PACE : #21 92.9
OFFENSE: #3 109.2
DEFENSE: #5 100.7
The Miami Heat didn’t beat the Bulls 72-wins record for most wins during the regular season, not even close! However they showed some glimpses of dominance that made them the clear favorites to win the NBA title…but the rest of the story we already know…
Miami struggled early on the season as they started only 9-8! The lack of team chemistry was evident but they were still able to win 23 of their next 25 games with their two losses being against…Dallas! Then Lebron James got injured and the Heat lost 5 of 6 games and they had another 5-game losing streak in late February against 5 playoff teams. The final outcome was a 58-24 record with an evident interesting trend:
Miami was superb in spanking the lower class teams by going a league best 37-5 vs. below 0.500 teams & 35 wins were by 10 or more points! They finished the regular season with the best average margin of victory ratio with +7.37.
However, the Heat struggled against the best teams in the league by going 21-19 vs. above 0.500 teams. They also had a bad record in close games: 2-8 in games decided by 3 or less points!
Since the first day of its inception that the Heat’s lack of a true/good center was a big question mark for their success and I do remember some of usual arguments: Chris Bosh was soft; they couldn’t hang on with Howard’s Magic, the Celtics frontcourt or the Lakers big men; Udonis Haslem got injured for a long time; Big Z was old…etc etc.
Truth must be told, all these arguments didn’t make sense because the Miami Heat was a great interior defensive team despite not having a true interior defensive specialist (OK, I'll give some props to Joel Anthony), here are some facts:
Rank #4 Defensive Rebounding% Team with 74.8%
Rank #6 Points in the paint allowed per game with 38.6 ppg;
Rank #1 FG% allowed at the rim with 58% FG (only team below the 60% mark);
So regardless who their center will be for this upcoming season, we can be sure that Spoelstra’s system will make sure that the Heat will be one of the toughest teams to score against near the basket!
Offensively, Miami punished their opponents on the open floor with some spectacular plays and they developed some curious patterns:
They were #27 and #28 in the league in shots attempted at the rim & 3-9 feet ( 20.5 and 9.1 FGA’s respectively), but they were #3 and #1 in converting from those areas with 67.5% & 45% from the field! Quality shots near the basket were a virtue for the Heat – not a surprise at all because LeBron James & Dwayne Wade are two of the best finishers in the game.
Only the Atlanta Hawks attempted more “long two’s” shots than the Heat – often considered the worst possible shot in the game. Almost 30% of the Heat shots (29.3%) were taken from the 16-23 feet range, but they were still #3 in converting them with 42.8% FG.
Miami was expected to be an offensive force and they didn’t disappoint anyone with their efficiency, although late in the games their lack of creativity was evident as the Heat simply used ISO plays for LeBron and Wade.
Already in Playoffs, the Heat destroyed their opponents on their way to the NBA Finals with a robust 12-3 record. Dwayne Wade was the MVP against the 76ers and Lebron James dominated the Celtics and the Bulls. James’ apparently lack of “clutch factor” was a non sense theory and I only need to highlight the Play-by-Play summary of the game 5 against the Celtics in the last 2 minutes:
2:10 87-90 LeBron James makes 25-foot three point jumper
0:40 87-93 LeBron James makes 26-foot three point jumper
0:34 87-95 LeBron James makes two point shot
0:06 87-97 LeBron James makes 6-foot two point shot
0:00 87-97 End of the 4th Quarter
LeBron James was not only the best offensive player on the floor, but he also was the man in charge to defend the opponent’s best player in Paul Pierce and Derrick Rose down the stretch!
Then the NBA finals happened and the Heat was constantly outplayed in the crunch time by the Mavericks. While Dirk Nowitzki took charge for the Mavericks, LeBron James was missed on action for the Heat and the Mavericks won three straight games to win it all.
Going forward for this season, the Heat is in my opinion the strongest NBA team and they deserve to be the early favorites to win the NBA title.
Note that the Heat won’t have early team chemistry problems! If the “Beattles” were formed this season, they would be in a big problem with a short training camp and a shortened schedule, as Miami’s process to learn on the fly wouldn’t be easy to assemble.
Udonis Haslem is healthy and his versatility will be a major upgrade for the team in both ends of the floor. The addition of Battier via free agency will turn the Heat into an even more versatile team. Because Wade and James are Point Forwards with great ball handling skills and court vision, the Heat has the ability to have multiple lineups for every circumstance or opponent. A Lineup of Wade-James-Battier-Haslem-Bosh won’t be a problem in terms of size and interior presence because the Heat can double the opposing big man and rotate fast to cover the perimeter – that’s the luxury of having Wade, James and Battier in the same team! Spoeltra’s job is to implement the right chemistry…
LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are in the top 5 of best players of the league and they can really play together, so Miami will be on the hunt for their ultimately goal: win a championship.