McNeill on Heat: No time to be modest

June 6, 2012, 12:59 PM

This loss is going to sting for a long time for the Miami Heat.

Sure, there’s still a chance the Heat can rally and advance to the NBA Finals, but the team looked mentally weak in their Game 5 loss at home.

Miami had the win within their grasp, only to allow Boston to close the game on a 22-12 run.

In the final five minutes of the past two games, when the score has been within five points, the Celtics are a combined 10-21 from the field. They are also 2-6 on 3-point attempts. Solid, but it’s not like they are catching lightning in a bottle to steal wins with impressive shooting displays.

The Heat, meanwhile, are an abysmal 7-24 from the field during that same stretch, including 2-11 from beyond the arc. That kind of ice-cold shooting would spell disaster for even a high school team.

Chris Bosh looked solid in limited minutes, yet Erik Spoelstra failed to play him at all during the fourth quarter. It will be interesting to see what kind of heat Miami’s coach gets for not playing his best big man during a key part of the game.

Udonis Haslem was impressive on the boards with 14 rebounds in only 33 minutes, but Miami needed Bosh on the court in the fourth quarter to help with their spacing. Haslem went 1-5 from the field for three points and his inability to hit a shot allowed Boston to sag off of him and double-team LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Another interesting move by Spoelstra came late in the game when he elected to not foul Rajon Rondo – a player who has only made 61 per cent of his free throws over his career – only to foul Ray Allen on Boston’s next possession. The decision to not foul a horrible free throw shooter to give Miami extra time to work on offence will be debated around water coolers and on talk radio ad nauseum on Wednesday.

Fans can pick apart the moves, or lack of moves, by Spoelstra, but the loss should be put squarely on the shoulders of James and Wade.

“At this point, it’s not about schemes,” Wade admitted after the loss. “It’s not about play-calling.”

True, the problem wasn’t Spoelstra in Game 5. Instead, the problem was Miami’s “dynamic” duo, who shot a combined 21-47 from the field. But, as bad as that stat is, I’m not sure if it was more troubling that they made a combined two field goals over the last four minutes of the game or the fact they only attempted five field goals during that time.

Yes, James finished with 30 points and 13 rebounds for Miami, but he went more than eight minutes without scoring in the final quarter. The fourth quarter of a pivotal game is when superstars need to step up and relish the chance to secure a win. James and Wade, however, once again seemed to shrink away from the spotlight.

“We played good enough to give ourselves a chance to win,” James said. “That’s all you can ask for.”

Sorry, James. Giving yourselves the chance to win isn’t what you signed up for in Miami. Fans around the NBA clearly remember you promising six or seven NBA Championships when you, Wade and Bosh basked in a premature celebration when the three of you signed with Miami two summers ago.

Where was the modesty then? Now clearly isn’t the time to be modest. Now is the time to rip out the hearts of a Boston team that is on the verge of retirement. Miami needs to be ruthless and kick Boston out the playoffs with a vengeance.

“I never thought we would be in this situation,” Dwyane Wade admitted after the loss.

Yet, here Miami is, with the need to win two games in a row to avoid yet another mental letdown in the playoffs and fail to advance to the NBA Finals.

“It’s a loss, and that’s all it is,” Spoelstra tried to convince the media after the loss. “And that’s what our focus is right now, is to fight any kind of noise from the outside or any human condition, and to collectively come together strong to prepare for the next game. And this is what the playoffs are all about. It tests your collective character and your resolve.”

The problem for the past two seasons has been the weakness of Miami’s collective determination. The knock on this team is if you push them they don’t know how to push back. Instead, they curl up in the fetal position and tap out like a MMA fighter stuck in a rear-naked choke.

Few fans or members of the media give Miami a chance to rally and win two straight games in this series. Heck, if they are being honest with themselves, James and Wade probably don’t think Miami has a chance either.

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