When you're the reigning NBA champions, you can only expect to find yourself under the magnifying glass known as the national media. Such is life for the Miami Heat, who have spent the first nine games of the 2012-13 NBA season scoring at a world-class pace.
If the Heat plan on repeating as NBA champions, however, they'll need to discover new life on the defensive end of the floor.
Through their first nine games, the Heat rank 28th in the league by allowing 101.0 points per game. This comes one year removed from their allowing an average of 92.5 points and ranking fourth in the NBA.
Such success came by virtue of their smothering opponents into an average of 16.8 turnovers per game. Thus far in 2012-13, they're only forcing their opponents into 14.9.
This is just one of the many instances in which the Heat's defense has let them down. While their top-tier talent suggests that we will see a change in pace, the team has been progressively decreasing in terms of defensive production.
Although early in the season, such developing defensive weakness calls for a severe change in approach. If they fail to do so, their attempt at repeating as NBA champions will come up short.
So what's at the source of the issue?
Can the Miami Heat repeat as champions playing at this level on defense?
Not the Only High-Powered Offense
Upon the addition of former All-Star sharpshooters Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, however, they've reached a new level of greatness.
No matter how dominant the Heat have become, there is one important factor that we cannot discount. That, of course, is the fact that there are countless offenses around the league which rival that of the Heat.
Some may even surpass their production on a nightly basis.
Such has been on full display as the Heat dropped games to the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies. They've also escaped against the Denver Nuggets, which displays how many teams are at or surpassing the Heat's offensive production.
Unless they step up defensively, Miami will learn how difficult it can be to win games via a nightly shootout.
100 an Expectation, Not a Guarantee
The Miami Heat are expected to score 100 points virtually every time out. With the offensive firepower they possess, there is great reason to believe that they will reach that level of expectation.
Just don't assume that they're guaranteed to do so.
This is an especially important fact considering the Heat have allowed their opponent to score at least 100 points in six of their first nine games. In said showdowns, the Heat are just 3-3.
During those three losses, the Heat have allowed an average of 105.0 points per game. They've averaged a mere 90.0 points of their own, which displays the truth that fans may not be willing to accept.
The Heat may be elite, but they are containable on offense. If they do not step it up defensively, they'll learn what Mike D'Antoni can attest to.
Without consistency on D, scoring points means nothing.
No Longer "Untouchable"
During the 2011-12 NBA season, the Miami Heat ranked fourth in the NBA by allowing 92.5 points per game. Through nine games, they're allowing an average of 101.0.
As for why this is happening, don't look for a reason in the box score. Even if they did let up to the Denver Nuggets during a 119-116 victory on November 3rd.
Instead, look at the intangible factor of fear. One which teams no longer possess when playing the Heat.
During their first two years together, Miami built a reputation as a virtual untouchable. Teams who play them are constantly looking to play up to the level of their elite opponent, all the while abandoning confidence when things go awry.
In victory and defeat, however, the Heat are learning a scary truth. The NBA is no longer in awe of their talents. Teams appear to believe they're on the Heat's level, not hoping to play up to it.
Without a greater focus on defense, the Heat will learn just how dangerous it can be to have a target on your back and no fear to inspire it. As a result, they will be forced into a battle of strategy, ability and will.
Although their roster suggests victory, we now know that this team is officially vulnerable.