Heat aren’t infallible, and it’s unfair to treat them as such

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When LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami, critics decried the end of competitive balance. They saw LeBron’s “Not one, not two, not three…” remark not as a hopeful boast, but as the inevitable. The Heat would win the championship every year from then on, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Three years later, we see the Heat have real vulnerabilities after all.

Just like every other team in NBA history.

It was ridiculous to assume the Big Three would carry the Heat to title after title without any resistance. There’s no question LeBron, Wade and Bosh joining forces made the Heat very good this season. But their level of contribution is not unprecedented, and previous great trios haven’t always led their teams to a championship.

Twelve other teams have had three players each post at least nine win shares (Bosh’s total this season) and combine for at least 37.9 win shares (the aggregate total for LeBron, Wade and Bosh this season). Half, including the 2011 Heat, didn’t win a championship:

  • 2013 Oklahoma City Thunder (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka): Lost in second round
  • 2011 Miami Heat (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh): Lost in NBA Finals
  • 2005 Phoenix Suns (Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Steve Nash): Lost in conference finals
  • 2000 Los Angeles Lakers (Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Glen Rice): Won championship
  • 1997 Utah Jazz (Karl Malone, John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek): Lost in NBA Finals
  • 1996 Chicago Bulls (Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Tony Kukoc): Won championship
  • 1996 Utah Jazz (Karl Malone, John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek): Lost in conference finals
  • 1992 Chicago Bulls (Michael Jordan, Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen): Won championship
  • 1991 Chicago Bulls (Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant): Won championship
  • 1987 Boston Celtics (Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish): Lost in NBA Finals
  • 1972 Los Angeles Lakers (Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich): Won championship
  • 1971 Milwaukee Bucks (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and Bob Dandridge): Won championship

The Dallas Mavericks beat the Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. The Boston Celtics took Miami to seven games in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. And now, the Indiana Pacers have pushed the Heat to seven games in this season’s conference final.

At some point, we must realize that even the favorite can lose or get challenged without it being a monumental upset. I understand the Heat brought a lot of these expectations up themselves, but that doesn’t mean we have to indulge them. They deserve a high bar to measure their success, but a championship or bust is too high. Look at the top 10 regular-season records of all time. Miami doesn’t have a single one.

The Heat are a very good team playing another very good team, and that’s why this series is headed to a Game 7 tonight. It would clearly be an upset if Miami – with a better regular-season record, the league’s MVP, a higher payroll and more postseason experience – loses. But it wouldn’t be shocking, and we shouldn’t treat it as such.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.