Something had to be said eventually. It was just that nobody thought low-key Heat veteran Chris Bosh would be the one to say it quite like this.
And if that stark reality doesn’t change soon, especially at the defensive end, the Heat can scrap any plans for a third consecutive NBA title.
On Saturday night, the last-place New Orleans Pelicans became the latest opponents to treat the Heat defense like a pinata in a 105-95 beatdown, an embarrassment that left the losers in ornery moods afterward. The home team converted 51 percent of its field goal tries and were guilty of only eight turnovers. It pretty much did whatever it darn well pleased in the second half, when it scored 60 points.
“This is new territory for us,” head coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters at the Smoothie King Center. “It doesn’t make it right, wrong, good, bad — this is what we’re dealing with. This is how you develop championship character. Sometimes you have to go through things, and sometimes they come at unpredictable times.”
The Heat lost for the 12th time against a sub-.500 team this season. What frustrated them even more was another lost chance to gain ground on the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference race.
But first things first.
“It has nothing to do with talent level,” said Bosh, who managed only 12 points and a half-dozen rebounds in 34 minutes. “Defensively, we can’t stop a nosebleed. (The Pelicans) got everything they wanted. They’re not even an outside jump-shooting team. They lit us up at the three(-point) line, penetration, low man . . . No good blitzes or pick-and-roll coverage. No good one-one-one defense. Just everything was bad.
“I’ll be the first one to say we suck and we need to turn it around. If we don’t play better, we’ll be watching the championship (series) at home.”
LeBron James was perturbed enough to make a hasty exit, but not before he pointed to a lack of accountability as the root of the problem.
“Everything is an excuse,” said James, who did his share with 25 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in 38 minutes. “We do something wrong, (the reason) is an excuse. We don’t get a stop, it’s an excuse. We turn the ball over, it’s an excuse. We’ve got to own (up to) what we’re doing right now.”
The absence of a physical presence near the basket has been problematical for the Heat since the start of the season. Anthony Davis (30 points, 11 rebounds) became the latest quality big man to abuse them inside.
Shane Battier and Norris Cole also have been passengers in recent weeks. That has placed an even greater burden on Bosh, James and Dwyane Wade, who sat out the game as a precautionary measure.
While the players and the coaches say they recognize the problem, how to fix it is another matter. Because of the cramped schedule, there has been little if any practice time. The game was the fifth for the team in seven nights, but as James pointed out, that shouldn’t be an excuse, either.
“It’s frustrating. We’re all frustrated,” James conceded. “We just all got to get on the same page. I don’t know what we’re gonna do, but we gotta figure it out.”
To make matters worse, James tweaked his right ankle when he stepped on Davis’ foot on a drive to the bucket in the third period. He also played with a back problem that had plagued him in recent days.
“Put another injury on my list,” James said. “But it is what is.”
Is rest the answer?
“Everything now I’m treating day to day,” Spoelstra said. “It will be on my mind, but that’s not the deal for this game and our guys understand that. We’re not making any excuses. We did not defend. We did not have that tough, gritty personality to get consecutive stops and give us life going down the other end.”