As the 2008-2009 NBA season continues to progress, the Miami Heat are still trying to learn from their mistakes and mature as a team. The Heat are one of the youngest teams in the league—and with that youth comes growing pains.
One of the main problems the Heat have had this year is winning on the road. They are 1-4 away from American Airlines Arena, but every loss except for one has been to a winning team. The Heat's road opponents are a combined 19-18 and include playoff contending teams such as New Orleans (5-4) and Toronto (5-4). Miami's only inexcusable loss was to the Charlotte Bobcats, in which they were defeated 100-87.
Although the squads road losses have been against tough teams, they can't use that as an excuse for the rest of the season or they will simply be a mediocre, .500 team.
But, the Heat can be encouraged by the fact that they were able to hang around and fight back in almost every road loss they have endured this year.
For example, in their season opener loss to the Knicks, the Heat were down by as many as 23 in the third quarter. But, the Heat were able to cut that lead all the way down to three in the final minute of regulation, and ended up loosing by only five points.
In the Charlotte loss, Miami slashed a 17-point lead to six early in the fourth quarter.
How about against last year's Southwest Division champs? The Hornets led by as many as 17 in the second half, only to see their lead sliced to seven with five minutes left in the game.
My point is that although the Heat are definitely having road troubles, this team is still showing fight and a willingness to play until the very last minute of the game. Maybe, it's just a matter of finding their identity.
"For some reason, on the road, we’re confused about what we are and what our identity is," head coach Eric Spoelstra said following their road loss to the Raptors.
Another bright spot in the Heat's road woes is the fact that they are averaging 97.2 points away from home, which ranks them 10th in the league. Obviously, offense has not been the problem for this young team on the road. Clearly, its the defensive side that has been plaguing Miami this year.
While they are averaging 97.2 points, they are allowing a whopping 106.7 points to their opponents on the road. That is a very high number and makes it nearly impossible to notch a victory when you allow your opponent to post that many points on the scoreboard.
"It’s called growing pains, it’s going to happen,” Dwyane Wade said after his team's loss to the Bobcats. "Coach said we’re going to take one step backward, but then hopefully we’ll take two steps forward."
And as far as most people can tell, that's all these early road troubles are—growing pains.
If the Heat can start to sharpen up on the defensive end and discover their identity on the road, they will be just fine. If they can accomplish that, then maybe they just will take those "two steps forward."