Since the Miami Heat dropped games four and five in Dallas, an overwhelming majority of the basketball universe has come to seemingly believe that the Heat have little to no shot at winning the 2011 NBA Championship. It's certainly a fair persepctive to have, especially when taking into consideration LeBron James' offensive struggles and now Dwyane Wade's injured hip.
As for the Heat themselves, though? They insist they are comfortable and confident at the moment. This outlook is also fair, as the Heat do have the luxury of home court advantage.
However, the bottom line is whether they are confident or not, Miami understands that pulling of a title at this point will be anything but easy. Having been faced with various tests of adversity all year long, the Heat are now set to face their final and biggest test yet.
And nothing short of an A+ is going to get the job done.
Not with how determined Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd are, not with how focused Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and the rest of the Mavericks' supporting cast are. Dallas firmly believes this is their year and with some of the Hail Mary's they connected with in game five, it's not difficult to see where they're coming from.
In order for the Heat to bring an acceptable report card and championship home, there are several things that must happen. It starts with the front office and ends with the fans themselves. That's right, everyone is going to need to be involved.
A Pat Riley Intervention
No, I'm not calling for Pat Riley to fire head coach Erik Spoelstra and reclaim his spot on the Heat sideline. That would be absurd, irrational and quite frankly stupid. All I'm suggesting is for Riley to do what he does best – give a speech that will inspire the Heat players to dig deep and do whatever it takes to pass this final exam.
Everyone would benefit from a Riley talk, but perhaps James would benefit the most considering the apparent mental struggles he's been dealing with as of late.
Whether it's flashing his rings, coming up with another "15 Strong" concept or simply lighting a fire under the players' you-know-whats, there's no doubt a Riley intervention could help this team. It certainly wouldn't hurt, that's for sure.
Although I'm not calling for Spoelstra's head, I do wish he would consider making some mid-series adjustments – something he shown to be very reluctant to do over the course of his young coaching career. More than anything, the past two losses have pointed out to Dallas outcoaching Miami.
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has shown the understanding to make the changes needed for his team to succeed, from starting J.J. Barea to bringing DeShawn Stevenson off the bench instead of a starter's role.
But as for Spoelstra? He appears too stubborn to acknowledge adjustments to his rotations must be made. Instead of starting Mario Chalmers instead of Mike Bibby to counteract the Mavericks' move to start Barea, he has remained with Bibby. And the Heat have paid dearly. Barea has eaten Bibby alive, taking him to the rim with ease and using the cushion Bibby gives him to set up for three pointers. Not only is Barea killing the Heat with Bibby defending him, but he's also able to gain confidence and find his rhythm when faced by the older, slower veteran. The solution appears simple – start Chalmers so that Barea doesn't have the chance to gain confidence and find his groove. Also, Chalmers has been very consistent offensively for Miami, while Bibby's horrid woes continue.
Another adjustment Spoelstra should consider is taking Joel Anthony off Nowitzki. Anthony has proven to be largely ineffective when guarding the star power foward, plain and simple. On top of Nowitzki taking advantage of the mismatch, the Mavericks have also thrived off Anthony constantly being lured out to the perimeter, thus taking Miami's best shot-blocker out of the paint.
With that being said, as a Heat fan I wouldn't expect Spoelstra to make many if any adjustments at all when it comes down to it. He's simply proven to be set on "trust" and believing in the system, appearing to be unwilling to make significant lineup changes this postseason.
If he doesn't start Chalmers, the least he can do is give him starter's minutes. The young point guard has earned it.
Oh, LeBron James. To say the superstar's performance this series has been baffling wouldn't fully grasp just how puzzling his play has truly been.
Where did the James go from a few weeks ago, who was fearlessly closing out games for the Heat, hitting dagger three after dagger three agains the likes of the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics? Where did the James go who was more confident in his jump shot than ever? Or even more recently, where did the James go who hit a deep, fading away and twisting three pointer in game one of the series?
Has anyone seen him?
Sure, he may be contributing on the boards and assist wise and that's certainly a good sign, but where oh where has the King's mighty offense gone? Especially at the end of games, James appears lost on the offensive side of the ball.
His jump shot has mysteriously forsaken him, his aggressiveness is no where to be found and his ability to get to the foul line has disappeared. James is clearly not confident in his game, that's clear. However, the frustrating part is trying to figure out why James has suddenly entered a slump at the most untimely of moments for the Miami Heat franchise.
Was it after Miami blew that 15 point lead? Or is there something going on off the court in his personal life that we don't know? Whatever it is, James needs to find a way to clear his mind of all issues when he steps in between the lines on Sunday night.
If he does wake up and return to his dominant style of play, Miami will be strong favorites once again to win the title. With how well Wade is playing (I don't think the injury will be an issue), if James can contribute like the superstar he is, Miami has the ability to run away with games six and seven.
Think back to the Boston series when both Wade and James were playing extremely well. Miami was unstoppable and appeared to be steam-rolling their way towards a championship.
The question is, can and will James get back on track? The Heat's fate may very well depend on his ability to do so.
Home Court Advantage
When it's all said and done, the Miami Heat have a strong sense of confidence heading into game six for the simple reason of home court advantage. They have proven to be virtually unbeatable on their home floor this postseason, currently standing with a record of 9-1 in Miami.
The only loss was of course game two of this series. The loss was one that many Heat fans and even Heat players feel was a case of the Heat giving the game away and beating themselves, not the Mavericks beating the Heat.
If the Heat can continue their strong play in Miami and avoid late game complacency, they are two wins away on their home court from a title.
However, with the momentum on Dallas' side and the Mavericks' confidence soaring off the charts, Miami will need its fans to step up to the plate on Sunday. Heat fans will need to be there early, be loud and stand for a majority of the game.
The Heat's home crowds have been scrutinized almost as much as the team this year, and rightfully so. With a notoriously high amount of wealthy and fair-weathered season ticket holders, many of Miami's games have seemed like fashion shows and events as opposed to basketball games. It's not a rare sight to find women doing their nails and people calmly socializing in the lower bowl during the middle of a game.
Heat fans, it's time to buck up. These words may sound harsh, but they are simply out of a desire for giving the Heat the best home court advantage possible. If you're going to the game on Sunday, here's what you need to do:
1. Don't show up at 8:00pm as the game is beginning. Don't even show up at 7:30. Be there by at least 7 so that you have enough time to get in your seat by 7:30 and create an electric atmosphere to help the players out.
2. Where white or don't show up at all. There's no reason why you can't wear white. Sorry to burst your bubble, but not wearing white doesn't make you cool or unique. We need everyone's effort to make this as WHITE HOT as possible.
3. If you don't plan on standing for a majority of the game, don't bother going at all. Sell or give your tickets away to a more passionate fan who won't take for granted the privilege of attending Game Six of the NBA Finals.
4. Scream your head off. If you don't plan on it, see number three.
5. Stay in your seat for the entire game, no matter what. A basketball game is 48 minutes long. You spent all that money on that ticket, why not get your money's worth out of it?
So, Heat fans, there you have it. The team is going to need you on Sunday, don't let them down. Help the Heat protect home court and a parade will once again be coming to Biscayne Boulevard.
A Reason to Be Confident?
Now that I've laid it all out for you, do you believe the Heat have a legitimate reason to be confident heading into game six? We'll find out come Sunday night.
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