MIAMI — If I had to use one word to describe Heat players after Game 4, it would be bewildered.
All season long, Miami made the same errors we have seen from them in the Finals: up and down effort, inconsistent defensive traps and rotations, guys not attacking the paint and settling for jump shots (and the list goes on and on).
The difference is coming out of the soft Eastern Conference nobody made the Heat pay. That left the door open for Miami’s answer:
He was the trump card. He covered their flaws All season long the Heat counted on LeBron to do virtually everything: Create offense for himself, create offense for others, and often defend the opponent’s best player in crunch time.
All season long LeBron was the Miami Heat. In the Eastern Conference that was enough.
He’s not enough against San Antonio.
No team has made the Heat pay for their flaws like the Spurs. Half-hearted traps are quickly exposed with a sharp pass, every slow rotation becomes a lay-up or an open three. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will search the game tapes and the depth chart looking for an answer, but there will be none.
Other than more LeBron James.
That fact and series in general points out the challenge in front of Heat president Pat Riley — this roster needs to be retooled. LeBron can’t do it all by himself, and when he has been on the bench the Heat have looked terrible.
After the Game 1 when LeBron cramped up in the sauna that was the AT&T Center he got hit with complaints he was not there to lift his team up and give them a chance.
Games 3 and 4 have shown just how much lifting he has to do. How much pressure is on him.
“I don’t really get caught up in what pressure is all about…” LeBron tried to play it off after the Heat’s Game 4 loss. “For me, I do whatever it takes to help our team win. If it’s me going one-on-one to try to help us win, if it’s me getting guys involved and taking threes in rhythm, then I’ll do it. But I don’t really get caught up in the pressure.”
Miami’s Game 4 loss was not on LeBron’s shoulders other than they are not broad enough to carry the flawed Heat past the Spurs. Through three quarters LeBron had 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting, the rest of the Heat had 29 points on 27.8 percent shooting. LeBron hit 6-of-10 contested shots and was 4-of-6 when left open.
“It’s not (all) on my shoulders. It’s not,” LeBron said. “I understand I get a lot of the limelight in the press and all that, but it’s not all on my shoulder. I take a lot of it, but I do it for my teammates and I want them to put a lot of pressure on me in that sense.”
They do. He will hear about it on social media. He will hear about how the eventual loss in this series will taint a legacy that is still being written.
But anyone who goes back and watches this series will see LeBron carried as much of a burden as could be asked. It’s just that pushing this Heat roster past the Spurs is more like the job Sisyphus had.
A lot has been asked of LeBron by the Heat. Now the burden should fall on Pat Riley to repair this roster.