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How they can win it all: The Miami Heat

Apr 14, 2011, 10:40 AM EDT

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat Getty Images

Forget the narrative. Forget the plot that turned LeBron James into a villain for changing zip codes, forget the half-baked media criticism without warrant, and forget the lazy reactions to Miami’s relative struggles at various points in the season. This Heat team is positively fantastic, and though they don’t come to the playoffs without flaws, they also have a legitimate chance of marching through the Sixers, the Celtics, and the Bulls all the way to the NBA Finals. The Heat aren’t just that talented, they’re that good. So ditch the narrative baggage for now; it’ll be waiting for you to pick it up on the other side, and it’d be a shame for a good story to get in the way of even better basketball. Here are the reasons why the Heat, after a long season under the microscope, can win the whole damn thing:

1. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade

Let’s get the easy one out of the way first: the playoffs are the time for the NBA’s best players to do their thing, and the Heat are packing more star power than every other team in the league. Given Miami’s probable opponents the rest of the way, it’s likely that the Heat will have the two best players on the floor in every game during their postseason run. That doesn’t guarantee them any wins, but it certainly gives them an incredible advantage in attempting to earn them. Miami may lack consistent scoring on its periphery, but perhaps the Heat’s lack of productive balance will matter even less in the postseason; James and Wade are tremendous players who contribute a ton on both ends of the court, and when we throw in Chris Bosh for good measure, they’re as tough an out as there is in the league.

2. Smothering defense

The defensive tone starts with James and Wade, but the Heat on the whole have been one of the top defensive teams in the NBA this season. However, the internet highlight factory has led to a general misunderstanding of the way Miami Ds up; even though James and Wade are adept at jumping passing lanes to ignite a potent fast break, the Heat just don’t create all that many turnovers. Instead, the Heat regulars force their opponents into difficult looks and contest shots heavily without fouling. The Miami defense is quick and flexible, which empowers them to recover and challenge, even when an opponent claims a position of advantage. The Heat are quick to help in order to completely swarm opponents, and have one of the most oppressive half-court defenses in the league as a result.

Additionally, the Heat are among the best defensive rebounding teams in basketball. Chris Bosh, Erick Dampier, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas all do good work on the defensive glass, but the key for Miami is the board work of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Mike Miller, all of whom are stellar rebounders for their positions. All in all, the Heat grind opponents into the ground by challenging every shot, and then clean the glass to ensure that the only shot opponents get is their initial, heavily contested one. Most championship runs are founded on the ability to execute consistently on defense, and Erik Spoelstra has his team prepared to suffocate their playoff opponents.

3. Efficient offense

As good as the Heat are on defense, they’ve been even more effective on the offensive end; Miami scored more points per possession than all but two other teams this season.

The key to Miami’s offense is the allocation of shots to the most efficient players and the most efficient zones on the floor. James, Wade, and Bosh take a lion’s share of the Heat’s shot attempts, and thus score a lion’s share of the points. That only makes sense considering that all three players can create quality shots, shoot around 50 percent from the field in the process, and are capable of drawing a ton of fouls to boost their productivity. Miami posted the third highest free throw rate in the league this season almost entirely because of their three stars, and those frequent trips to the line provide a reliable source of efficient scoring.

Beyond James, Wade, and Bosh, Miami’s role players rely heavily on the most efficient shots in basketball. Erick Dampier and Joel Anthony attempt layups, dunks, and put-backs almost exclusively. Mike Miller, James Jones, and Mike Bibby shoot mostly open three-pointers. The only players really forcing the issue are those capable of balancing their efforts with high efficiency, and the Heat have been incredibly productive as a result. Miami’s offense may not be as fluid as some would like, but the offensive production speaks for itself and will continue to do so throughout the postseason.

  1. thestudiokida - Apr 14, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    I think coaching is going to play a big role for the Heat. Much like the Cavaliers last year there has been some questionable coaching decisions while Spoelstra figures out his lineup. It’s obvious to me that James Jones is much more important to the Heat than Mike Miller but I’m afraid Spo is going to give Mike Miller more minutes in the playoffs. Also, big Z has been playing well and deserves to start. Maybe he shouldn’t get more than 20 minutes but he can still be very effective in those 20 minutes.

    • ibleedaquaorange - Apr 14, 2011 at 11:41 AM

      Regarding Mike Miller… when the hell is this guy getting that stupid brace off? I’ve been hearing for weeks now it’s coming off, why is there no official word on this? I’m completely convinced that’s been throwing off his shot all year. Anyway, I’m fine with him getting minutes… the argument is basically 3s, drawn charges vs. rebounds, general hustle… win/win for my money.

      • hnirobert3 - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:14 PM

        Pretty sure he injured his other thumb (or maybe reinjured the same one) against the Hawks on Monday. I like Mike and was excited when they got him, but dude is made of glass.

      • Zak Sadik - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:23 PM

        The brace on his right thumb is staying on til the offseason, his left thumb brace will be coming off tho because it was a minor injury

      • thestudiokida - Apr 14, 2011 at 3:44 PM

        Mike Miller has given an A+ effort this year and rebounds well… but he’s still not a very good defender. James Jones ALWAYS makes open corner 3’s and also gets blocked shots/steals every once and a while… although he’s not as good of a rebounder because he focuses on getting back to his corner on offense. Maybe both of them can have some solid minutes for the Heat, but I really like have Jones in there to nail those dagger 3’s.

  2. fouldwimmerlaik - Apr 14, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    How can Miami win it all? Get rid of Chris Bosh and then get a whole new team (keeping Lebron and his beyotch, Dwayne). That is how they can win it all.

    • hnirobert3 - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:14 PM

      And we have our Dumbass Comment of the Day!

      • fouldwimmerlaik - Apr 14, 2011 at 1:22 PM

        Your comment, sir, have cut me to the quick. I am unsure if I will ever recover from such a witty, yet lethal, retort. I lay wounded upon the floor.

        “Berk” I say to you. Please leave me to die from the wounds you have inflicted.

        Now, go get rid of Bosh and get a real team.

        I stumble away, in awe of your might and knowledge……….

    • andyhr17 - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:48 PM

      Yeah, if you dislike the Heat (which I do), at least be smart with your criticism.

      I do agree that coaching if going to play a big part, and what will ultimately hurt the Heat in the playoffs IF anything hurts them at all. In the playoffs you can’t just give the ball to Lebron James or Wade and say “go win the game!”.

      • hnirobert3 - Apr 15, 2011 at 12:00 AM

        Thankfully for my Heat, we have Riles who is HEAVILY involved in the day to day operations of the team. Spo isn’t as bad as people think, thought I’d trade him for Doc any day of the week. The coaching won’t be a problem since players win championships. When was the last time a team of nobodies won the championship? It’s usually the healthier team with the better players that wins.

  3. chitownmatt - Apr 14, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    The Heat or the Magic cannot defeat the Bulls, simply because the Bulls have three centers. Noah, Asik, and Thomas have 18 fouls between them to shutdown Bosh or Howard. That will be the key match-up when either of these teams meet the Bulls.

    LBJ and Wade can score 40 apiece and they will still lose.

    • andyhr17 - Apr 14, 2011 at 4:59 PM

      That’s exactly what the strength of the Celtics was supposed to be this year: Perkins, Shaq, and the other O’Neal. Too bad it never panned out with Perkins being shipped off, *insert overused observation by people on here that Shaq is old, and Jermaine O’Neal may be dead….I’m not sure. Chicago does match up very favorably against them.

    • hnirobert3 - Apr 15, 2011 at 12:05 AM

      Bosh is going to get shutdown, ehh? What’s Rose going to do when he’s being guarded by either Wade or LBJ? Rose has been carrying his team for the entire year while the running two time MVP and a former Finals MVP have been sleep walking through the regular season. Classic military move: cut off the head of the general and the war is over. I can guarantee you that Chalmers/Bibby WILL NOT be guarding Rose in crunch time situations, it’ll be the two best perimeter defenders in the league, and last I checked, Rose’s FG % was 44.5% WITHOUT having to face Wade or LBJ on a nightly basis. Who’s going to score for the Bulls now?

  4. barklikeadog - Apr 14, 2011 at 9:07 PM

    HATE THE HEAT!

  5. mk2323 - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:41 PM

    In 2 months I get to enjoy Lebron and co. raise the O’Brien trophy. Can’t wait!! (Bart Scott voice)

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