Improved D Keeps The Heat Winning

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Since their 27-game winning streak came to an end 16 days ago, the Miami Heat have been taking it kind of easy.

The only Heaters to play all seven games since then are Chris Andersen, Shane Battier, Norris Cole, Rashard Lewis and Mike Miller. Starters Mario Chalmers (3), Dwyane Wade (6), LeBron James (4), Chris Bosh (3) and Udonis Haslem (1) have missed a combined 17 games in the seven-game stretch.

Yet the Heat have gone 6-1 since that loss in Chicago, having no problem clinching the league’s best overall record and home-court advantage throughout the postseason. The schedule hasn’t exactly been harrowing, but they did win in San Antonio without James, Wade or Chalmers and handled likely first-round opponent Milwaukee without Bosh or Wade.

The Heat have maintained their standing as the No. 1 offense in the league, but they’re also playing their best defense of the season.

Since the streak ended, the Heat have been the second-best defense in the league, behind only Memphis. They’ve actually allowed fewer points per 100 possessions over the last seven games (97.9) than they did during the streak (99.0).

It’s obviously a small sample size (against a few bad offensive teams), but it’s a continuation of a positive trend. Miami has also been the third-best defensive team since the All-Star break, and when you compare pre-break numbers to post-break numbers, the Heat have been the most improved defensive team in the league…

Most improved defenses (points allowed per 100 possessions) since All-Star break

Team Pre-break Rank Post-break Rank Diff.
Miami 101.8 11 97.8 3 -4.0
Golden State 103.4 16 100.8 7 -2.6
Houston 104.4 22 102.1 10 -2.3
Denver 102.6 13 100.7 7 -1.9
Oklahoma City 99.7 8 98.2 4 -1.6

Consistency on the defensive end of the floor was an issue as the Heat cruised through the first half of the season. They ranked fourth defensively last season, but were just 11th on that end at the time their streak started. That’s not championship-level defense.

Since mid-December though, the Heat have been trending in the right direction. They’ve basically improved defensively month by month, with a blip in February (a month in which their offense carried them to a 12-1 record).

Comparing pre-break to post-break numbers, the Heat have improved in multiple ways. They’ve been defending the 3-point line better, they’ve been forcing more turnovers, and they’ve been keeping their opponents off the free-throw line…

Heat defense, before and after All-Star break

Time Opp2PT% Rank Opp3PT% Rank DREB% Rank OppTmTOV% Rank OppFTA Rate Rank
Pre-break 47.0% 8 36.0% 19 73.2% 17 16.0% 7 .280 22
Post-break 47.5% 8 33.6% 6 72.1% 28 17.9% 1 .228 2

DREB% = Percentage of available defensive rebounds obtained
OppTmTOV% = Opponent turnovers per 100 possessions
OppFTA Rate = FTA/FGA

The Heat play a very aggressive style of defense, attacking the ball and using their quickness, length and athleticism to recover to the weak side. And when it’s not sharp, opposing teams can take advantage from beyond the arc. Miami struggled to defend the 3-point line early last season as well, but improved as the season went on and allowed their opponents to shoot just 30 percent from downtown in the playoffs.

The numbers are further confirmation of something I wrote about when addressing the Spurs’ improved defense a few weeks ago: Rebounding isn’t all that important. Miami has been the third-worst defensive rebounding team since the break, yet still ranks third overall on that end.

Erik Spoelstra talked about rebounding (finishing defensive possessions) last month…

“Possessions are at such a premium in the playoffs. So we understand that it’s very important. Look, my boss came up with the term ‘no rebounds, no rings.’ That’ll always ring true in my ears, but we have some things that are very important to us, and our identity, and how we play. We have to get to those things, and then obviously finish it off.

“Our guys understand that we have to finish, but we also understand what our identity is. And when we’re getting to things that make us successful, that’ll trump a lot of other things. But we certainly have to finish.”

It takes both great offense and great defense to to win a championship. We never really doubted the Heat’s ability to repeat, but their improved defense over the last couple of months certainly makes it more difficult to pick anyone else to dethrone them.

32 Comments

  1. LBJKIN6JAMES says:

    ***37 – 2*** …. STILL CANT TOUCH THIS !!!!!

  2. LBJKIN6JAMES says:

    the heat are 38 – 1 since their streak began …. CANT TOUCH THIS !!! HAMMERTIME!!!

  3. NyK says:

    If they three-peat, Lebron should retire for a year and then come back and try for another three-peat, good luck

  4. acryn says:

    look at the stats of miami heat since the team loss to chicago some key players not played 40+minutes including the 3 superstars,loss to new york without d wade chalmers and lbj,the facts here is miami bench player,a lot of shooters like ray allen,mike miller,rashard lewis,shane battier,noris cole that can knocks 3′s lastly i mentioned about juwan howard hahahaha he played well at age of 40 still kicking huh

  5. Melo goes down says:

    Melo won’t evn finish the playoffs. Carrying all that butter around gonna bust up his knees. “Butter don’t lie!”

  6. LBJKIN6JAMES says:

    Judging on the west looks right now… I would say its going to be another OKC MIA rematch. The heat change gears in the playoffs, the only threat to them is OKC, If the heat lose it will be to OKC in the finals, not to the KNICKS LOOOOOL, the knicks are short handed as it is, they will barely get to the 2nd round withouth injuries or fatigue – all this melo hype is going to stop once they start trapping and double /triple teaming him, because he is the only consistent threat offensively on the knicks

    • islandBOY says:

      FINALLY someone made some sense…Trap MELO and make someone else on the team score 30 or 40 points…LMAO as long as its not Melo…smh teams are not doing this in the regular season, because they will be switching it up in the playoffs…Trap MELO and make someone else make shots…simple and easy way to beat NYK…They are garbage without Melo

      • LBJKIN6JAMES says:

        Garbage with a capitol ‘G”… when melo was out with his knee problem, the knicks were a joke, getting blownout by almost team they played… #HeatNation
        King james or the rest of the heat have no worries going into this postseason! the most confident Ive ever been that they will not only this year but next year as well

  7. ggg says:

    ok who won season series ny against heat 3-1
    you guys overate miami watch what happen
    miami heat booooboboobobobob

    • LBJKIN6JAMES says:

      hahahahaha… The KNICKS IN THE FINALS HAHAHAHAHAHAH…WOW. Thats the first time ive ever heard that… Not going to happen, sorry…

  8. ggg says:

    heat will not have a two peat or three peatr
    nyk wll beat them
    knicks all the way
    this is the first round
    heat bucks – heat 4-1
    knicks celtics- knicks 4-0
    pacer hawks- pacers 4-2
    nets bull- bull 4-2
    2nd round
    knicks pacer- 4-3
    bulls heat – heat 4-3
    3 rd round
    heat knicks – knicks 4-2
    final
    knicks vs okc

  9. LBJKIN6JAMES says:

    This is the era of the HEAT DYNASTY, very similar to the 90′s bulls, and the 70′s lakers… It may have taken 2-3years to get all the additional talent to surround LBJ – WADE – & BOSH, but they are prepared to win 3 more championships (after this year)…4 altogether plus the one LBJ has already = 5… then he might go back to cleveland to try for 1 more when he’s 32-33 ?

  10. let’s go miami heat

  11. thejerr says:

    spo is gettin it done… BUT… think george karls got the coy in his hands already

  12. miami heat says:

    my kababayan coach ERIK SPO will win COY…..

  13. melquin says:

    its time for nyk

  14. shutdownpc says:

    spoelstra for coy..

  15. LBJKIN6JAMES says:

    The heat are the deepest team in the league right now, they have depth in every position. Im confident that they will win championships the next 2 years

  16. Das Aleman says:

    HEAT FTW!

  17. larry says:

    Miami Heat team is a team of determined players. They have goals and they constantly pursue their goals with determined skills and efforts. They play with maturity and even at the points of discouragement, they double up if not triple up their efforts to carry on without looking back. As a fan, I cannot trade them for another team. They have come backdifferent times especially this season when they were behind with 17 and 27 points to win. I love watching you and I am always hopeful that the team will always come. Chicago team was able to beat them only because the oteam held on to its lead knowing fully that if the Heat is allowed to catchup when the Chicago team was leading, it would have been another win for the Heat or another loss for Chicago.

  18. Chris says:

    The heat are doing great because of more than the big three. Lakers have a star studded lineup, theyre likely to get the boot round 1. Heat have chemistry, you can tell that they like eachother. I’ve never been a Miami heat fan but when I look at the stupid pre game stuff they sometimes do with eachother, that silly Harlem shake video I see a team that knows and trusts one another. THAT plus talent is what will win a championship. If the other teams can’t make that happen by some miracle you can call this year miami’s

  19. Joe Doe says:

    Not everyone is a bandwagoner

  20. doofdaboss says:

    michael is rigtth! heat on the road to a three-peat!!! GO HEAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. baboy says:

    if pat riley doesnt win gm of the year then idk who else is eligible..

  22. Michael says:

    Heat on the way to three-peat!

    • Ted says:

      Dream on bandwagoners.

    • A Regular Basketball Fan says:

      Do a back-2-back first.

    • lakerslakerslakers says:

      ammm they only one 1 so far. dallas messed with their chance of the three peat.
      maybe they’ll get one more this year to put them on par with the rockets with back to back. three peat? by then all the guys injured most of the season in the east should be back to make the east interesting again.

    • LBJKIN6JAMES says:

      yes they are !!!