Biggest Areas of Concern for Miami Heat in 2nd Half of Season

Sam RichmondCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2014

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade in action during an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Although they haven't played their best basketball lately (they've lost four of their past seven games), the Miami Heat are in fine shape. 

The Heat are 30-12 and are all but assured at least the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference unless a catastrophic injury occurs, even while they are clearly coasting through the regular season.

Still, even though it's far from panic time in South Beach, the Heat aren't without worries as we head into the second half of the season. Let's take an in-depth look at Miami's three biggest concerns.


Dwyane Wade's Health 

With the Indiana Pacers rolling and looking like a strong bet for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Heat's main focus should be (and is) on getting to the postseason as healthy as possible.

But that goal coming to fruition is easier said than done. Take Dwyane Wade, the poster child of the Heat's injury-management approach. 

Miami has handled Wade and his knees with the utmost care this season after he underwent offseason shock treatment; their maintenance plan involved often holding Wade out for a game of a back-to-back set. 

For much of the season, that plan had been a complete success. Wade's health was improving (he played in three games in four nights from Jan. 4 to Jan. 7) and has played outstanding basketball. 

But things have seemingly taken a turn for the worse recently, as Wade has missed the past three Heat games. While Coach Erik Spoelstra told Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel that Dwyane sitting out his third straight game was "sticking to the routine," it's very possible Wade has had a setback, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN speculated: 

The Heat were able to win a championship last season without a healthy Wade in the playoffs. They likely wouldn't be as fortunate this season, given the Pacers' improvement.

Considering Wade's importance to this team and the uncertainty surrounding his knees, his health is undoubtedly Miami's top concern as it gets closer and closer to the postseason.



It's pretty remarkable, given how stout the Heat's defense has been over the years, that defense would even be a semblance of a problem for Miami at this point in the season. But here we are.

In the coasting spirit, the Heat's well-known ferocious defensive intensity has been nonexistent, and they've paid for it, most recently on Jan. 20 against the Atlanta Hawks.

Opponents are beating Miami from all over the court; the Heat are struggling to protect the rim and defend the three-point line. Miami's foes have shot 46.1 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from long range, which ranks 23rd and 25th, respectively.

The Heat don't rank in the top 10 in defensive efficiency and give up a whopping 10 points more per 100 possessions than the Pacers. 

Now, plenty of people, me included, subscribe to the belief that the Heat can "turn it on" defensively when they want and they'll be fine in the long run.  

But when LeBron James himself is saying he "can't pinpoint" why Miami is struggling defensively, via Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald, there's certainly reason to have some concern.


Three-Point Shooting

Ray Allen and the Heat have not been as outstanding from beyond the arc as they were a year ago.
Ray Allen and the Heat have not been as outstanding from beyond the arc as they were a year ago.Ned Dishman/Getty Images

Miami currently ranks seventh in three-point shooting percentage (37.4 percent) and 11th in three-pointers made (335).

Those aren't bad numbers. But with how important the three-point shot is to the Heat's offense, they aren't that good, either.

The Heat often find themselves with wide-open three-point shots, thanks in part to the immense defensive attention LeBron commands when he attacks the basket.

Last season, the Heat obliterated opponents with those shots, ranking second in three-point efficiency and third in three-pointers made. 

But some of Miami's most important three-point shooters, such as Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and even LeBron, have seen their efficiency drop this season.  

The Heat aren't going to be able to overcome the Pacers' stifling defense in the postseason if they aren't taking advantage of the easy outside looks their offensive system generates.

Miami's shooters still have plenty of time to find their stroke before the playoffs; however, the fact that this is a teamwide issue, and not just the woes of one or two shooters, is a bit troubling.