The Miami Heat dropped a game in Utah last night, falling 104-97 to the Jazz and their rabid fans.
The Heat continue to sit atop the Eastern Conference standings, but there is growing tension and frustration within the defending champions’ locker room. Head coach Erik Spoelstra benched Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the fourth quarter, as the Heat staged a furious comeback that ultimately fell short.
Wade’s postgame words were short and to the point, but his body language was telling.
The Heat are out of focus and they’re sniping. At their coach, Erik Spoelstra. At each other. Probably at their friends and loved ones, too. Wade’s been in the middle of it a few times on the trip. Last week in Indianapolis, he scored 23 points in the first half of a game and then didn’t get a shot in the third quarter. Monday, he didn’t play in the fourth quarter — calling it a benching isn’t accurate — when Spoelstra decided to play James with four bench players as the Heat attempted a rally that fell short.
“I don’t know, I just always stay ready,” Wade said curtly but not disrespectfully, much like he treated his disappearance from the offense in the loss in Indiana. “Coach makes the calls. I’m just a player.” Wade’s body language said enough. Before the Heat left on this trip, Wade was asked if he missed the days of taking 20 to 25 shots a game. The days before James and Bosh and being relegated to the third option some nights. Wade’s response: “Every day.” A few days ago, Bosh said the Heat weren’t doing enough to ride players with “hot hands” after he was forgotten in the offense during a night when he shot 13-for-18 in a loss at Portland. He was referring to himself and Wade, the direction of the comment not being clear.
Utah outrebounded Miami 40-23 and annihilated them on second-chance points 19-0, signs that the Jazz played with more energy.
The Heat may be angry with one another during these bumps in the road, but it’s no indication that their title defense is in trouble. One would expect them to work through these issues by the time the Playoffs roll around.