• Miami Heat: Too soon to level with LeBron James

    LeBron James AFP PHOTO

    LeBron James AFP PHOTO

    LeBron James made the right call, as he usually does.

    Going to Cleveland a couple of years back has set him up for an extended run of NBA title contention, just like signing with Miami as a free-agent in 2011 put him on track for four trips to the Finals and a couple of rings.

    No breaking news in any of that, just an acknowledgement that the Miami Heat wouldn’t have gotten anything close to what they wanted out of an Eastern Conference finals meeting with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and neither would South Florida fans itching to make LeBron look foolish for leaving them behind.

    It’s better this way, better to have LeBron mopping the floor with the Toronto Raptors in the next round rather than the Heat.

    Sure, Dwyane Wade would have given his all, and he’s still got plenty to give (23.9 points per game in the seven-game series loss to Toronto).

    Also, Erik Spoelstra would have continued with his imaginative patchwork use of Heat personnel, coaching harder and better than he did during Miami’s Big Three era. (Rookies barely played back then, much less started playoff games).

    There’s just no reason, however, to think that the Heat, as currently comprised, could have avoided humiliation at the hands of the Cavs. Avoiding a sweep would have been an accomplishment. Making LeBron sweat on the way to his sixth-straight NBA Finals appearance? Not a chance.

    The Heat’s potential to do serious damage drastically changed when Chris Bosh left the lineup at the All-Star break due to more blood clots. Then the recalibrated postseason goals changed when Hassan Whiteside sprained a knee in Game 3 of the Eastern semifinals.

    What’s left is the chance to dream of what might have been if the Heat were whole. Miami beat the Cavs 122-101 on March 19, and that was without Bosh. Isn’t that a more satisfying prospect, the what-if of the matter, than the which-truck-just-hit-me of an Eastern finals splatter job?

    It’s much more than LeBron, you know.

    The Cavs offense is clicking all over, with no game this postseason scoring fewer than 100 points. Miami, even after an incredibly hot start in the Charlotte series, averaged just under 97.

    In the game-changing category of three-point baskets made, Cleveland has 134 in eight playoff games. The Heat needed 14 games just to make it to 96 three-pointers. Oh, and the Cavs are hitting them at 46 percent this postseason, a better rate than the Golden State Warriors.

    One last thing. LeBron isn’t even leading the Cavs in scoring this postseason. That honor belongs to Kyrie Irving at 24.4 points per game. LeBron is cruising along at 23.5, a career playoff low, with no single game higher than 27 points. He hasn’t even taken it out of cruise control yet.

    Wade, on the other hand, pretty much topped out at 23.9 points per in a couple of grueling seven-game slogs for Miami. The only significant scoring support he could count on was Goran Dragic. Sometimes.

    Admittedly, all these comparisons come off as harsh but it’s not from a lack of respect for what Miami achieved this season in the midst of some fairly seismic changes. I picked the Heat in six games over Toronto.

    Bottom line, though, if Miami couldn’t contain Kyle Lowry, if Bismack Biyombo was free to bust loose for 17 points and 16 rebounds in a crucial Game 7, there really wouldn’t be much hope for circling the wagons against the Cavs.

    The opportunity to level with LeBron will eventually come, but it’s too soon.

    Shift all focus now to Kevin Durant, another long reach.

    No matter how each season ends, aiming high is the most consistent Heat trait of all.



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