Miami Heat Won't Lock Up a Second Title Until Spoelstra Fixes Road Woes
The defending champion Miami Heat bolstered their talent-saturated roster over the offseason with sure-fire Hall of Famer (and league leader in career three-point makes) Ray Allen and former All-Star Rashard Lewis.
On paper this wasn't just the rich getting richer; it was more like a slap in the face to the supposed parity created in the league's last collective bargaining agreement.
I mean with this type of talent assembled, why even play out the regular season, right?
The overused sports cliche, "we all know that games aren't played on paper" is often the best explanation for why a heavily favored team stumbles into a loss against the lowliest of underdogs.
In reality, that cliche is simply the easiest way to communicate that the loss was so unlikely and so unpredictable, that analysts and fans alike cannot explain why it happened.
But this cliche isn't the reason behind the growing doubt that Miami has what it takes to waltz toward a successful title defense.
The real reason is a statistically-based dent in the Heat's armor.
If the regular and post seasons were played soley inside of the friendly confines of American Airlines Arena, then there may be justification in fast-forwarding the 2012-13 season.
After all, coach Erik Spoelstra's team hasn't simply protected their home floor, they have dominated on it.
Miami is one of just six teams with an unblemished home record (4-0). Despite hosting playoff hopefuls Denver, Boston and Brooklyn, the Heat have lambasted visitors to the tune of a plus-71 scoring differential (17.8 points per game).
Last season, Miami tied San Antonio for the league's best regular season home record (28-5). During their championship chase, the Heat won 11 of their 13 home games.
The Heat have encountered their share of turbulence, however.
In 2012-13 thus far, Miami is just 2-2 away from home and Spoelstra's team has been outscored by 29 points in those four games.
The league's highest scoring offense (105.5 points per game) has averaged 116.5 points per game at home, but just 94.5 on the road. Considering this team is 5-0 when scoring at least 100 points—and 3-2 when they do not—that scoring drop-off becomes much more noteworthy.
Miami's road shooting woes...
Perhaps the biggest reason for this drop-off has been the team's inability to make shots on the road.
The Heat have connected on 53.2 percent of their home field-goals and 47.3 percent of their home three-point attempts. On the road, though, those percentages plummet to just 46 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from the perimeter.
Wade's scoring drops from 21.8 points per game in Miami to just 14.0 on the road and his field-goal percentage falls right along with it (54.8 to 41.9).
Allen, meanwhile, has looked the final member of Miami's big four at home, with 16.5 points on 61.8 percent shooting. On the road, though, his 8.8 points on 41.9 percent shooting would suggest he's a complementary piece at best.
Miami's road struggles are not unique to this season, either.
Their 18-15 road record in 2011-12 was not season derailing, but it also wasn't what other NBA elites accomplished on the road. Oklahoma City (21-12), San Antonio (22-11) and Chicago (24-9) all finished with higher win percentages on the road.
By the time the 2011 playoffs rolled around, the Heat's road woes not only lingered, but actually worsened.
Road losses in Indiana, Boston and Oklahoma City had Miami playing catchup in each of their final three series.
Until further notice, this is still the league's best team and they have widened the talent gap over most teams.
But unless Spoelstra can find ways to make sure his efficient offense boards the team plane, their repeat chances will remain up in the air.
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