Miami is rolling and it will only get better as they get healthier.
During the Miami Heat’s current five-game win streak I noticed a few trends.
Forget who they are playing. It’s how they are playing.
Being a fan of this Heat team, I must be greedy. Expectations are still high and will remain so as long as the names Dwyane Wade and LeBron James appear in the same lineup.
The first trend is clearly the level of energy and urgency to which the players are exerting on the court. No longer do they look like they couldn’t give a crap about the outcome. More specifically, the Heat’s core stars have really picked it up on both ends of the floor.
Whatever happened during that postgame meeting in Dallas has done wonders.
James and Wade have taken their defensive play to another level. As a result, Miami is scoring easier baskets in transition. Miami’s defensive efficiency rating is tied for tops in the league with the Boston Celtics. When you get stops, you can run.
A Bucks announcer said it best last night when Wade stormed down the court after a Milwaukee miss and dished it to LeBron for a thunderous slam in what seemed like two seconds:
“If you miss and don’t come up with the rebound, the game will be over in about three minutes.” What he said didn’t exactly compute correctly from brain to mouth, but we get the jist. Wade and LeBron on the break is an unstoppable nightmare.
Overall, Miami is the most efficient team in basketball. They have the biggest margin between points scored per 100 possessions and points allowed per 100 possessions.
The reason you cannot use simple stats like points scored and points allowed is because not all teams play at the same pace. Some have more possessions than others. Points per possessions puts everyone on equal ground for comparison.
It’s time to give credit to the coach
Let’s give some credit to the coach, Erick Spoelstra. He took round after round to the face during the Heat’s mediocre play. He is now one of the reasons this team looks to be on the right track.
For example, If you watched the Milwaukee game last night, more specifically the first half, you probably noticed several facts. Fact one, Miami is not only moving the ball more, but moving bodies too.
More movement equates to more pressure on the defense. They have to know where James, Wade and Bosh are at all times. If those players are standing around it makes it easy.
In the first half last night, there were sets I had never seen a Heat team run before. There was movement, wait for it, AWAY from the ball. There was less dribbling and more passing. I was shocked.
On one play I counted four passes around the perimeter leading to an easy dump to Bosh on the block for a layup. And it was when Wade and James were on the floor together! Then at times Wade or James would run their own dribble-drive offense and do what they do best, score. Both strategies have proven to work, but it’s that they’re starting to experiment that has me excited.
This team has realized it’s unlike any team in the history of basketball.
It’s time for an unconventional approach. Forget an identity on offense. The reason Miami can be one of the most dominant teams ever is because they can exploit you in a variety of ways. Most teams have limits in the types of sets they can run.
The 2010-11 Heat is a new breed, a genetic mutation.
They can play slow. They can play fast. They can go one-on-one or they can run sets based on ball movement and weak-side cutting. They can go small and they can go big.
They have the league’s most versatile and talented player in LeBron. They have one of the most feared scorers in NBA history in Wade. Bosh adds another dimension. He can beat a team from the perimeter just as well as from the block. Did you see that sky hook last night?
They have shooting in James Jones, Eddie House, Mike Miller (when he returns) and, wait for it, Carlos Arroyo. They have muscle in Erick Dampier and Jamaal Magloire. They have mismatch potential at center with Zydrunas Ilgauskas. They have contagious energy in Joel Anthony and Juwan Howard.
No, they don’t have a dynamic point guard. No, they don’t have a 35-minutes-a-night center who’s going to give you 20 and 10. And for that I say who cares?
Focus on what this team has.
I saw at least three plays last night in which Wade cut away from the ball to the basket for easy buckets. LeBron found him of course with his impeccable vision. Wade is starting to realize he can do just as much damage off the ball as he does on.
LeBron and Dwyane are proving the critics who said they could never work wrong. They are the two best basketball players in the world and yet still people doubt they can make this work.
Come on, stop being silly.
It’s like Riley handed Spoelstra a Lamborghini (Wade), a helicopter (Bosh) and a tank that turns into a submarine (LeBron) and said “Go play”. Have fun with your toys, Eric.
Experiment with various lineup combinations and roles through out the regular season. Treat the 82-game stretch as a tuneup for the playoffs. A trial run, if you will. Figure out what works best and what doesn’t while there is margin for error.
So there were some rough patches early. It’s not every season where a team has to incorporate a completely new group of players including two previous ball-dominant stars like Wade and James.
The early troubles, both on and off the court, will actually help this team over the long haul.
They proved they can overcome adversity. They proved they can take whatever blows the media, players or fans dish out. They faced the most hostile crowd in NBA history last week and transformed them into a cage full of mutes in a matter of minutes.
This team is, without question, going to be amazing. They are already excellent defensively and will only get better. Miller returns in a matter of days and you better believe Udonis Haslem will be back in time for the playoffs. Don’t ever challenge that man’s will power.
They are playing without their fourth and fifth best players!
They are not like the Showtime Lakers or the Bad Boy Pistons. They are not like Jordan’s Bulls or Bird’s Celtics.
They are the Miami Heat, a team infused with the type of talent the world has never seen on the same roster, minus international play or All-Star games.
Pat “Godfather” Riley had a vision. That vision is now becoming reality.
It’s a reality for all of basketball to enjoy and cherish because nothing like this will ever happen again. You can hate them, you can love them, but this team is destined for greatness.
The only obstacle in their way is themselves.