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Title repeat looks doubtful for cold Heat

This might be the reason for the Chicago Bulls to take a deep breath and make a bold move such as acquiring a big man like Memphis' Pau Gasol.
The defending champion Miami Heat isn't going to the NBA Finals, though perhaps Dwyane Wade and I disagree on this point.
"It has been desperate," Wade said Saturday night after the defending champion Heat lost to the Bulls, 100-97, to fall to 19-25. "I've been here before. My rookie year we were below .500 like this. All these guys have been there before, (but) we understand it's a marathon, not a race.
"We don't want to lose. We want to continue to fight. Our time will come. It will turn around for us. We're not champions by mistake. We're champions for a reason. The Heat is not going anywhere."
Actually, one could say that about the way Miami has played much of this season. The Heat is now working on five losses in the last six games despite the return of Shaquille O'Neal from knee surgery last week. He didn't play Saturday because it was the second of back-to-back games.
Heat players too often have been conspicuous by their indifference this season, seemingly too satisfied they won last year despite universal doubts, including some of their own. Gary Payton, Antoine Walker and Jason Williams champions?
It didn't seem possible watching the Knicks blow out the Heat, with O'Neal back in action Friday. The loss produced harsh assessments from O'Neal, who said he was embarrassed, and Wade, who displayed some uncharacteristic frustration in saying the team "is relying too much on one or two guys."
Actually, it's relying on one guy.
Wade, perhaps more than any player in the NBA this season, has carried a team on his shoulders.
"It's a concern," Pat Riley's substitute coach, Ron Rothstein, said about the dependence on Wade.
It has been clear around the NBA that the players who participated with USA Basketball last summer have experienced fatigue. It's difficult to see how the Heat can continue to depend almost solely on Wade - he's averaging 39.1 minutes and has attempted 300 more field goals than anyone else on the team - and then have him ready for another playoff run.
You might remember he was of some help to the Heat last June.
Riley, who remains out after various surgeries, is brilliant with aphorisms such as "Winning or Misery" and pithy quotes such as describing a rotation of playing eight, trusting seven, using six and so on. I think he was also responsible for "It's the economy, stupid" and "Tippecanoe and Tyler too."
This season, his adage for the Heat was to defend the title or disgrace it.
It has seemed clear much of this season, which path his players have chosen. You watch the Heat and you often see players with slumped shoulders and blank expressions, sort of the look found on some in a Greyhound bus terminal.
The Bulls have had some quality victories lately over the Spurs, Pistons, Mavericks and now the Heat - even if O'Neal didn't play. But the Heat seems very vulnerable.
In other NBA action: Indiana 102, Toronto 84; Philadelphia 104, Atlanta 89; New Orleans 94, Utah 83; Portland 135, Memphis 132, 2OT; Dallas 106, Sacramento 104; New Jersey 112, Denver 102; Golden State 131, Charlotte 105; Minnesota 101, L.A. Clippers 87.


Updated : 2021-06-22 13:17 GMT+08:00