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So the Heat aren't the best defensive team in the NBA by any stretch of the imagination. But they've come a long way since the first few weeks of the season.
In their first five losses of the season, including one to the New York Knicks, the Heat gave up an average of 106.4 points per game. Early on the Heat were getting beat because they couldn't stop anyone.
Now it's a different story, where in their last five losses, they've given up an average of just 97 points per game. That might not seem like a big difference, but it shows that the Heat are starting to play defense, and when they lose, it's not solely because they can't stop teams.
Why are the Heat a better defensive team now than at the beginning of the season? Mainly because LeBron and Wade have amped up their intensity, and the rest of the team has followed.
Instead of failing to get back in transition or being lazy in passing lanes, the Heat are relentlessly pursuing perimeter shooters and at the same time, not allowing teams to score easily in the paint.
The Knicks' two wins against the Heat came mainly because Miami couldn't cool them down from beyond the arc. That was because the Heat weren't able to pressure shooters like they are now.
Chalk that up to increased chemistry, coaching adjustments or just plain conditioning, but the truth of the matter is that the Heat are a much more competent defensive team now. That's bad news for the Knicks.
I know defense doesn't win championships alone, but it's certainly important and it's encouraging to see the Heat increasing their defensive focus and intensity as the season rages on.