It stings the pride of any NBA champion to fall quickly off their perch. And although the Miami Heat fell short of making it a three-peat in last season’s Finals, the core of the group which won successive titles in 2012 and 2013 are having to dealt with the reality of being mortal.
Yet we’re not quite talking the post-Michael Jordan Bulls here, an evolution so dramatic that Chicago saw their team go from champs to utter chumps inside six months.
Miami, creditably, is 6-5 going into tonight’s visit from the Los Angeles Clippers, despite – almost predictably – losing Dwyane Wade to injury.
But after opening up with three straight wins, the Heat’s cooling off period has been swift. Five defeats in their next seven, an offense that’s generating only 97.5 points per game and a surprisingly low 19.9 average from Chris Bosh. They’re also the league’s worst rebounding unit.
If not for their defence, and some astute coaching from Erik Spoelstra, the hangover from losing LeBron James could be a lot worse.
Mario Chalmers has shocked a few folk by filling ably in for Wade, who is a doubt against the Clippers. The demoted guard has averaged 21 over his last three games and will have to shoulder a bigger load if Luol Deng also sits out.
In reality, they should have no shot at the Clippers, who brushed off Orlando 114-90 on Wednesday with their starters getting extended breathers.
But LA – priced at 10.00 for the championship - have been consistently inconsistent, with alternate wins and losses over their past eight games.
It’s worth waiting until near tip-off to see if Wade and Deng are available. If either, or both, are back, Miami, who are 2.25 for the win, could spring yet another ambush if they can keep the scoring down.
Best bet: Go under 195.5 total points in Miami-Clippers at 2.20