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How Sudden Dependence on the Long Ball Could Sink Miami Heat

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 05:  Ray Allen #34 of the Miami Heat looks on during a game against the Phoenix Suns at AmericanAirlines Arena on November 5, 2012 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJune 13, 2016

This is no time for LeBron James and the Miami Heat to panic.

Yes, Dwyane Wade's status after missing a game against the Denver Nuggets is uncertain. Yes, Mario Chalmers is day-to-day with strained triceps (per ESPN's Brian Windhorst). And yes, Miami is not off to nearly as potent a start as we expected. 

But this is still no time to panic.

It is, however, time for a change.

What type of change exactly?

A tactical one.

Currently, the Heat lead the NBA with 236 three-pointers attempted, which is an average of nearly 24 treys per game. That needs to change.

While Miami is hitting a league-best 42.9 percent of its attempts from behind the rainbow, this aggression on the perimeter is slightly disconcerting and potentially damaging.

Let's keep in mind that the Miami team of last season—the one that won the championship—averaged just over 15 attempts from downtown per game, which was the eighth-lowest in the Association.

No, the Heat did not have weapons like Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to rely on, but again, they won the championship by attacking the basket. Draining threes, however, hasn't exactly helped Miami.

The Heat lost three of their first 10 games in spite of their superior three-point shooting. Three of their seven wins during that stretch were near-losses as well, at the hands of the Denver Nuggets (twice) and the Houston Rockets.

Which has shown us—without actually losing them losing man games—that the Heat cannot just shoot their way to victory. In fact, they can actually make themselves susceptible to defeat by attempting to do that.

In the two blowout losses Miami has incurred this season to the New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies, the team shot worse than 31 percent from deep. Therefore, we can make the case that the Heat have actually shot themselves out of games as well.

When the threes are falling, everything just clicks. But the threes aren't always going to fall. There are going to be times, like against New York and Memphis, that they're not going to go down.

And what then? Are the Heat just supposed to accept living and dying by the three-ball?

Absolutely not, because strong three-point shooting doesn't guarantee a victory either.

Take Miami's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. James and company managed to knock down 42.9 percent of their three-point attempts and still lost.

You see, superior three-point shooting doesn't guarantee anything, and to be honest, neither does poor deep-ball shooting—unless you're the Heat.

What would have happened if Miami's threes didn't fall in its most recent win over Denver? What would have happened if the Heat didn't knock down 48.1 percent of their bombs?

Nothing to cheer about, that's for sure, because they were manhandled in the paint. The Nuggets outscored them 50-24 at the rim, more than doubling Miami's total. That's a problem.

I understand the Heat are embracing the concept of small ball here, but their path to the title wasn't exactly clear last season when they averaged the eighth-most points in the paint. It's not going to be any clearer now that they're averaging nearly four fewer points in that area, good enough for 22nd in the league.

So for now, the threes are falling, but for how much longer? And who's to say Miami wins if they fall? We've already seen that doesn't guarantee anything.

But varying your offensive attack does. Attacking the rim, running pick-and-rolls and even hitting some mid-range jumpers can help the cause.

Having nearly a third of your offense come from outside of 23 feet, though, won't. Not always.

Which is why the Heat need to cease this current barrage of three-point attempts.

Unless they want to find out how detrimental to a championship cause it can be when an excessive number of threes turns into an excessive number of losses.

 

 

Stats used in this article are accurate as of 11/16/12.

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