The Miami Heat haven't played nearly their best basketball to start the season.
This isn't to say Miami is struggling, by any means. They have a record of 27-10 and are the owners of an absurdly efficient offense.
But this team is capable of more. And there's a fairly easy-to-identify reason to explain why the Heat, who have the most loaded-with-talent roster in the NBA, have just the fifth-best winning percentage in the league.
The Heat are coasting through this regular season. This is a team that's played nearly 300 games in total the past three seasons (including playoffs). In turn, Miami has made it clear they aren't going to exert the bulk of their energy in December and January when that energy would be better saved for May and June.
While that's the most intelligent strategy for the Heat to employ, there have been some problems that have come about because of it. Let's address them and their solutions.
Stop Playing Down to Competition
The Heat have some truly embarrassing losses on their record.
The Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets (twice), Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks are all teams with below-.500 records that have beaten the back-to-back champions.
Those are eight losses to sub-.500 teams for the Heat, which is twice as many as they had last season, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
This certainly could be something that comes back to haunt the Heat. While having the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference isn't a necessity for this team to get back to the NBA Finals, it obviously would make Miami's journey a lot easier.
The Indiana Pacers have grabbed a 2.5 game lead over Miami at the top of the East's standings, and it's hard not to look at these bad losses as an explanation for that.
This isn't to say the Heat should play with Game-7-of-the-Finals energy the next time they play the Charlotte Bobcats, but there is a happy medium for them to use between that ferocious intensity and what they've been playing with this season.
Defend the Three-Point Line
Regardless the level of competition they've faced, the Heat haven't made much of an effort to stop its opponents from lighting it up from outside.
Miami has allowed the fourth most three-pointers in the league, and opponents are shooting a stellar 37.1 percentage from beyond the arc.
Coach Erik Spoelstra recently spoke to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel about how the Heat's aggressive defensive style leaves the Heat susceptible against the three-point shot at times.
"Teams will try to get us moving, try to get us to play out of our rotations," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That's not a secret. Everybody's been doing that for a while. We do play an aggressive, disruptive style. So, at times, we're exposed and we have to cover ground."
Spoelstra's insight here is obviously accurate. But Miami's woes are also a result of poor effort at times.
Watch the four three-pointers Joe Johnson hit in Brooklyn's win over Miami on Jan. 10. Take note at how little the Heat are moving defensively and how late they are to getting to Johnson (all four three-pointers occur in the first 1:40 of the video).
In general, the Heat aren't doing a good enough job running shooters off the line, which has led to the high number of shots, nor are they even getting back quick enough to contest the shot well, which has led to the great efficiency.
This is absolutely something they must address before postseason time.