Here's our Wednesday afternoon update from Heat practice, with some perspective on just how ineffective the Heat's supporting cast has been offensively.
Note: For a look at why Charles Barkley is ripping Erik Spoelstra; info on Greg Oden's interest in the Heat; and the Dolphins' latest free agent visit set for Thursday, see our last post.
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Most call them the supporting cast. Shaquille O’Neal simply calls them the “others.”
Whatever term you prefer, this much is clear: With Chris Bosh out, the Heat’s ensemble around LeBron James and Dwyane Wade hasn’t done enough offensively against the Pacers.
And that must change for the Bosh-less Heat to thrive as the series shifts to Indianapolis for Game 3 Thursday.
“D-Wade and LeBron will do their jobs,” Mike Miller said. “The rest of us have to find ways to put the ball in the hole.”
Excluding Bosh (who played the first half of Game 1), James and Wade, the other Heat players shot a combined 29 percent --- 16 for 55 --- in the two games, with 44 points. Game 2 was especially gruesome for the supporting cast: 9 for 34 with seven turnovers and two assists. The Heat is 1 for 22 on three pointers in this series, though James has seven of those misses and Wade two.
Though the defense has been mostly stout, here’s what should alarm Heat fans about the players assembled to complement the stars:
### Game 3 marked the first time in franchise history that the Heat’s third-leading scorer in a game did not produce more than five points.
### ESPN noted that among 92 players that have logged at least 125 minutes in the playoffs, Udonis Haslem ranks last in its efficiency ratings. He played only 12 minutes in Game 2, because Erik Spoelstra opted to use only one natural power rotation player (Joel Anthony or Ronny Turiaf) the rest of the time.
### Whereas David West and Roy Hibbert each produced double figure rebounds in both games, James (15 in Game 1) is only Heat player that has achieved that.
### More significant: Among the eight teams still alive, Shane Battier (32.3) and Miller (33.3) have the third- and forth-worst shooting percentages in the playoffs, ahead of only the Lakers’ Matt Barnes and Boston’s Mickael Pietrus. (Minimum five shots.) Mario Chalmers (36.7) has the 10th worst.
What’s worrisome is that Battier and Miller have been in mired in prolonged slumps. Miller, 1 for 6 in this series, has hit 35.8 percent of his last 120 shots. Battier, who has the Heat’s only three-pointer in the series, made 36.7 percent of his past 128 shots.
“I believe in the law of averages,” Battier said. “We have good shooters. It’s just a matter of time before that number goes up to what our historical average is.”
Spoelstra said: “We had a lot of open, open threes. We also had some possessions where they defended the heck out of us and forced us into tough shots.”
Asked if the Heat has had fewer open jumpers than against the Knicks, Miller said, “Oh, yeah. There have been a lot of contested shots. That’s no excuse for not making shots. We’ve got to try to expose their game plan and make it change.”
Desperate for better shooting, Spoelstra gave James Jones 10 minutes in Game 2, but he shot 1 for 4 and is now 18 for his last 61 (29.3 percent).
Chalmers’ recent funk has made matters worse. After playing brilliantly early in the playoffs, Chalmers shot 6 for 24 in his past three games and 2 for 13 against Indiana. He was limited to 22 minutes on Tuesday because of foul trouble.
He said his shot “is not in rhythm. I can’t get consistent minutes because I’m always in and out with foul trouble. Once I get consistent minutes, my shot will be consistent.”
Wade said, “We need Rio to learn from his mistakes and learn now. He made a lot of mistakes. We need him to stay on the court.”
Haslem’s season-long offensive decline has been perplexing. In the regular season, he shot 30 percent on 3-to-9 foot shots, 25.9 percent on 10-to-15 footers, and 39 percent on 16-to-23 shooters – all well below his career averages, according to hoopdata.com. And now, he has gone three consecutive fourth quarters without playing at all.
Heat president Pat Riley spoke with Haslem after practice Wednesday, and Haslem said Riley told him to “keep being a good teammate.” Haslem said, good-naturedly, that he’s “losing minutes to the MVP. If we choose to go with a small lineup, with LeBron at [power forward] and Ronny and Joel playing [center], part of my job is to be supportive.”
Beyond the supporting cast, the Heat needs better offensive efficiency from Wade, who has shot 16 for 45 in this series (35.5 percent). And James, who scored 28 in Game 2, must hit his free throws, after missing four in the fourth quarter Tuesday. This season, he is 10 for 17 on free throws in the final minute or overtime of one possession games.
James did no work extra on free throws Wednesday because “I’ve got enough work in over the years.” Overall, “I was satisfied with my performance.”
James, who played 42:29 and didn’t get a rest in the second half, said a short break would help, but he understands Spoelstra needed to keep him in the game with the Heat down nine entering the fourth quarter. Wade, who played 37:22, said, “coach is going to do a better job of trying to look” to give them one-to-two minute breaks.
As Battier cracked, “In the playoffs, rest is a luxury not too many teams can afford. It would be great if they could serve drinks with umbrellas in it during time outs. But it’s the playoffs. You have to pull through it.”
### Game 5 of Heat-Pacers will start at 7 p.m. Tuesday at AA Arena if the Spurs-Clippers series goes to a fifth game. If the Spurs sweep that series, the Heat game will start at 8.
### Including playoffs, the Heat has now taken 18 shots this season to try to tie or win the game in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime. Miami has made just six. Most surprising: LeBron James has attempted just two of the 18, making one.