Miami Heat Are Vulnerable, but Against Who?

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Miami Heat Are Vulnerable, but Against Who?
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Heat got thoroughly run by the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night, 107-100, not long after getting smacked by the Grizzlies. This is fueling a new narrative, out in NBA media land: The Heat are vulnerable to teams with size. 

While I agree with this somewhat, I believe Miami's problems to be mainly perimeter-based. Against the Clippers, they gave up 10 threes out of 21 attempts. Against the Grizzlies, Miami gave up 14 threes on 24 attempts, with an astounding seven triples going to Wayne Ellington, of all people. Earlier in the season, in a blowout loss to the Knicks, the Heat gave up 19 of 36 threes. 

The problems lie far from the hoop, far from where the largest players reside. They're blowing rotations, communicating poorly, and reacting sluggishly. The Heat are most vulnerable to a team with crisp ball movement and sharp shooting. Size is a plus, but Miami's biggest concerns should be three-point shooting teams like New York and San Antonio. I would include Memphis, though they are not a long-range squad. It's just that the Grizzlies seem to play Miami well on account of having a bevy of fantastic wing defenders. 

Ray Allen, for all his offensive punch, is killing Miami on defense. Jamal Crawford dribbled past Allen's dignity, again and again, as the Hall of Famer flailed helplessly. 

Ray has become a sore spot for the Heat. In theory, he's the addition that should make them unguardable—unassailable to the rest of the league. So far, in practice, he's just made their defense porous. Erik Spoelstra might have an awkward decision on his hands if this continues. 

Miami's other big problem is their secondary superstar. Dwyane Wade is not healthy and probably should not have played against the Clippers. 

 

You know the old saying about how there's a thin line between genius and madness? I'm reminded of it whenever I see a gimpy D-Wade, chucking horrid shots off the backboard and finishing with six points on 2-of-10 shooting for the night. When healthy, Wade pours in creative, contorted shots. But, if he's not right, those attempts appear out of rhythm and destructive to his team's collective offense.

Worse yet, gimpy Dwyane Wade is a horrid defender (most especially so on Wednesday night). He's never been the most fundamentally sound defensive player, often relying on athleticism and a preternatural shot-blocking instinct. Once slowed, it can get ugly. 

Do the Heat lack size? Yes, especially when it comes to their bench. But they can compensate for this deficiency with an athletic, smothering perimeter defense. Last season, Miami gave up the fifth highest three-point percentage in the league (via Basketball-Reference.com). In the playoffs, they clamped down, only allowing a meager .300 three point percentage en route to a title. 

So, there's still time to fix this and regular-season trends might seem more important than they really are. Still, Miami is going to be quite vulnerable if they enter the playoffs with this particular version of Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade. 

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