The Miami Heat are now all but unbeatable thanks to Erik Spoelstra.
Sure, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade led the charge in the Heat's opening win over the Boston Celtics, but the rotation Spoelstra set worked absolute wonders—to the point where Miami is officially idiot-proofed.
It was only last season that the Heat's ability and, more specifically, LeBron's ability to close out games was being questioned.
Regardless of how dominant Miami truly was, the 17 of 46 wins that came by 10 or less points was eye-catching.
Shouldn't the Heat have been winning by more? Shouldn't the game be deemed a no contest by the start of the fourth quarter?
Optimally, yes. Realistically, though? No.
There are always going to be teams that hang around and remain within striking distance heading down the stretch. And for the teams that shouldn't but do, even Miami is bound to have an off night on occasion.
But the newly re-tooled Heat and the ever underrated Spoelstra have ensured such instances are minimized. They've taken great strides toward ensuring even the capable teams won't be able to make a viable fourth quarter push.
By using versatility as the team's primary substance.
Miami is one of the most versatile teams in the league. Just look at their roster. Just look at their starting lineup.
Four of the five Heat starters—Shane Battier, Chris Bosh, James and Wade—can both play and defend multiple positions. Then they have Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, two of the most versatile scorers in the game, coming off the bench.
And that's whose hands–along with Mario Chalmers'—Spoelstra put the game in.
There was no excessive tinkering with the likes of Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller or even Norris Cole. Miami's head coach went with what worked, with what would put the most points on the board—he went with the most potent offensive attack.
This offensive attack put 93 points on the board by the end of the third quarter. The same offensive attack took a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter. The same offensive attack the Heat did not have the luxury of employing last year.
Because as important as defense is for Miami, it's going to come down to offense.
The Heat are always going to be a strong defensive team. It comes with the territory for James, Wade and Battier.
Their problem has always been lacking an added offensive punch off the bench, the spark that Bosh, James and Wade cannot provide.
That brings us to Allen and Lewis, athletes who aren't known for their defense, but can put points on the board in a hurry—which they both did in their regular season debuts.
Allen dropped 19 points in just over 30 minutes while Lewis added 10 more in just under 19. Their presence—as well as Spoelstra's willingness to capitalize on it—is the difference.
By playing Allen and Lewis for a nearly combined 50 minutes per game, the Heat have two additional players who can carry Miami's offensive burden when one or more of the original Big Three are off.
Throw them alongside Bosh, James and Wade, and you have one of, if not the most, dangerous offensive sets in the league. They take the clutch and what-if factors out of the equation.
Do we believe for a minute the Celtics would have clawed their way back to within four had James not not been forced out of the game with leg cramps?
No, because the game was well out of reach, even without James.
The added offensive potency the Heat now boast allows them to close the game out before crunch time, before the fourth quarter even tips off.
As they embark on a quest to win their second-straight NBA title, to work their way toward building a dynasty, this will prove instrumental. It allows them to shed the potential label of choke artist and assert their dominance even further.
This isn't the same Heat team we watched last season. They're one offseason deeper and one championship wiser.
Spoelstra and company know what it's going to take to retain the throne. They know the road to another championship leads through versatility and potency on the offensive end.
And most importantly, they know silencing the critics early by halting their opponents even earlier is the quickest way to get there.
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