MIAMI -- A psychologist would say all of this dialogue is healthy for the Heat. A 105-96 loss Tuesday to the visiting Blazers was followed by demands from Chris Bosh that he receive more touches in the post. The fifth straight defeat led to concerns from Dwyane Wade that the bench is being ignored.
The Lakers, winners in all eight of their games since the All-Star break, arrive Thursday amid these mildly expressed differences of opinion. "It's a great time for us to right the ship,'' said LeBron James, "or to let the ship continue to sink.''
"Frankly we don't have a lot of answers to how to get over this hump,'' said coach Erik Spoelstra. "These are heartbreaking losses.''
James and Wade combined for 69 points as Spoelstra went to them again and again in the fourth quarter. "They were getting to the rim and making plays,'' said Spoelstra. "We were looking for anything to unite us.''
At least they no longer need to worry about the three stars trying to avoid stepping on each other's toes. The Heat shot 51.4 percent and yet lost because no one but Wade and James produced in a big way. Bosh provided seven points (3-of-11 shooting) and four rebounds in 40 minutes. Afterward he talked about playing closer to the basket, and promised to share his thoughts with Spoelstra and his teammates. "As a big guy you never want to start a game shooting three jump shots,'' said Bosh. "I've just got to get where I'm effective. I'm a big man. I have to get it where big guys get it, and then I think I can do more to help this team.''
Wade responded by saying there's a lot of these demands going around right now. "We've all had spells where we wanted the ball more -- that's what we're used to,'' he said, then warned that he and James are going to continue to be "very aggressive.'' Of course they'll help Bosh work himself into better positions, Wade went on, but his message was obvious: He and LeBron aren't going to be backing off in the middle of a losing streak.
Miami was expected to respond to Sunday's painful loss to Chicago by bursting out against the Blazers. Instead the guests led for most of the opening quarter while the Heat were chasing the ball, usually a step late to stop LaMarcus Aldridge (26 points), Gerald Wallace (22), Andre Miller (14) and several other Blazers from making big shots to answer every aborted run by the Heat.
Explosive second-half dunks in transition by Wade and James -- the latter on a behind-the-back feed from Mario Chalmers -- promised to elevate Miami. But that promise went unfulfilled. The Heat isn't producing numbers close to the sum of its celebrated parts.
Wade said they could have used a few minutes from Eddie House (DNP) after watching the Blazers' bench outscore Miami's 41-8. Mike Miller was 1-of-7 and newly arrived Mike Bibby was 2-of-4 in 21 minutes. "I'll look at everything A to Z,'' said Spoelstra.
James finished with 31 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, and Wade had 38 (12-of-13 from the foul line) with five assists. They weren't the problem, but Spoelstra wants them to help produce the solution. "We need a little bit more from everybody,'' he said. "When you're in a vortex like we are right now, everybody has to give a little bit more -- a little bit more commitment, a little bit more sacrifice, a little bit more effort, a little bit more attention to detail and a little bit more 'team' until we get over this.''
"Right now I just want to see positivity,'' said Wade. "You can't get any worse than this, other than having injuries.''
The Lakers, who want so badly to punish Miami for its Christmas Day win in Los Angeles, will want to disprove Wade's statement.