Which Opponents Are the Miami Heat Most Likely to Struggle with This Season?

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Which Opponents Are the Miami Heat Most Likely to Struggle with This Season?
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

The Miami Heat are back-to-back NBA champions and favorites to win it all again this year. But make no mistake: This team is not invincible.

Like every team, the Heat have holes. And unfortunately for Miami, a few teams right in their own conference have the potential to take advantage of those issues.

Let's take a look at those teams and how each will give the Heat problems.

 

Indiana Pacers

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Roy Hibbert dominated Miami in the 2013 playoffs.

No shocker here. The Pacers are a matchup nightmare for Miami, as we clearly saw in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals.

Miami's biggest weakness is its size, and that's the Pacers' biggest advantage. Not only can the Pacers dominate the Heat on the glass (Indiana averaged the most rebounds per game last season, while Miami averaged the fewest), they can also obliterate them down low offensively.

Miami had no answer for Roy Hibbert in the 2013 postseason. A career 11.2-points-per-game player, Hibbert averaged 22.1 points in the seven-game series against the Heat.

Also, Indiana is one of the few teams in the league that can slow down Miami's offense. The Heat's O is built on spreading the floor and knocking down outside shots. The Pacers were the best team in the league at forcing three-point misses last season (32.7%) and rank sixth to start this year (31.8%).

The Heat averaged fewer points (90.3 PPG) against Indiana than they did against any other team in the league.

The Heat are known for playing with a great deal of defensive intensity. The Pacers, the stingiest defense in the league a season ago (99.8 points allowed per 100 possessions), can absolutely match it.

Indiana is the one team Miami doesn't want to see in the postseason again.

 

Chicago Bulls

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images
Carlos Boozer can give the Heat problems.

Yes, the Heat handled the Bulls with ease, 107-95, in the 2013-14 season opener. And yes, Chicago is 1-3 on the young season. Still, though, this team should worry Miami.

The Bulls have a recipe for success that's similar to Indiana's. They can kill Miami when it comes to rebounding the ball. The Bulls averaged the eighth-most rebounds last year and even out-rebounded the Heat by 20 in a victory. 

While Carlos Boozer isn't the player he was a couple of years ago, he has taken advantage of the Heat's post defense over the years, including a 31-point performance on this season's opening night.

The Bulls also play an aggressive style of defense that frustrates Miami. The Heat were the league's second-most efficient team from outside last year at 39.6 percent but barely topped 30 percent from outside in their four contests against the Bulls. 

Lastly, the Bulls have a top-five player in the league in Derrick Rose, who is capable of taking over any game. Having an offensive weapon like that on top of fantastic rebounding and defensive skills makes Chicago a very dangerous team.

 

Brooklyn Nets

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
The Nets have more than just their star players...

Yep, you guessed: The Nets have a low-post presence that gives the Heat problems. (We're looking at you, Brook Lopez.) 

But the reason the Heat should worry about the Nets is less about size and more about the fact that the Nets simply have a lot depth. 

Brooklyn doesn't just trot out five former All-Stars in its starting lineup; it also has solid guys like Andrei Kirilenko, Andray Blatche and Jason Terry coming off the bench. It's tough for the Heat (or any team for that matter) to contain all of those guys. 

It says a lot about the Nets that they were able to beat Miami (101-100 on Nov. 1) when Deron Williams, the Nets' supposed best player, scored just eight points and Kevin Garnett scored just six.

LeBron James played 42 minutes in that game, and Dwyane Wade played 38, while Brooklyn's leading minute-getter, Paul Pierce, was on the court for just 31 minutes.  That type of depth bodes very well for Brooklyn's chances every time it plays Miami.

The new-look Nets don't appear to be a team that will be able to stifle Miami offensively; however, they are one of the very few teams in league that are close to the Heat from a top-to-bottom talent standpoint. 

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