Schadenfreude largely has been off the menu so far this season for members of the Miami Hate, that splinter group of NBA fans who emerged last season in response to The Decision and the hubris around the Super Friends edition of the Miami Heat.
Hate-able moments are hard to come by when a team that came within two victories of winning the NBA championship starts out 8-1 in its second season since formulation. The Heat has been defending great (third in defensive field-goal percentage), scoring in bunches (first in points and shooting) with a dominant 10.1 points differential. LeBron James picked up his 33rd Player of the Week award, on the heels of his 32nd, and has doubled his post-up opportunities to produce some killer stats near the rim.
But a blast from Miami’s past cost them in their 111-107 overtime loss at Golden State and gave the anti-Heat rooters something to latch onto: A miserable fourth quarter. Leading by 17 points with 1:49 left in the third quarter, Miami went belly-up with 2-of-17 shooting in the last 12 minutes of regulation, leaky defense at the least opportune time and five of what would be 22 turnovers overall.
James also breathed some life into the old jokes (“Don’t ask LeBron to break a dollar, ‘cuz he’ll only give you three quarters”) by taking no shots in that final period. It was reminiscent of his deer-in-the-headlights moments late in The Finals last June. He went 0-for-0 in 6:34 in the fourth, while Chris Bosh was 0-for-2 and Dwyane Wade – whose 34 points were almost a bonus, given the uncertainty of his foot injury – shot 1-of-8 in the quarter.
James took three shots in overtime but was wallpaper as Golden State’s Dorell Wright scored eight, on the heels of Nate Robinson’s 15 in the fourth. And ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, James’ Boswell, chronicled the Miami star’s Hot Tub Time Machine flashback:
Playing against a defender in [Wright] that didn’t have the size to handle him in the post, James either never went there or was never instructed to go there.
On two of the biggest possessions of the game [Miami coach Erik] Spoelstra called for isolation plays for Wade, with James standing as a decoy outside the 3-point line. Which isn’t much of a danger since James has yet to hit a 3-pointer this season.
Though with the Heat down three with 23 seconds left in overtime and the team looking for a quick two-point basket and a quick foul, James took an unnecessary and overall terrible 3-pointer over the taller [Warriors forward David] Lee with 11 seconds left. He missed and the game was essentially over, both mercifully and prematurely.
It’s just one of 66. There is time on the calendar, if not on the practice court in this mad dash through the NBA schedule, to fix what’s broken. But for a night – part of a night, really – the rest of the NBA had hope that crunch-time pressure and James’ trigger mortis might provide the blueprint for some spring surprises.
And the anyone-but-Miami crowd had a little hate to savor.