Heat Often Put Themselves On Cruise Control … Just Not Against Brooklyn

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BROOKLYN – Poor Nets.

They played the Miami Heat three times this season, and all three times, the defending champs were engaged, focused or motivated. Pick whichever of those three words you prefer to describe the way the Heat have played only some of the time this season.

The Heat completed a three-game season sweep on Wednesday in Brooklyn, blowing out the Nets in the third quarter on their way to a 105-85 victory. They won the three meetings by an average of 21 points and LeBron James has now won 17 straight games against the team owned by his friend Jay-Z.

So the Nets never got to see the Heat team that shows up at the arena and mostly goes through the motions, the team that knows it can flip the switch in the postseason, or the team that seems happy with just a game-and-a-half lead in the Eastern Conference.

The Knicks, the team trailing the Heat, saw that Heat team two times already, once in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and once when they were missing Carmelo Anthony. The Spurs, similarly, saw that Heat team when they decided to send four players home before that TNT game back in November. And the Celtics, missing Rajon Rondo, saw that Heat team on Sunday.

Yes, the Heat are in first place. But should they really be 11-10 on the road? Should they really rank 11th in defensive efficiency and allowing 4.3 more points per 100 possessions than they did last season?

The Heat have the best player in the world, two more All-Stars and maybe the best shooter in NBA history. And they’ve been relatively healthy all season. Yet, they’re barely ahead of a New York team that went 8-10 from Dec. 17 to Jan. 26 and has missed countless games to injury.

A championship team on cruise control through the regular season is nothing new. But it’s still OK to be a little disappointed in how the Heat have played this season.

“We understand that 10-10 on the road is not to our potential,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before his team picked up road win No. 11 on Wednesday. “But we’ll have many opportunities to correct that in the second half.”

Sometimes, as it was on Sunday, the problem has been offense.

“Turnovers are the key,” Shane Battier said. “Everyone wants to kill us for rebounding, and our numbers are poor. No question. But that’s not the barometer of our success. The turnover battle is the end-all, be-all for us. When we get extra possessions and we limit giving away extra possessions, we’re going to score. We’re a high-efficiency offensive team.”

Indeed, the Heat are 17-2 when they’ve committed 13 turnovers or less. They had 21 in Boston on Sunday, their second-worst offensive game of the season in terms of efficiency. They were much sharper against the Nets.

But defense has been the larger problem. The Heat ranked fourth defensively last season and are 11th this year. Only four teams have regressed more defensively.

The Heat are at their best when they’re active and aggressive defensively, using their speed and athleticism to its fullest. And maybe it’s just not possible to play elite defense like that for 82 games. But a little more defensive effort could give them the cushion they need in case they do suffer an injury or two in February or March.

“It just required concentration, and our concentration has not been great, especially on the road,” Battier said. “Everyone knows the system here. It’s not a matter of ignorance. It’s a matter of effort and concentration. When we’re dialed in and supply that concentration, we’re a pretty darn good defensive team. When we don’t, we’re pretty porous.”

On Wednesday, the Heat proved that, when they’re “dialed in,” they’re in a class above the Nets, who had the league’s No. 1 offense in January before they were held under a point per possession by the champs.

“I think we were really aggressive against these guys all three times, both offensively and defensively,” Battier said. “It was good to see tonight on the road. We haven’t been this aggressive on the road in a while. We really attacked them and tried to take them out of their sets.”

On Friday, the Heat visit the Pacers, the team that held them to a season-low 77 points in Indiana in early January. It’s a second-straight opportunity to take one of the East’s season-tier teams and knock them down a peg. So it will be interesting to see which Heat team shows up.

For the Nets, no matter how much success they’ve had under P.J. Carlesimo and no matter what they do over their last 36 games, they’ll know that they haven’t been able to hang with the champs. Knowing that there’s no avoiding the Heat in the playoffs, they should have treated this like their most important game of the season. Maybe they did, and maybe they just caught the Heat on the wrong day … again.

“In any sport, you measure yourself up against the champions, and they are the champions,” Gerald Wallace told Newsday. “They’ve embarrassed us all three times, so what does that say for us as a team trying to be a championship team?”

44 Comments

  1. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    BTW, the Lakers will not make the playoffs, and the Celtics will (even with Rondo out). Boston has good depth at the guard position.

    This John Boy writer can pray that Philly gets Bynum back soon … but let’s face it … they’re not taking Boston’s spot. Sorry, John Boy.

    The Lakers have ZERO percent chance to make the playoffs. John Boy can pray they make a #7 or #8 seed … but we all know that’s not going to happen. Let’s face it. And with Howard out, it’s only going to get worse for the LA Lakers. NBA teams are going to rip up their soft interior defense. Because they’re in a “big” market, the media is gonna be all over the Lakers as one of the biggest disappointments in NBA history (even though I knew they would fail). In a make-believe world, even if the Lakers manage a #8 seed, the #1 seed would SWEEP the Lakers. Not win in 5 games. AUTOMATIC SWEEP in 4 games. It is possible the Lakers will lose 50 games this season and lose even more than 50 games next season.

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      And with K. Bryant playing 40+ minutes every game or even 38+ minutes-per-game, he won’t have the energy to try to carry the team for the rest of this season. He’s going to run out of steam as the stack of cards plummet.

  2. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    @theholyspectator

    Kobe Bryant will be sitting at home and gotta just watch … cause that dude is on the verge of retirement.

    You can see it coming, DESPITE what lame commercials may convey.

    K. Bryant comes to practice at 3 AM???? Yeah right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If that were the case, Mike Brown would probably still be the LA FAKERS’ Head Coach.

    You can tell Mike Brown is a tough guy and that Bryant is as fake and as soft as they come. Good thing Bryant didn’t go to a rehabilitational facility.

  3. kobeng Burat!!! says:

    Many it said earlier… The HEAT don’t need to rush things…. Just take slow and steady, maybe a couple of bumps and hiccups but hey, They are still leading the EAST…. They are not the lakers… Who’s trying to make a run, BUT when will it happen??? Even if they play kobe for 48 mins. they’re still on a mediocre spot… The HEAT don’t need home court advantage…. have 4 games at home on a 2-3-2 format seems like a disadvantage to me… If you are the visiting team all you need to do is to steal just 1 game… And that can cause a big pressure on home team knowing that 3 games will be played away from home… Last years playoffs the HEAT played mostly 7 games… 2nd round and EAST Finals… with Pacers and Celtics… While the Thunders comfy waiting for the EAST to finish… 66 games of tough games ain’t easy…. Other players that disses HEAT Title was a dumb comment… Where was your TEAM during that 66 games shorten period??? I guess they went FISHING!!!!!

  4. yoblob says:

    All these articles about the Heat, yet we all know they are just cruisng until the playoffs.
    The Heat don’t need the best record in the nba, I guess they’d rather be behind the top 3 west teams as those the ones likely to face the Heat in the finals, If the heat spilt the two road games they then have 3 in a row at home and win the championship

  5. Carlo Untalan says:

    Great Season = Commendable
    Championship = Unforgettable

  6. Nick says:

    Even with a kinda slow start they are still in first in the east. I see Miami repeating again. Even with newly acquired players such as Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, and now Chris Andersen Miami is still doing really well. Wait til they get back for the second half of the season after all star break. I guarantee they will do much better. Dwyane Wade is starting to find himself now, Chris bosh is playing like the all star he is , and LeBron James is LeBron James plus with all the surrounding players Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen, Rashard Lewis. Miami definitely has the best chances to win the championship again. I cannot see them being stopped in the playoffs!

  7. SynByn says:

    I hate people trying to downplay the heats championship from last year saying it was only ‘half’ a season. When in all honesty, it was more harder than a regular 82 game season. Every team had to endure the cramped schedule. Most of them didn’t make it, especially Rose who was out for a majority of the season. But Miami was about to stay healthy for the most part.

  8. Kas says:

    If they were really that good they would be smashing every team even when they`re on cruise control. Truth is, no team is head and shoulders above others (even in 7 game series) and every team that makes the playoffs has a chance…so lets wait and enjoy the spectacle

  9. Than says:

    I think it’s time the heat changed strategy. They will be much tougher once the playoffs start but this year nothing seems to roll. They have a great problem in rebounding and that – steal and run – thing is silly. Steal and run against this year’s Thunder?? That’s a joke. It’s one thing to be able to do something and not do it and it’s another not knowing if you are able and not doing it. The Heat will reach the Finals at any cost but they are not really able to match OKC. Their only hope is OKC getting tired by facing the Clippers or the Spurs or even the Lakers in a first round matchup if they make it there.

  10. benjie says:

    DWADE just had a knee surgery and his 31 years old.But his efficiency and field goal percentage is way much better than last year.His taking it easy and right now not penetrating to the hoops every game cause his saving it for play offs.
    Meanwhile Derick Rose same knee surgery hasn’t come back yet.And we don’t know if he is still gonna be productive.Hey wait a minute his younger than Dwade and yet not yet ready.come on….

  11. Miamiheatchampions says:

    Here’s what everybody dosen’t get. The heat do not have to try in the regular season. They are just going to do what the bulls did with Michael Jordan. They are going to take it easy on the season and then unload on everybody in the playoffs. Everybody thinks the Knicks are going to get to the finals just because they beat the heat twice. Wait until the playoffs. Just because the beat them in the regular season dosen’t mean they are the best in east. Let me sum this up. Why waist your breath on the season when it’s already guarenteed they’re making it to the playoffs? THE HEAT AREN”T TRYING!!!

    • Dark Knight says:

      MJ’s Bulls went 72-10 in the regular season?

      • bullsfan0218 says:

        lol ya exactly Jordan’s teams played great in the regular season and still ended up winning 6 championships. Theres no reason the heat shouldn’t be doing the same, if you aren’t playing hard everynight for the win it takes away from the game. And like somebody already said playing hard isnt giving you more risk of injury, injuries are usually freak accidents from coming down on somebody and rolling your ankle or something

    • curtis: the bronx says:

      Exactly what did the Bulls do with Michael. Seems to me Michael came to play every night…do you remember their 70games win season. Michael enjoyed playing and winning, he nor those Bulls took a game off.

  12. gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood

  13. theholyspectator says:

    its kinda obvious that heat play and go BEAST mode during playoffs…i think they could demolish game after game after game during regular season if they had a goal of doing so…,,but that does require quite alot of energy…they are at their best when they grab rebounds, or steals and push the ball 100mph up the court and have either wade or lebron throw up alleys…this is what people come to see wither its a road game or home game…this is what makes the heat the best and they are excitn to watch and are pretty awesome team….at the same time, they can also play the slow paced half court game as well…losing regular season games doesnt hurt as much as losing a playoff series game…these guys are made to battle in the playoffs….people get hyped that their team beat the heat but yet everyone knows in a 7 game series..with the big 3 and the role players on the heat are all in sync and tuned in defensively no one…i mean NO ONE will beat them..now granted they have their work cut out for them since their isnt a true threat in the east…maybe chicago or knicks..but again..in a 7 game series neither team can match the defensive power that the heat have..and offensively..LOL..dont even need to talk about that…for the next 2-3 years lebron will get his rings..dude has reached his prime and the rest of the nba just gotta sit and watch

  14. Game Time says:

    I think it’s more about the Nets not executing well against top teams. They don’t know how to defend guys like James or Wade. Also Joe Johnson is once again having an underwhelming season. After a full season together and some playoff experience they will be better.

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      I’d say Joe Johnson is the key. He needs to be more consistent. He can have a game where he goes off for 30+ points … but then goes through odd stretches where he only scores maybe 12 – 17 points per game.

      However, because of what Joe Johnson can do on in any given game against anyone … I’d still say the Nets have a great chance of challenging the best in the east. The Nets need to stay healthy, and they can be dangerous in a 7-game series.

      What’s scary about the Nets is you know guys like Deron Williams and Joe Johnson have the ability to perform much better. You get the feeling they still haven’t played their absolute best yet.

      Come playoff time, hopefully J. Johnson will be playing at a higher level. If so, then I still think the Nets can compete with anyone in the entire NBA. They could possibly be playing an “underdog” role to stay off the radar. Then, have a shocking effect come playoff time. It could be strategy.

  15. kobe24 says:

    birdman should get more min the rebounds was better when he was in so was the effort and defence

  16. op says:

    The Nets need to establish some kind of identity in the frontcourt(except Lopez), they’ve already started Evans, Humphries, Wallace at the 4 but none of them should be a starting 4 on a contender…Brooklyn must decide what they’re actually doing with Brooks because he is waisting his potential with that 10 minutes he plays at the moment. I think as the trade deadline is closing if the Jazz are short of options about the Big Al\Milsap decision Billy King can calmly offer Humphries, Brooks, Teletovic(Shengelia), Tayshaun Taylor for Milsap and Burks in a win-win deal, because the Jazz form their core-Jefferson, Favors, Hayward and Brooks and they get a solid rebounder(or a chip for another trade) in Humphries. On the other side the Nets form a very solid frontcourt with Lopez and Milsap, they already have established backcourt and with Burks in the rotation as a back up to Wallace the Nets solidify its bench which already includes Watson, Bogans, Evans and Blatche….Sounds pretty good to me

  17. Melomvp says:

    Heat will be having hard time this season, they need to play 82 games not like last season.. Specially knicks having all player healthy now so far.. The way knicks play the last 2 games they.. Heat need to win games if they want to stay at the top of the east coz. Knicks will took it back For sure, they where the no.1 team in east from nov.- dec.

    • TT says:

      I’m sorry the Heat only played 66 games last season and your Knicks had to play 82 games. Oh wait, the Knicks and the rest of the NBA teams played 66 games too, well I guess the Heat must have played an easy schedule right? Oh, you’re right, the Heat defininely must grab that #1 spot like the Bulls and the Spurs did last year. Hold on, who were in the final last year, I don’t remember it was either the Bulls or the Spurs. Man this whole seeding thing is pretty darn confusing. Team work their butts off to get that #1 seed and ended up nowhere urhhh.

    • Melo ain't no MVP says:

      You need to listen to that Dan LeBatard rant back from 2010: New York, Welcome to another decade of irrelevance!

      Can you really see Melo and Stoudemire beat the Heat? Do you think Felton and Smith will be a factor in that series? Do you think the Knicks will hit more threes?

    • flowerpot says:

      Despite the 82-game schedule I think this season “will not” be as stressful as last year. Those back-to-back-to-backs and playing virtually every night, is much more difficult then the 82-game format. Teams are not required to play sometimes for four or five day periods. Much more rest and recupertive time, and as a Knick fan you should appreciate that as the Knicks are the oldest team in the league.

  18. rn says:

    Okc better than miami

    • Heatfan4life says:

      OKC better than Miami? Really??? Where’s your proof? Let’s look at the facts. First, Miami has beaten OKC 5 straight times. In fact, its been almost a year since the Thunder beat the Heat. Second, the Heat have the best player in the world in Lebron James. Third, the Thunder lost their third best player in James Harden, while the Heat added the greatest three-point shooter of all time, plus a bunch of good role players. In short, this is the best version of the Miami Heat we’ve ever seen and they won a championship last year with a team that wasn’t as good as this one. Wake up!

  19. asdf says:

    Heat are sleeping through this season people need to realize this. Why try against the teams of the east? they need to stay healthy and get ready for playoffs to re_Heat.

    • oldiegoldie39 says:

      you are so right. I see you are the only one that realize whats going on. We dont have to play hard, and get all hurt up. The heat are built only for the playoffs. As yall can see when the playoffs come yall know we turn into beasts. So all yall other teams and haters can go scratch.

      • flowerpot says:

        Playing hard is not what causes injuries. An injury can occur in any situation, and at times the only way to avoid getting hurt is to play hard. The heat should make an effort to secure home court advantage throughout the playoffs and the finals while instilling fear in their opponents. Nothing is more dangerous than allowing others to become confident.

    • bullsfan0218 says:

      thats a terrible attitude to have, It’s unsportsmanlike and not fair to the fans at all, if you can turn it on and off whenever you want good for you but thats no reason not to show up to give a good effort and to win

      • Dommy says:

        i think their fans would want them to see back-to-back championships than have a good season.

      • jOLAN says:

        and that worked out great for the spurs last two years huh?

      • Imad Akel says:

        Lebron gave cleveland nice season records (once it was best?) but really they never stood a chance even the year they made the finals.

        A season record is great and all but the ring is what it’s all about for both the players and the fans.

      • Joshua Greenfarb says:

        @Imad Akel

        WRONG! Many things are important in pro sports. If the “ring” was what “it’s all about,” then why even have a season?

        Why not just have the playoffs?

        See. The season is just as important as the playoffs. Yes, the world championship is the ultimate ending goal … but the season defines careers, defines all-stars, defines milestones.

        Ideally, you want to do it all!! You want the absolute best NBA regular season record and to be the champions after the Finals series. You want to do the best you can, at all times in all major contests.

  20. LordP says:

    I love when we’re engaged on both end of the floor..Chris bosh did a fantastic job on pic and roll situations double teamin the man handling the ball.Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen spacing to floor giving space to Wade and James to operate..!would like to see them more often playing with more motivations

    • rose says:

      they won’t Bulls will win the championship

      • oats man says:

        dats a stupid thing to believe!! ur going to hope D_Rose comes back and save the bulls??? if he comes back the season he’s only going to hurt himself. if i was the coach i wound save him for next season so he can be 100% D-rose next season rather dan get a 90% D-rose an risk re-ingury