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Plenty of criticism directed at Heat coach Spoelstra

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra reacts as

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra reacts as he watches his team play against the Chicago Bulls during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago. (March 14, 2012) Credit: AP

MIAMI -- The heat is on Miami coach Erik Spoelstra.

A day after his team failed to complete a sweep of the Knicks in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Spoelstra returned home to find he was the big topic in the South Florida newspapers and on sports talk radio.

Many a local, and even a few national, basketball pundits blamed Spoelstra's coaching for the Heat's inability to put the Knicks away at the end of Game 4 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. In the Sun Sentinel alone, there was a column, a story and a Q&A with longtime beat writer Ira Winderman, all addressing Spoelstra's moves, both offensively and defensively, at the end of the game.

What did Spoelstra and the Heat think about all the second-guessing the morning after? It's hard to say. The Heat originally had a media session scheduled at AmericanAirlines Arena but canceled it by midmorning.

The two moves that seemed to bother everyone the most involved the use, or some would say misuse, of LeBron James.

On defense, Spoelstra decided to keep Shane Battier on Carmelo Anthony while James guarded Tyson Chandler. Given that Battier had done a decent job on Anthony in the first three games of the series, there certainly was some good reasoning behind the move. Still, many contend that as Anthony continued to make tough shot after tough shot over Battier, Spoelstra should have made an adjustment down the stretch.

On offense, Spoelstra was second-guessed for what he did on the final play with the Heat trailing by two points with 14.8 seconds left. Spoelstra decided to put the ball in Dwyane Wade's hands and run a pick-and-roll with Chris Bosh. Considering that Wade already had scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and has made plenty of game-winners in the course of his career, it wasn't a terrible decision. Yet to leave James, the best player on the floor, standing still in the left corner . . .

The play broke down when Wade, who was tightly defended by Amar'e Stoudemire on a switch, almost lost control of the ball and had to dribble outside the three-point line to fire up an off-balance shot that missed.

After the game, James said he agreed with the play-calling but would not have minded taking the potential tying shot.

"For me, personally, I would love to have the ball," James said. "But as a team, we win games together and we lose games together."

Right now, the blame for the loss seems to be falling squarely on Spoelstra's shoulders. It isn't the first time. After Dallas beat the Heat in six games in last year's NBA Finals, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban basically declared that his team had outcoached the Heat, adding that the Mavericks knew they were going to win the Finals when his coaching staff noticed the Heat wasn't making adjustments in the series.

Spoelstra won't have to make too many adjustments to get by the injury-decimated Knicks in Game 5 in Miami on Wednesday. You can bet, however, that all eyes will be on the ones he does make.


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