Numbers show Heat’s regression on D

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: Mini-Movie: East Conference Finals Week 5

MIAMI — The Indiana Pacers were a bottom-10 offensive team in the regular season and downright awful after the All-Star break. The only team that scored fewer points per 100 possessions after the break was the one that lost 26 straight games. And through the first two rounds of the playoffs, Indiana had been held under a point per possession, worse offensively than 10 teams that were eliminated.

Then came Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, when the Pacers’ offense broke out with 107 points in a pretty slow-paced game. They scored just 83 in Game 2, but that was an even slower game, which included a 26-point third quarter.

Things could change as the series comes to Miami for Game 3 on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) and Game 4 on Monday, but this has been Indiana’s best offensive series thus far. And maybe that says more about the Miami Heat than the Pacers.

In the first round, the Heat held the Charlotte Bobcats to under their regular season mark of 101.2 points per 100 possessions. But Charlotte was playing with a hobbled Al Jefferson.

In the conference semifinals, the Brooklyn Nets scored 108.2 points per 100 possessions, 3.8 more than their regular season mark. And now the Pacers’ offense has gotten off to a strong start in the conference finals, almost 10 points per 100 possessions better than it was in the regular season.

Both the Nets and Pacers provide challenging matchups, but these were not great offensive teams in the regular season. And the Heat have helped them look pretty good in the playoffs.

The Miami defense just isn’t what it used to be. Shane Battier doesn’t play as much, LeBron James had his worst defensive season since he arrived in Miami, and they all may just be worn down from playing through June each of the last three years.

They can turn it on in a quarter when they absolutely need it, but we’ve yet to really see 48 minutes of great defense from the champs. Things were obviously better in Game 2 than they were in Game 1, but there were still some issues.

The numbers spell out just how much the Miami defense has fallen off.

Heat DefRtg, last four seasons

Season Reg. sea. Rank 1st rd. Rank Conf. semis Rank Conf. finals Rank Finals
2010-11 100.7 5 -7.0 4 -3.3 5 -10.2 1 -0.4
2011-12 97.1 4 -8.4 5 -8.8 1 +1.5 3 -1.6
2012-13 100.5 7 -9.4 4 -5.5 3 +1.5 4 -1.4
2013-14 102.9 11 -1.6 5 +3.8 6 +9.7 3

vs. opponent regular season OffRtg for playoffs.
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

In each of the last three postseasons, the Heat held their opponent under its regular season efficiency mark in at least three of their four series (all four in 2011). And they never allowed their opponent more than 1.5 points per 100 possessions more than it did in the regular season.

This year, things are different. Though the Heat knocked off the Nets in five games, Brooklyn’s offense scored about 114 points per 100 possessions over the last three games. It was Miami’s worst defensive series of the last four years and the poor D carried over into the conference finals.

It’s still early in this series and the Heat did get the win they needed in Indiana to steal home-court advantage. Throughout the playoffs, they’ve won games with terrific fourth-quarter execution. But there will come a time when a great fourth quarter isn’t enough. And if they don’t win their third straight championship, their defensive regression will likely be the reason why.


  1. Peter says:

    Mr. Schumann, when would you say something nice about the Miami Heat? My guess is that you are desperately hoping Miami will not win the championship, right? Stats are okay but when you a dealing with a the team that has already been to the NBA finals on three consecutive occasions, you may as well throw them out of the window. Naturally, the team is tired and the stats compared with the previous seasons may go down. But nothing can replace experience, and when a team has that under their belt, they can flip the switch pretty quickly, as you saw last night. Besides, the play offs are a whole different story. Well, keep hoping Mr. Schumann. You are probably a grouchy man these days! I am so sorry!

  2. Edjumacator says:

    Sure are a lot of Heat worshipers on here. Kind of reminds you of all the Laker fans on here a few years ago. Probably the same people…

  3. jzarecta says:

    If DWade is healhty Miami has no opponent to match them.

    I think DWade will get more confortable on D fense and get back on his former self.

  4. dutchie says:

    There are about two sentences in this article that make a good point: ´There will be a point that a good third quarter is not enough´ and ´it´s still early in the series´. Indiana puts down a few 3pointers and suddenley Miami´s defence is terrible. You´re way too fast with your conclusion. It´s called variance.

  5. Saeed says:

    If you were a little above stupid Mr. Schuhmann, you would choose a different method for proving how weak a defense Miami have. LeBron’s defense on game 1 was not good as for the whole Miami team (BUT NOT AWFUL), and in game 2 you called it again awful!!! Please show your hatred more wisely. On the first 47 minutes of game 2, Indiana was held to only 78 points (desperation 3s in the last minute by Indy) and this was not one of those ripped-off-offensively games that Indian had against the Hawks or Wizards. They had the pace they needed time and time in the first 3 quarters and specially in the 3rd quarter. They got up 6 two times both of which ended with Miami pulling Indiana to a one possession game.
    Let me tell you, I HAVE RARELY SEEN MIAMI’S CONFIDENCE IN THE PAST 4 YEARS TO BE AS STABLE AS IT WAS IN THE 3RD QUARTER OF GAME 2. They used to either rip any team early in the game or keeping the game close till 3rd or 4th quarter when they would start getting a cushion. Another example of this level of confidence was AT HOME in 2012 Finals, game 4, the end of the 1st quarter and the first half of the 2nd quarter. In that game, Miami trailed OKC by as many as 17 but recovered very quickly but that OKC team was extremely young and the game was at Miami. Another example is last year’s final game 6 but they showed too much of desperation syndromes in that game.
    Like LeBron (or DWade I do not remember) said at the end of game 2, in the past they used to panic even when they were up. In this game, they just showed how mentally experienced they are.

  6. Mladen says:

    Put Miami in the West next year and they will not be able to get out of the second round – guaranteed!

  7. Mohammed says:

    OH MAN! How much do you hate MIAMI ?

  8. manie says:

    Miami is just very confident of their 4th quarter defence and offence and that’s is causing them to be content with just staying close through 3 quarters. In previous years the heat focussed on playing good defense through the first three quarter and put the game away on the 3rd quarter. Now they don’t contest any shots through the first 3 quarter with an exception of bird man and wade. They are better closers

  9. jzarecta says:

    I am amazed how hard these meme get spread. Havent anyone counted the W-L stat? They are way stronger than 2 years ago, when they had to go to a 6 game series on the 2nd round. Sure they lost already 2 games so far in the Playoff, a year ago they lost 2 by this time after beating chicago and bucks.
    So… yeah Miami is exactly at the same position last year, as well as 2 years ago where Indiana push them to 6 game series before going 7 games to the Boston celtics.
    If miami beat Indiana in let say 6 games, they would be stronger shape than last year.