South Beach Diaries: Day 1 - Bulls 87, Heat 86


I don't want to start this off on a negative note, so instead, let me say that my flight down from Connecticut to Florida on JetBlue was probably the best flying experience I've ever had, even with some mild turbulence along the way. I was in JetBlue's "Extra Leg Room" seats, which, in addition to the obvious extra leg room, allow you to board the plane first. Plus, they cost extra money, which means lots of people avoid them, which resulted in me having an entire trio of seats to myself.

Also, my rental car for the week is a Dodge Charger, which doesn't suck. It's got a nice auxiliary input on the stereo, which means I can hook up my iPhone and don't have to rely on radio for my drives into Miami.

Oh, yeah, Miami. The Heat. What. The. Fuck?

I know the game was at 1:00 on a Sunday, a lots of people were probably still hung over, but Miami has the latest arriving crowd I've ever seen in the NBA, and that includes Los Angeles. The lower bowl was half-empty at tipoff, and no, there's no "glass half-full" view of that.

But that's not what pisses me off. No, that would be the Heat's fourth consecutive loss, which was a carbon copy of two of the previous three (the Spurs loss was a blowout from start to finish). The Heat get out to a nice lead early, showing solid offensive spacing and balance, then the Heat stagnate, allowing the opponent to storm back and take the lead, forcing the Heat to play from behind in the final minutes.

It would be easy to focus on Miami's struggles in the clutch, but I'd argue the bigger problem is the blown leads early in the second half. Lately, the Heat seem to come out of halftime with the exact opposite of a sense of urgency (sense of complacency?). You can see it in their on-court body language and execution -- it's like they're just waiting for the other shoe to drop. In some ways, it's a fault of the coaching staff, because Miami seems to come out with the same plan every game, even in an instance like today, when Chris Bosh was playing well (and aggressively), and they just stopped going to him at all.

I'm not ready to jump on the "Fire Spoelstra" bandwagon, but it's obvious that SOMETHING needs to change with this team -- and no, adding Mike Bibby doesn't count. In fact, adding Bibby might have made this team worse, since he literally could not be allowed on the court at the same time as Derrick Rose today, leaving Miami to rely heavily on Mario Chalmers.

As for the end-of-game situation, the Heat need to try something other than "Isolate LeBron up top, have him drive left and wildly miss a lefty lay-up." Anything. Give it to Wade and let him create something. Run a pick-and-pop with Bosh. Let Joel Anthony dribble the ball off his foot (OK, maybe not that last one). Just something different. Because they can't keep doing the same thing over and over again and just hope it works.

Aside from the loss, today has been pretty good. Again, I'm in South Florida, it's still above 70 degrees as I write this, and I don't have to do anything work-related all week. If the Heat had gone 4-0 on this trip, I would have been thrilled, but surprised. 3-1 was my hope, and that's still in play, if a little more difficult.

OK, well, I've been up since 4 a.m., so it's probably time to head to bed. Enjoy the pictures from today's game (including a stop at the NBA on ESPN RV) and I'll keep you updated throughout the week.

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