The Miami Heat have been known to be a ruthless, tough, loathsome team, despised by many NBA fans for either knocking out their favourite team or for simply winning. Yes winning the Heat responded to those naysayers by winning and they did so winning the championship during the 2011-2012 season.
Amidst it all when the cake is consumed, champaign popped and when the celebration is over the team knew what they must do. Protect their ring. Protect it at all cost and keep true to their word of winning consecutive championship rings. However, as they continued their dominance the season after, they have struggled to maintain their reputation as the best team in the league.
For three years now ever since Miami Heat general Pat Riley assembled the infamous Miami Heat big three, comprising of Dwayne Wade, Lebron James and Chris Bosh, the Heat managed to show signs of vulnerability. They disproved of any belief of it whatsoever however in the mist of the playoffs they showed they weren’t as perfect as one thought. Ladies and gentleman, the Miami Heat are not perfect and in fact they might have exposed their weaknesses.
Jumping in the playoffs, the Heat managed to fly by the first round with ease. The Milwaukee Bucks, who probably would’ve never made the playoffs had the eastern conference been injury plagued, managed to maintain the eighth seed.
Going up against a detestable Heat squad was more than a challenge for them as they were whacked, bashed and sent home losing the playoff series in a four game sweep. The series proved one thing though. The Heat haven’t had a challenge in a while. They obviously knew what they’re capable of and haven’t been tested in about seven months. I thought that would changed in the second round however as the Heat were now up against a Chicago Bulls team.
The Bulls who struggled against the Brooklyn Nets due to injuries, actually managed to win game one of the five game series. Many can argue the Bulls were too much for the Heat in that game (this is an absurd statement and whoever believes this should be slapped) however I tend to believe one thing. The Heat lost because they were overconfident.
They thought they could cruise through the playoffs however the Bulls managed to fight them. Needless to say, the Bulls were no challenged to the Heat. They just woke them up. The Heat were basically on autopilot or so they thought. Chicago woke them up and the Heat finished them in four straight wins.
Now here come the Indiana Pacers. The Heat, now awaken thanks to the charitable efforts of the Chicago Bulls knew the Indiana Pacers would be their challenge.
The Pacers arguably are the best defensive team in the NBA right now. According to HoopStats.com, the Pacers are ranked first in total rebounds with 46 or more (offensive and defensive), and first in defensive efficiency allowing fewer points. Even in blocks per game, the Pacers ranked fourth among the league. Case in point, they are the best defensive team in the NBA.
Taking a look back in game one now and while the Heat obviously won in overtime, they did so in nail-biting fashion. James posted a triple double display of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists but regardless of his individual statistic, the Pacers managed to hold on tight. The Pacers would’ve won that game had Frank Vogel not sat Roy Hibbert, the best rim protector in the league, on the bench (he probably regrets that).
Vogel was outcoached, outmatched and outthought in terms of coaching. He overthought himself of matching up and switching.
In that game however, it showed some problematic factors the Heat had that should be taken into consideration. The three categories are rebounding, three-point shooting and defensive pressure. Let’s start off with rebounding.
Unlike Indiana, the Heat have been known to be horrendous on the rebounding end. The Pacers, who rely heavily on cleaning up the boards, always strived in second chance attempts. In game one those extra opportunities amounted for approximately a quarter of Indiana’s offensive production, as Hibbert grabbed seven offensive rebounds in the 41 minutes he played.
Rebounding is at times more vital and more important than making free throws. Indiana’s outsized but active frontcourt was able to crash the boards and take advantage trying to score again. Their efforts on the glass proved to be monuments for the Pacers as they almost won the game in near the end.
Rebounding is a weakness that proved to be fundamental in the matchup. The Pacers just have a blatant size advantage with Tyler Hansbrough, Ian Mahinmi, Hibbert and David West. In addition to that, the Heat constantly insists on scrambling to box out every rebounding threat but that’s proving to be tremendously problematic. The Heat’s biggest rebounding threat, Chris Bosh, only had two rebounds in that game.
In game two, Hibbert and West both combined for 12 rebounds. The Heat were still dreadful with rebounds, however Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh combined for eight rebounds.
To break it down thoroughly, the Pacers as a collective outrebounded Miami by 45 rebounds during the regular season in three contests, by five in game one and by seven in game two (39-32). In game three, the Pacers again outrebounded Miami with 45 rebounds while Miami had 36. The Pacers have the edge in rebounding in this series.
In game four, they were again out-rebounded as Miami had 30 and Indy, a spectacular 49. No matter what they do, Miami dosen’t have an answer for them rebounding.
That brings us to our second point, perimeter shooting specifically from beyond the three-point arch. While Indiana excels in crashing the boards, they’re able to dish out the rock and pass it to a sharpshooter who in turn can nail down the jumper. All the credit for this goes to the long armd and freakishly tall Hibbert and the other bigs who are able to swing a pass.
The Heat who had no answer on the glass also had no answer from the perimeter as Ray Allen and Shane Battier provided a lot of deadweight for Miami, shooting a combined 1-of-8 from the field. Miami was 27.8 percent from three-point shooting in game one.
All the shots looked uncontested but they also looked like shots made simply out of desperation. The Heat’s shooters need to calm down and focus. It looked like they didn’t learn from game one as they made 6-of-14 three-pointers on 42.9 percent. The Pacers however had the edge again as they made 57.1% of their three-pointers, on 8-of-14 attempts.
In game three, the Heat again were horrible from three point range as they made 7-of-22 attempts at 31 percent. The Pacers triumphed again at 41.7%, making 5-of-12 three-pointers.
In game four however it seems like Miami is starting to adjust as they shot 8-of-23 three-pointers on 34.8 percent while Indy struggled a little shooting 3-of-14 three-pointers at 21.4 percent.
In short, with Hibbert and the Pacers bigs are smart enough to stay between the basket, grab the rebound and feed to their guards who in turn can knock down the three-point shot with ease and no hesitation.
That brings us to our third and final category, defensive ball pressure. The Heat’s defensive ideology is to put pressure on the ball so decent shots could be spread across the floor. This doesn’t usually apply to the Pacers however it somewhat affected George Hill who appeared antsy and lost control of the ball whenever he saw James. There was almost a turnover in game one by Hill but Hibbert saved him.
Nevertheless, Indiana was able to score high pick-and-rolls but that was because Miami put too much pressure on the ball handler and forgot about the other post players. Hill and D.J. Augustin were probably effected more by the pressuring defense however they were on occasion able to find an outlet where they were comfortable and knocked down some buckets.
Still, because they’re was so much defensive pressure by the Heat specifically focusing in one area, it created bad offense.
As much as they adapt to offense, it looks like the way they cover the players on the floor, either man on man using the 2-3 zone, 1-2-2 zone, or even the 3-2 zone won’t soon change. The dynamics of the system Miami uses is simply too good of a fit with the athleticism and quickness Miami has on their roster.
In retrospect the Heat’s biggest weaknesses are rebounding, perimeter shooting and defensive ball pressure. Indy is smart and able to class the boards while feeding the guards. As well the Heat put too much pressure on individuals while forgetting about covering the floor.