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Hard to imagine Heat would have this hard a time

by | Special to CBSSports.com

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Another loss. Another disappointment.

It wasn't supposed to be this hard.

When LeBron James and Chris Bosh signed with the Miami Heat this summer joining Dwyane Wade, the Super Friends knew it would be a tough transition.

But this tough?

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No one could have expected this.

The Heat lost their third consecutive game, 104-95, to the Magic on Wednesday, dropping their record to 8-7 on the season.

"We're going through a tough time right now," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "There's no question about it."

So how much time do the Heat have to go through this process that is seemingly harder than expected?

"Well, in the Eastern Conference you have a lot longer than if you [were] in the West, I can tell you that," LeBron said. "You have teams that hover around .500 and still make the playoffs. That's not saying that's what we want to do and we want to continue to play as a .500 team, but we have some time."

In reality, James is right. The East is led by the Celtics (11-4) and the Magic (10-4). Whereas in the West, the Spurs (13-1), Lakers (13-2), and Hornets (11-3) lead a very tough conference. Not to mention the Jazz (11-5), Mavericks (10-4), and Thunder (10-5).

However, the Heat have no business hovering around the .500 mark. Sure, it is only 15 games into the season, but eventually it has to turn around.

Doesn't it?

"It will turnaround, that much I know for sure," Spoelstra said.

Wade also feels the team has brighter days ahead.

"We will have a lot of wins when it is all said and done," Wade said.

Regardless of what other teams are doing in the Eastern Conference, this Heat squad was expected to be an exciting group to watch with high-flying dunks, impressive one-on-one moves, and precision passing that pleased all. Not to mention, a stingy defense that would be tough to score against on a consistent basis.

It could still happen. It just has to work. Doesn't it? But how long is long enough to make an accurate assessment of the Heat? When key reserves Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem return, there will be a better idea of what this team is all about.

But right now, finding the answers to the Heat's problems are hard to pinpoint, even for the players.

"If we had the answer right now we wouldn't be sitting hovering around .500," James said.

Following disappointing losses to the Grizzlies and Pacers, James said the team, and himself, needed to have more fun. But this is not fun. Not at all.

Well, for the rest of the 29 teams in the NBA, this is plenty of fun. But for the Super Friends? Not at all. The Heat are not living up to their expectations or the expectations of others. The expectations were not too high. Well, winning 70 games in the first season appeared to be way too high, but big expectations are something this team wants.

"We should have high expectations," James said. "We have enough talent, we have enough guys that have been through playoff series, been to the Finals, and won rings. So the expectations should be high. It's a little bit slower than we all thought of this process."

On the court, James continues to be used as the team's primary ball handler as he's sliding into being mostly a point guard. He scored 25 points and had four assists against the Magic -- the lowest since he had three in the season opener. He has posted 12 consecutive 20-point games, but only twice has gone over 30. He has been solid, but has lacked a true dominant performance to carry the team to a win that everyone has grown accustomed to seeing with the two-time MVP.

Wade, fresh off a 1-for-13 performance against the Pacers, went 6 for 21 from the floor for 18 points Wednesday night. In his past three games, Wade has been abysmal, averaging 10.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists while shooting 23.4 percent (11 of 47) from the floor.

"He always bounces back," Spoelstra said. "He always finds a way. I'm glad now after a stretch like this knowing Dwyane for this long that you have him on your side because of his ability to bounce back from these tough times."

Wade has no choice but to bounce back. The team needs him to be a primary scorer, especially with James taking on the point guard role.

Meanwhile, Bosh has been playing very well after a slow start. In the past five games, Bosh is averaging 23.8 points and 9.4 rebounds. What might be the most impressive is how efficient he has been shooting at a 56.9 percent clip during the stretch.

The Heat's next five games consist of a home game against the Sixers on Friday followed by a road game at Dallas on Saturday. Then the Heat follow with games against the Wizards, Pistons and at the Cavaliers.

"It will get better for us," Spoelstra said. "It's never as bad as it seems in this league and it can change in a hurry. Our focus will be on Friday night against the Sixers and that could be the start of something good for us."

Spoelstra's right. It could be. But it could also be another disappointment.


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