Alexa

Heat's meltdown has Riley 'perplexed'

Miami Heat's Shaquille O'Neal (32) passes away from Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) and Daniel Gibson during their NBA basketball game on Tuesd...

Miami Heat's Shaquille O'Neal (32) passes away from Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) and Daniel Gibson during their NBA basketball game on Tuesd...

It was a lot more fun when Christmas meant beating up on Kobe Bryant.
Now there was some wholesome family entertainment.
Then the NBA decided this year to switch the Heat's fare from Lakers to Cavaliers and the venue from warm and sunny to cold and gray.
The result: Miss-mas, everywhere Dwyane Wade would go.
Playing as if the ball was a lump of coal in his hands, Wade struggled through a 7-of-18 shooting afternoon as the Heat fell, 96-82, on Tuesday to the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena.
After three consecutive Christmas victories over the Lakers, it became clear Tuesday the Heat's holiday is over.
"I'm a little bit perplexed," coach Pat Riley said.
He wasn't talking specifically about Wade's 4-of-13 start from the field, Wade's 8-of-16 foul shooting, Shaquille O'Neal's inability to generate more than seven shots, or even the way LeBron James was able to take over on a 25-point, 12-assist afternoon.
Rather it was about how when the going gets tough, his team, well, crumbles.
"It just went," Riley said. "We just let it go."
Up 53-43 early in the third quarter, the Heat stunningly was down 67-59 late in the period.
Poof, and it was gone.
The holiday cheer. The merriment of a team playing cohesively on offense and smothering James on defense.
"We went through a period of four or five minutes where we didn't move the ball enough," Riley said. "And we forced things and got turnovers and the game changed."
If this was the exception, you could chalk it up to the holiday blahs of a late-December northern Ohio afternoon.
But in this 8-20 season, this has become the rule.
"It's a lack of execution," Riley said. "It's a lack of not getting open."
Which raises the question of whether this is the right mix, this patchwork compilation that includes Ricky Davis, Dorell Wright and even Earl Barron as rotation mainstays, with Mark Blount and Luke Jackson given opportunities Tuesday.
"My job is to go out there and play," Wade said. "My job is not to worry about the mix. That's coach's job, to bring the players in. It's not my job."
Asked why the sharp drop-off from just a year ago, Wade said, "It's just not the same personnel."
For his part, Riley said, "The mix seems to be right."
Then again, what else can Riley say, considering this is what he cobbled together in his dual role as team president, having lost the likes of James Posey and Jason Kapono in the offseason?
Asked if frustration was mounting, O'Neal said, "A little, but we just have to keep the faith."
These days, faith is in short supply.
Especially when Jason Williams is being asked to direct a stagnant offense, when O'Neal is being asked to be something other than what should be expected from a 35-year-old, when the eight other eyes on offense constantly are focused on Wade for salvation.
"It's my job at certain times," Wade said after finishing with 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds, "but it's also everyone else's, too, to be able to do things offensively."
By the middle of the fourth quarter, Cleveland's lead was in double figures to stay. "It's just a shame that we played 30 minutes of very good basketball, then we just let it go, let everything go," Riley said.
It is difficult to put it any other way than to say it only took until Christmas for the Heat's confidence to be shot.
"It is a frustration switch that goes on and it's disappointing because they're better than that," Riley said.
"We think we should have gotten over that by now, at 8-20."


Updated : 2021-02-28 03:33 GMT+08:00