The Miami Heat are a horrible rebounding team.
Like really horrible.
Like the Boston-Celtics-could-out-rebound-them horrible.
On a Heat team devoid of a conventional big man, rebounding was bound to be an issue. Last season Miami finished 22nd in the NBA with 41.6 boards a night.
And yet, not much attention was paid to the Heat's transgressions on the glass because they hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy in June. Clearly, this team didn't need to rebound at a high level to win titles.
Or so we thought.
While Miami was a poor glass-crashing team last season, it's a repulsively inept one this year. To date, the Heat snag just 39 boards a game, the second-worst mark in the league behind the (you guessed it) Celtics.
Reigning champions or not, Miami cannot afford to remain a rebounding cellar dweller. It has out-rebounded its opponents just 10 times on the season and is no stranger to grabbing fewer than 30 boards in any given game.
The Heat have also been out-rebounded by 15 or more six times this season.
Some are still inclined to overlook this atrocious rebounding standard in favor of those glistening rings the Heat now don, but is that fair?
Better yet, is it practical?
Not only are the Heat second-to-last in boards per game, but they're dead last in offensive rebounds (eight) a night as well.
Knowing this team, this championship contender, is grabbing fewer boards—in any capacity—than a team that recently toiled with implosion is beyond bothersome. Hell, knowing this team captures fewer rebounds than bottom-feeders like the Cleveland Cavaliers (41.8), Washington Wizards (43.6), Charlotte Bobcats (42) and Toronto Raptors (39.6) is infuriating.
It's also a problem, one that Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald notes must reach a resolution:
The Heat can talk over and over, in many different ways, about needing to fix its rebounding problem.
But identifying the problem and solving it are two very different things.
And solving it remains elusive, especially against teams with above-average size and skill at the power positions.
This folly remained ever present in Miami's latest loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Against Indiana, the Heat were out-maneuvered on the glass by 19 rebounds (55-36). The Heat shot a better percentage from the field (41.2) than the Pacers (36.3) and blocked eight more shot attempts than Indiana, but they still lost.
That edge in shot-blocking and efficiency from the field meant next to nothing. Miami still lost by 10.
What did matter was the Heat were manhandled on the glass. They allowed the Pacers to snatch 22 offensive rebounds to their seven and subsequently (per Jackson) watched as Indiana countered Miami's six second-chance points with 23 of its own.
That can't happen. Yet it did.
Sadly, such displays have become a common theme with regard to South Beach's finest. The Heat are allowing opponents to grab 11.8 offensive rebounds a night, tying them for the seventh-worst mark in the league with the Detroit Pistons.
In case you still plan on saying "the Heat will be fine," consider this: Of the seven other teams that allow 11.8 offensive rebounds or more, just two of them (Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks) are playoff teams, and neither one of them is poised to snag anything higher than a seventh seed.
Well, it gets worse.
LeBron James leads the Heat in boards per game with 8.3, leaving Miami as one of only 10 teams that don't have a player grabbing 8.5 rebounds. And of those 10 teams, just four are on pace for a playoff berth.
Let's not try to fool ourselves into believing the Heat won't contend for a championship—they will. But deficient rebounding does have the potential to be the difference between obtaining that title and going home empty-handed.
This past year, when the Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder to win the championship, they out-rebounded Kevin Durant and company 201-190 for the series.
Miami sent Oklahoma City home in five short games.
The Heat need to regain that sense of purpose on the boards, which, at the very least, will allow them to keep pace with the mediocre-rebounding teams. Being undersized simply isn't a viable excuse.
Will the Miami Heat repeat as NBA champions if they don't resolve their rebounding woes?
Not when you have James, not when this team was assembled by choice and most certainly not when they proved only last season they can do better.
"It’s got to stop," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said after his team lost to Indiana. "At some point we’ll get pushed to the brink."