The Miami Heat are not the 'superteam' everyone expected when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined forces last summer with Dwyane Wade in South Beach. | AP
Updated: May 26, 2011 5:05PM
There’s no denying the Miami Heat have control of the Eastern Conference finals with a 3-1 lead over the Bulls. But let’s not get carried away.
This series isn’t over. The Heat are not a superteam. They’re not yet the team everybody feared when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces last summer. They’re not even the Lakers or Celtics of 2010. They’re barely the Heat of 2006.
Last year’s Lakers and Celtics are among a handful of recent NBA teams that would have won Game 4 by 15 points. The Bulls had their chance and blew it — missing five shots from the field (including four point-blank three-pointers) and three free throws and committing a turnover after taking a 19-8 lead in the first seven minutes of the game.
The Heat’s response wasn’t exactly out of the Showtime Lakers’ playbook: LeBron, LeBron and more LeBron. James scored the final eight points of the quarter to cut the Bulls lead to 19-16. And he did it almost entirely on his own. He wasn’t playing off his teammates. His teammates weren’t finding him. They barely touched the ball. The Heat had one assist in the quarter — James to Mike Bibby for a 19-footer in the first minute of the game.
The Heat played at a high level in the fourth quarter and in overtime, but let’s not forget they were asking to get whipped in the first half, when they shot 36 percent from the field, forced 10 turnovers, shot 21 free throws and trailed 46-44.
If Game 4 proved anything, it’s that the NBA doesn’t have the elite teams it has had in recent years. A hard-working, resilient team that plays outstanding team defense like the Bulls would win 55 games any other year. This year they won 62 and had the best record in the league. Even Derrick Rose shouldn’t make that much of a difference. It’s no coincidence that the poster-boys for underachievement in the NBA — the Dallas Mavericks — are in the Finals. They haven’t grown up. They just waited for the Lakers and Spurs to take a step back, then beat the not-ready-for-prime-time Thunder in the conference finals.
And by the same token, don’t let this series fool you. The Heat might be the best team. But they’re not a great team — not yet, anyway. The Heat had 12 assists in 53 minutes for the game — only the sixth time in the last 25 years a team has won a conference finals game with 12 or fewer assists.
This is just the start for the Heat — it’s still the first year with the Big Three, with Udonis Haslem out most of the season and too many ill-fitting supporting pieces. Until James or Wade slows down, this will be the least impressive version of the Heat with this core.
They’re still a team that relies too much on the individual talents of its stars. The Heat was tied for 26th in the NBA in assists this season (20.0 per game). If they win the title, their percentage of assists-to-field goals (.541) would be the lowest of any NBA champion since the 1968 Celtics (.488).
The Heat might end up being the best team (and they’ve still got work to do just to win this series, let alone the NBA title.) But a great team? The scourge of the NBA? A seven-title team? Hold your horses. This Heat team is a long way from that. All they’re doing right now is winning with the best hand.