10 Keys for Miami Heat Heading into the Playoffs
The Heat are good, but not as good as they could be. Although they are a much improved team from last year, they have still yet to reach their potential.
Each team has a list of things they could do better and Miami is no different. They can be extremely sloppy with the ball and in the playoffs, every possessions counts.
Some teams list are longer than others, but here are 10 keys for the Miami Heat heading into the playoffs. They keep these things in mind and I wouldn't be too surprised to see them hoisting that trophy in June.
Figure out the Rotation
At this point in the season, the Heat should already have a solidified rotation, but they don't. In their defense, they have dealt with inconsistent play from many of their role players this year including the rookie Norris Cole and veteran Shane Battier. Both have proved to be quite productive at times, especially Battier as of late, but on the other end of things in Norris Cole who now finds himself in the dog house and playing garbage minutes after looking like the steal of the draft earlier in the season.
The point is it's time for Spoelstra and his coaching staff must choose the guys they are going to go with and ride it out for the good or the bad. Although these guys are professional athletes and get paid to be ready to play at any time, it's still a tough thing to do. To not know when or if you will play each game is something hard to cope with and not a distraction needed come playoff time.
It's true that the Heat have also dealt with injuries here and there and of course the acquisition of Ronny Turiaf, but the sooner they figure out a permanent rotation, the better. The team's mental toughness will benefit accordingly.
Just recently Dwyane Wade rested his ankle in a game against the Pistons on Sunday night. A game that the Heat easily won and probably assumed they would heading into the game. I guarantee you that if it was June, Wade would have played in the game, but we are getting down to the nitty gritty. Those nagging injuries need to be dealt with now instead of being carried into the playoffs.
Whether it be a stomach ache, a minor ankle injury or a headache, the Heat have got to go into the playoffs as healthy as possible. Each member of the big three sitting out a game or two from here on out is not a bad idea whatsoever. Often times, come playoff time, it's come down to who's healthier, rather than who's the better team. The Heat should keep that in mind when they are up by 15 and decide to put Lebron back in with two minutes left.
Deem Dwyane Wade the Closer
No extra distractions are needed for the Heat come playoff time. We already know the media has a field day with "analyzing" Miami and the last thing the players need to see on SportsCenter in May is the same old talk about who the closer is.
It's no secret that Lebron James is arguably the most dominant player in the game and despite the popular belief, James actually does pretty well in the fourth quarter more times than not. However, even if he made five game-winning shots in a row and missed the sixth, once again he'd be called Lechoke or Lebum. I know he's a superstar, but don't even put that on his shoulders anymore. Let him worry about more important things down the stretch like rebounding and defending.
Whether Spoelstra, James or Wade himself have to say it, the public must know that Wade is the closer before the playoffs begin. Meaning, the ball will be in his hands when the Heat need a bucket. That doesn't necessarily mean that he will take the shot, but the decision making will be on his shoulders. If he wants to give it to a slashing Lebron James then so be it, just put the ball in Wade's hands when the clock is running down.
Results may vary.
Get Bosh Rolling
Bosh is the key to the Heat's championship run, there's no doubt about it. What separates the Heat from other contenders such as the Bulls in the East or the Thunder out West is their All-Star big man, something neither the Bulls or Thunder have.
When Bosh wins his match-up with the opposing four man, the Heat are very hard to beat. The thing is, he seems to disappear from time to time. That being said, it's up to the Heat,and in particular Lebron and Wade, to get him the ball and get him his early touches. When Bosh finds his rhythm, he is very hard to stop. Just take a look at Bosh's body of work in Toronto and you will see just how much of a force he can be inside. We haven't really seen that side of Bosh in Miami. We've seen the 15-18 foot jump shooting Bosh that will bang inside only when he has to.
From here on out, the Heat have got to get Bosh early touches and have him really rolling come playoff time. The big three have a much better chance of winning it all than the talented two. Bosh is the most important piece on the Heat's roster, he's got to start playing like it. Not for one or two games, but consistently.
Remain the Best Defensive Team in the League
Defense wins championships—we've all heard the saying—and thus far the Heat have looked like the best defensive team in the league. From time to time they fall off, but at the end of the day their two superstar perimeter players are two of the best defenders in the league. That in itself gives Miami a very good chance at winning it all.
The Heat can't let their defense fall off now. They've got to keep up the defensive intensity and let teams know that there will be no easy buckets scored against them. Defense may not be glorified as much as dunks or three-point plays, but it's the most important aspect of the game. Miami has realized that and can't let it slip their mind at any point for the rest of the season or post-season.
Win the Games They Should
Don't give teams hope that they can beat you. The Heat are constantly in the NBA's spotlight so when they lose to a team that has no business being on the same court as them and expose their flaws other teams see that and formulate ways to further abuse them.
If the Heat want to get that first seed, there is no time for being tired or lazy. They need to treat every game like it's a playoff game. If Spoelstra doesn't want to rest the big three, make him by going up by thirty before the fourth quarter even comes.
Many good NBA teams throughout the history of the NBA tend to play at the level of their opponent, but it is the great teams that go out and demolish any team that dare step on the same court as them. The Heat with this mentality is a scary thought, they've just got to obtain it.
Get the Big Three Some Rest
Despite the popular belief, the big three are not superheroes, they are not machines, they need rest, too. Erik Spoelstra has come out and said there will be no rest for his superstars coming anytime soon, let's see how long he stays with that. Why would you want your best players coming into the playoffs tired and worn out? It doesn't make sense.
If Spoelstra does refuse to give in, the second the Heat are out of contention for the No. 1 seed, get Wade, Lebron, and Bosh some rest. Sit all three if you have to, test the depths of your team. If he doesn't, he will regret it when he sees his players worn out and battered. If you happen to read this Spoelstra (which I doubt you will), just trust me, I would never steer you wrong.
Obtain the Number One Seed
Now I know I'm contradicting myself a little bit here. Rest the big 3 but obtain the number one seed, is that possible? Well, the answer is yes and the bottom line is the Heat don't want to see the Knicks first round. New York has too much firepower, too many weapons, and a defensive force inside with Tyson Chandler, a guy who played a big part in the finals against the Heat just last season.
The Heat could rest Lebron and Wade alternatively and work something out with Bosh. They've made it clear this season that they are better than most teams in the NBA with just two of its superstars on the floor. The Heat have got to do everything in their power to obtain not only the number one seed, but also the best record in the league. Homecourt advantage will be very important come playoff time. Let's be honest, if the Heat meet the Thunder in the finals they don't want to spend one more day in OKC than they have to and they much rather see the Bulls struggle against the loaded Knicks in the first round while they take down the 76ers once again.
At the end of the day it's more important that the Heat obtain the number one seed than rest their guys because rest or no rest, the Knicks in the first round will be prove to be a tough out and the way the have been playing lately has them looking like they are going to stay in that seven slot.
Utilize James Jones
James Jones is the only player on the Heat that can consistently stretch opposing defenses. The Heat have tried to transform Battier into a shooter, due to his ability on the defensive end, but he is no James Jones, despite his hot streaks.
Just Sunday Jones knocked down six three's on his way to 18 points in Wade's absence. Clearly he can still get the job done whenever called upon. He was far from a liability on the defensive end, then again they were playing the Pistons.
In all seriousness, Spoelstra has got to find some minutes for Jones. He will make things much easier for the big 3 on the offensive end, no doubt about it, and with his long and lanky frame, he is hard to close out on. Even if you have to move Bosh to the 5, James to the 4 and slide Jones in there at the 3 alongside Wade and Chalmers or Battier, that could be a very productive and hard to guard line-up. Just something to think about moving forward, every team needs a designated shooter. You don't see the Bulls hesitant to put Kyle Korver out there on the floor.
Rebounding has been the biggest problem for the Heat thus far. Their lack of size has been taken advantage of time and time again this season. However, at the end of the day, rebounding is about heart and how bad you want it. Many of the best rebounders in the game have been undersized, i.e Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman.
The Heat have got to want it. They have got to realize that rebounding will likely be the death of them if they don't fix it right here, right now. There's no reason Haslem should ever come in and grab more rebounds than Bosh, who plays a significant amount of more minutes. Coming into the season Bosh came in hungrier than ever and looking much bigger, ready to bang inside with the bigs. But we have yet to see that side of Bosh. Even if his shot isn't falling, there's no reason he shouldn't be rebounding.
However, you can't put the whole blame on Bosh. Effective rebounding must be executed as a team, not by one person. All five Heat players on the court for the Heat must be focused on boxing out and closing out defensive possessions with boards. This is the most important thing the Heat can focus on as we near the post season. There's no doubt Miami is talented, but it will the little things, like rebounding, that hurt teams most in the playoffs.