15 seconds left, down by one, and at home. Absolutely NEED to win this game to avoid being swept by a legitimate playoff contender.
A myriad of potential offensive plays could be created for Miami’s stars in this type of situation. Put the ball in Wade’s hands and let him create for an 18-footer for Chalmers. Put the ball in Lebron’s hands and let him penetrate and create a shot for Wade. My choice? Unfortunately, would have been the same as Spoelstra’s. Give Lebron a one-on-one against whoever the Bulls choose to guard him and let James decide on how to end the game.
If Chicago guards with Deng, Lebron can go right to the hole. If they bring Noah or Boozer, Lebron can shoot a 15-foot pull-up jumper. If they double, Miami has plenty of guys that are more than capable to hit a wide open shot.
Tommy Thibodeau knew exactly how to guard against Miami’s brightest star, who unfortunately, still has confidence issues in the clutch, particularly when it involves his jumper. The Bulls decided to bring Noah out to the perimeter to guard Lebron and allow James to stop-and-pop a 13-15 footer with some free space if he so desired. But Thibodeu understands that Lebron will never rely on that type of shot down the stretch of a big game. Lebron still doesn’t have that trust in his jumper to use it in that situation.
Instead, Lebron 1.) ran the clock down to 8 seconds before making his move, which is downright stupid when you’re down by one point and 2.) threw up his typical off-balance, ugly fourth-quarter floater against the guy who would best defend such a shot on the Bulls.
To make matters worse, Wade grabbed the rebound with 2 seconds left but didn’t even consider calling a timeout before throwing up more garbage. His haste decision to not re-setup the offense or at least pass to an open man was not only a signal of his growing unhappiness towards giving Lebron the ball in those key situations (a timeout would probably have directed the offense away from Wade again) but also a reflection of his distrust towards his coach, who probably would have fed Lebron the ball again following a timeout. Admittedly, Wade may have just thought he had less time on the clock, which is due to Lebron taking forever to start his move during the possession.
How should Miami remedy this situation? Skip Bayless and Chris Broussard on ESPN First Take recently criticized Miami for not giving those possessions to Wade. My thoughts? Keep feeding Lebron. From a purely practical perspective: he’s Miami’s best player. He demands the most attention. He can create his own shot better than Wade, and more importantly, he can penetrate and dish-out as well as anyone in the league.
From my perspective: no team wins a championship when their best player is afraid of the biggest moments in their biggest games. Your team’s leader needs the moment. He needs to understand that those moments are his time to shine. Such a leader’s mentality will then disseminate throughout the locker room.
Honestly, I don’t know if Lebron can develop more confidence in his jumper in the next 6 weeks, which may shatter my prediction that the Heat will take the Lakers to 7 in the Finals. So perhaps going to Wade in the clutch would be the better option. Maybe that will help Miami get through Orlando or Chicago in the second round. But such an option will NEVER lead to a title. Until Lebron can find a way to fight his confidence demons, Miami will find disappointment in late May or even potentially early May.