ASK IRA: Was timing of LeBron's departure perhaps of benefit?
A: Oh, don't kid yourself, anything and everything will be explored in these 48 hours before Game 4. There are issues that go beyond even this single loss. Look, Spoelstra pushed the right buttons with Rashard Lewis, and Ray Allen also has been solid off the bench. But the reality is instead of inserting Battier or hoping for more from Jones, there has to be more from LeBron. That's simply is how this team is built. When he has seven turnovers and is outplayed by Kawhi Leonard, there will be issues, no matter the rest of the rotation.

Q: Dwyane Wade has become so useless in the Finals. I guess the time off in the regular season did not help much, after all. -- Ananth.

A: I agree that his numbers have been deceiving, and some of his play has been way too loose for games this significant. The Heat's hope at this point has to be that Tuesday night got his attention. At least he got past the turnovers in the second half of Game 3. He needs to be aggressive, but also smart with his play.


June 10, 2014

Q: Ira, last year there weren't any flagrant fouls or technicals with the Heat and Spurs. Now Mario Chalmers has a flagrant, LeBron James and Tim Duncan were T'd up and Dwyane Wade and Tony Parker are flopping. I love it. -- Sid.

A: Because these teams are getting tired of one another. Like LeBron said going in, it's difficult to establish a rivalry when you're only playing twice during the regular season. But now, with 11 meetings in just over 12 months, a testiness is developing. It's not quite Heat-Pacers, but both teams recognize that a certain edge is required in what is an incredibly competitive matchup. These teams are different in style, yet remarkably close in ability. While neither team utilizes an enforcer, the Heat likely will start doing whatever it takes to keep Duncan from the rim, and the Spurs figure to do the same in trying to keep LeBron out of the lane. It takes all rivalries a while to percolate. This one has been simmering for a year, seemingly approaching a boiling point.

Q: Is Shane Battier's career officially over? I was surprised he didn't get into Sunday night's game ahead of James Jones. He still can contribute on defense and you never know when he can get hot and hit a few 3-point shots. -- Joel.

A: I'm not sure part of that wasn't to appease LeBron, who has been pushing for more of Jones. In fact, I'm not sure Udonis Haslem's token appearance wasn't Erik  Spoelstra getting him in after teammates mentioned his potential contributions. The reality is, through Rashard Lewis' length, Jones' shooting and  Battier's hustle, the Heat are trying to cobble together what they lost with the amnesty release of Mike Miller.

Q: Hi, Ira. It's better for the Heat to play without Mario Chalmers in the fourth quarter. The best lineup is  LeBron, Wade, Ray Allen, Birdman and Bosh. That should be the close-out lineup. -- Wayne. Miami

A: But without a point guard on the floor, it most likely requires LeBron to guard Tony Parker, which drains his energy. Actually, LeBron has benefited by Kawhi Leonard being such a non-factor offensively. Also, counting on Allen's offense late can be a dicey proposition, although I certainly have no issue with offense-defense substitutions. In addition, with Chris Andersen on the floor, it allows the Spurs to keep one of their big men at home in the paint. Your lineup has plenty of merits, just not for the entire fourth quarter. The reality is the Heat have to get more out of Chalmers and Cole.


June 9, 2014

Q: Ira, don't be so quick to dismiss Chris Bosh's 3-point shooting, especially in the corner. Fool you once, fool you twice, he can make a fool of you. Think the Spurs don't have newfound respect? -- Sam.

A: Look, Chris has proven he can step up and make big shots at any spot on the floor, and more than that, he is not afraid to take the next one, even when he missed the previous one. Sunday's shot was huge. But just as huge was his earlier show of force with his slam dunk, and then his hard drive to the lane that led to Wade's game-deciding layup. What I don't like is the notion that Chris should be pigeonholed into any single role. He is a versatile talent who can impact the game beyond outside shots. The versatility of his game should be explored on a nightly basis, and he should test his bounds.

Q: When are the Heat going to stop leaving 3-point shooters open? They call that defense? I call that watching. -- Ed.

A: The goal is to recover and close out on 3-point shooters, at least run them off the line, after first protecting the paint. What made the system so efficient in previous seasons was the Heat's remarkable close-out speed. Due to aging, fatigue and other factors (lack of air conditioning?), some of that speed has been lost amid these marathon seasons and postseasons. If that closeout speed isn't there, then it might be time to rethink the approach. Even in Sunday's loss, the Spurs shot 9  of 17 on 3-pointers in the second half. But the Heat also limited San Antonio to .439 shooting, so they did plenty right on that end of the court.

Q: Who is the better player today: Michael Beasley or Shane Battier? -- Arnaldo, Miami.

A: I assuming you're asking in regards to Battier being somewhat in the playoff rotation and Beasley not at all. Michael arguably is more athletic and more skilled. But the Heat are so much of a "system" team that if you're not operating in lockstep, the entire system can fail. That has been the concern with Michael, who certainly tries on the defensive end, but has not grasped the approach to the degree of Battier. All of that said, with Battier retiring, a summer back in the Heat system could yet land Beasley in the rotation next season, should he decide to re-up in free agency. As it was, Beasley was inactive and Battier did not play Sunday. While James Jones' cameo did not go particularly well, it is clear that Rashard Lewis will continue to get minutes that might otherwise have gone to Battier.