After Miami Heat lost their third straight game to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team with the worst record in the NBA, hope that they could once again somehow dominate in the postseason was zapped.
Why can’t the Heat can’t get the job done? And who’s to blame?
Jimmy Butler, despite his incredible efforts, can’t carry the team all by himself. When the five-time All-Star spoke out about his teammates’ lack of consistency and power of attack, fans sympathized.
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There’s a worry that Miami is wasting Butler’s prime years — he turns 32 in September — and the belief that if Miami traded the lot for James Harden, the Heat could’ve guaranteed Butler a championship ring — all of which is conjecture.
But if the team can’t get a rhythm defense or offense, eyes shift from any one player to head coach Erik Spoelstra. While some of the Heat’s trade moves haven’t worked as expected (ahem, Victor Oladipo), or didn’t end up coming to fruition (Kyle Lowry), Spoelstra, who signed a four-year contract extension in 2019, is well respected throughout the NBA.
While it can be argued the only NBA Championships Spoelstra brought Miami as head coach were during the Big 3 era, before the 2020-2021 season started, NBA.com’s GM survey voted Spoelstra as the Best Head Coach in the NBA, the Best Manager/Motivator of People, and Coach that Makes the Bext In-Game Adjustments.
Coach Spo said after signing his extension, “We are playing to compete for an NBA championship. It keeps my job very clear. I have great clarity as to why I am showing up every day to work.” That following year, Miami came within two games of winning the NBA championship.
Now, with only a month left in the season, the Heat are 28-28 and sitting in the 7th seed of the Eastern Conference — not the record anyone expected following their historic playoff bubble run.
South Florida Sun Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman surmised, “In a compacted season that has just four weeks remaining, it is difficult to change on the fly. But it’s not as if the roster in place is necessarily built for anything else. The mystery of the Heat seemingly has been solved by everyone but the Heat.”
Butler & Spoelstra Have Not Given Up on This Season
While Butler is understandably frustrated with his team, his words following the Heat’s loss against the ‘Wolves on Friday night were meant to be tough love, to inspire his teammates to step up their game.
“You just think we’re such a good team, and then reality hits us, we’re humbled,” Butler said. “And I’m glad. Because that’s what this game does to you, home, away, no matter what opponent you’re playing against, you just stroll into the game thinking you’re nice, you’re good, this is what happens. If we don’t fix it, I hope it continues to happen to us.”
Spoelstra is also determined to turn things around. “The two biggest things, they’re pretty glaring, they’re pretty obvious: we were fouling too much, and the second-chance opportunities were the difference in the game.”
As for the Heat’s second unit being unable to make a difference, “We have to figure it out,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not something we can ignore at this point. We get production from different guys at different times on our bench, but it’s about that unit really producing and moving the needle and that’s what we’ve got to figure out.”