The Miami Heat face the Washington Wizards tonight, just a day after being congratulated on their second title by President Obama at the White House.
Now 37 games into the season, the Heat are well on their way to a third successive title.
Or are they?
Sitting in second position in the eastern conference, the season has not started badly for the Heat, it’s been comfortable.
The Heat are three games behind the Indiana Pacers, not bad but comfortable.
The Heat won the conference last year by 12 games and were 17 games ahead of the now all-conquering Pacers.They won 27 games in a row last season, the Miami Heat that won titles do not do comfortable.
But they’re doing it now, possibly to their detriment. They dropped two straight road games to sub .500 teams on their New York road trip whilst taking it easy. LeBron James, always the center point of the Heat’s offense has also been the focal point of the coasting claims. So is LeBron worried?
“I cannot coast.” James claims, “Because I don’t know if the next game will be the last game I’ve ever played. It’s my mindset, when I get out on the floor, I gotta go hard. I don’t know where it came from, the way I was brought up, the way I played when I was a kid.”
Interesting. But the numbers don’t lie: Career lows in minutes, steals and block coupled with a career-high in turnovers does not make for good reading. He’s still number two in player efficiency behind Kevin Durant but that hasn’t stopped people talking. Carmelo Anthony outperformed LeBron in New York last week and it just seems that the Heat are missing a big chance to take advantage of a weakened eastern conference.
The east is just not as good as the west anymore, with just four teams over .500, the Heat should be dominating as a top seed. Instead they appear to just be enjoying the ride and waiting for the playoffs.
Just how bad is this eastern conference? The Memphis Grizzlies, currently 18-19 and the 11th best team in the West wouldn’t just make the playoffs in the east, they’d be the fifth seed.
The Heat can breeze past the Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors and whatever other eastern teams make it to the playoffs. But what about the western battle hardened Oklahoma City Thunder, LA Clippers or even the Portland Trailblazers.
The ultimate question is: Can James and the rest of the Heat step it up?
“We’ll see Wednesday how I’m coasting.” James remarked. “You’ll see the numbers I’ll put up on Wednesday. Just watch.”
It looks like we’re about to find out.