HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The CSI Miami crew is probably still combing AmericanAirlines Arena for clues that might explain how the Miami Heat had last night’s game against the Utah Jazz ripped away from them in overtime after leading by 22 points.
The most obvious suspect — Jazz big man Paul Millsap — is already gone, his 46-point explosion and the thrilling comeback win packed away safely for the rest of the road trip.
But after running the blue light over the box score of not only last night’s loss but the Heat’s two other defeats, it’s easy to identify the biggest problem. And it’s one we’ve been talking about since Miami’s Big 3 was formed. Who in the world is going to orchestrate things for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? And who guards the opposing orchestrator?
This notion that either James or Wade can handle those duties and all you need is a warm body to put in the starting lineup at point guard is faulty logic, especially after watching Deron Williams shred the Heat the way he did last night (following the lead of fellow elite point guards Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul in their dismantling of the Heat in the only other losses Erik Spoelstra‘s team has incurred this season).
The math doesn’t match up either:
— In that season-opening loss to the Celtics, Rondo scored just four points and had two steals but controlled the game with his defense and 17 assists while Heat starter Carlos Arroyo managed just three points and didn’t have a single assist (compounded by 14 turnovers from James and Wade).
— When the Hornets ambushed the Heat over the weekend, Paul destroyed them with 13 points, 19 assists and five steals while Arroyo went scoreless and managed just one assist, with Wade and James putting together another double-digit (10) turnover performance.
— Williams abused them for 21 points and 14 assists last night before fouling out late in regulation, with Arroyo fighting back with 10 points and two assists while James (triple-double) and Wade (season-high 39 points) kept their turnovers to a minimum (just four), but the result was the same.
For those math-challenged members of our little club, that’s a healthy 38-13 scoring advantage for the opposing starter at point guard in those losses and a staggering 50-3 assist advantage for the opposing starter.
Williams and Millsap did the major damage against the Heat in the third quarter, combining for 26 of the 30 points the Jazz piled up as they outscored the Heat by four to get back into the game. Yet it was another point guard that made the play that helped clinch the game for the Jazz. Ronnie Price drove the lane in the final seconds and dished off to Francisco Elson, who was fouled by Wade and knocked down the two free throws that provided the winning margin.
It helps, even with a man neck-deep in the “zone” Millsap was in Tuesday night, to have a point guard simply initiate and help execute the offense sometimes.
We’re not pointing fingers at Arroyo specifically, though we’re sure someone will (even though he’s been put in a situation where he can’t win against the league’s very best point guards). We are, however, wagging a giant foam index finger at this notion that James or Wade can simply add those point guard duties to the phone book-thick list of things they have to do for this Heat team.
If you have a starting caliber point guard in this league, you must allow him to do the job, even on a team stacked with superstars like James and Wade. (See Rondo three years ago with the Celtics’ Big 3 for your best example of why it must be done this way.)
Spoelstra said there was a lesson to be learned from the way his team lost to the Jazz and they’ll respond to it. We’ll see Thursday night, when Rondo and the Celtics take their talents to South Beach and face the Heat on TNT.