Haslem defending Hibbert (it’s worked this season, don’t ask how), and more James Jones in the rotation to provide three point help. The Heat have the track record in their favor, while Indiana has proven to be an erratic, combustible, yet talented team. Of course it’s possible this is just a bad match up for the Heat, as the size of the Pacers is clearly bothersome, but I wouldn’t worry too much about them just yet.



Featured image:  (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

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