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What does it take to beat Miami? Three keys… then pray a lot

Mar 26, 2013, 12:59 PM EDT

Miami Heat's James celebrates a basket against Detroit Pistons during NBA game in Miami Reuters

As we watch the Heat during this streak of 27 straight wins, we keep thinking, “Sure the Heat are good, but somebody can beat them one night and end this run.” It’s almost happened a couple times and the Heat have three games this week — at Chicago, against New Orleans (who just ended Denver’s streak) and at San Antonio — that could well be the end.

But does anybody think another team can pull that all together for four out of seven games in a playoff series?

This run has the Heat focused and thinking about their legacy, which makes them tougher come the playoffs. But they can be beat on any given night, and after reading what other players are saying about the Heat at NBA.com three areas leap out:

Match or beat Miami’s intensity. Maybe the most impressive thing about Miami’s streak is that they bring it every night. Rockets coach Kevin McHale talked about how his legendary 1980s Celtics teams would win double digits then just get bored one night and lose to a non-playoff team — Miami has had a couple close calls in those situations but were able to fight back (the 27-point comeback against the Cavaliers being the most obvious). They find enough energy to get the win every night, even with Dwyane Wade out the last two games.

This is the easiest of the three — everybody is up to face the Heat now. But energy and playing with a belief that the Heat can be beat is the start.

Don’t turn the ball over. According to Tom Haberstoh at ESPN, during this 27-game winning streak 18 percent of opponent possessions have ended in a turnover. That would be nearly one in five possessions and the highest percentage in the league.

We know what happens when you turn the ball over against the Heat, it’s LeBron alley-oop dunks in transition over poor Goran Dragic. Or Jason Terry. Or… you get the idea. You have to take away the Heat’s easy buckets and that starts by taking care of the ball.

Which is easier said than done — Miami’s entire defense is predicated on athleticism, pressure, taking away your strengths and forcing turnovers or bad shots. Because of their personnel the Heat can switch a lot of pick-and-rolls or other rubs trying to free a guy up — normally teams want to get their point guard switched on to a forward, but when it is LeBron or Shane Battier it isn’t an advantage. The way to defuse that pressure is with ball movement and player movement off the ball — which is why some basketball people think the Spurs are the team with the best shot against Miami.

But to beat the Heat you have to take care of the ball and make them work for their buckets.

Knock down your threes. As you know from watching the NCAA Tournament lately, the three ball can be the great equalizer — for one game you can beat a team knocking down threes. During this win streak Miami is closing out on shooters at the arc, not letting those easy buckets fall — in their last 20 games teams are shooting just 32.7 percent from three against the Heat.

In the same way a team will need to stop the Heat from getting easy buckets, they will need easy buckets of their own. That means lots of threes.

Miami is going to have to help you out. Miami creates so many problems for a defense. LeBron and Dwyane Wade cam pretty much get to the basket and force help rotations whenever they want. So you double them to take the ball out of their hands and you find they swing the ball well and have guys in Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers (among others) who space the floor and knock down threes. Their bigs — Chris Bosh in particular — can roll to the rim or just space the floor 15 feet away and make it hard to help off them. Defenses have to pick their poison against the Heat.

That’s why the “Miami struggles to rebound” argument holds little water — if they are making their shots, who cares? Plus, they have guys in Wade and LeBron who are very good rebounders for their positions.

Teams need help against Miami — they need guys to just miss shots, throw a couple errant passes, just have an off night. Look at the end of Denver’s streak Monday — not to take anything away from a great New Orleans effort, but a Nuggets team that scores more points in the paint than any other squad in the NBA shot just 42 percent on those looks for a night. Denver got their shots and missed them. It happens. Teams need a little of that against Miami.

But do you think that’s going to happen four out of seven nights?

  1. patfic15 - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    16 wins against lottery teams. Impressive.

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:12 PM

      If it was so easy, somebody, ANYBODY, would have done it already.

    • zeedoubleyou - Mar 26, 2013 at 2:57 PM

      The Lakers 33 game streak came in a time when the NBA was diluted from the league expanding from 9 teams to 17 over a six year span.

      Stuff that footnote in your pipe and smoke it.

    • itsonlyaspeedbump - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:41 PM

      Wow.

      What would it take for you to be impressed, 82-0?

      You realize that winning 27 games in a row is incredibly rare in ANY professional sport. Even if they don’t get the record (and I’m betting they lose to Chicago or San Antonio), winning this many games consecutively against NBA competition is a remarkable accomplishment, if only because in decades of NBA (and ABA) basketball, only ONE team has won as many games in a row as this Heat team.

      If you’re just tired of hearing the story, skip the Heat articles.

      If you’re still holding on to hate for LBJ, then you’re in the same company as Dan Gilbert. That is to say, horrible company.

    • leahcima1 - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:57 PM

      a) They don’t make the schedule. b) Every other team plays the same number of games with lottery teams. The difference is they don’t win them. So you have a lame argument because you are a loser.

  2. patfic15 - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    The Heat are doing what they are built to do, but let’s not get carried away. If they were in the West, it would’ve ended by now.

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:13 PM

      So what you’re saying is that if they played in the West, the Heat may have gone 26-1? 25-2? 24-3?

      Okay you’re right. Heat suck.

      • 808raiderinparadise - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:29 PM

        Its ok, whats happening is the haters are truly just trying to take themselves serious by saying this streak isn’t impressive in any way they can.

        Something that hasn’t happend in 40 years is suddenly a fluke to the haters. LoL

        This team is great in depth, they have 7 guys that can shoot the 3 ball, they play great team Defense and have a high energy of comraderie.

        By the way Birdman was a HUUUUUUGE pick-up, he is back in shape and has been a great D prescense and gives them a big that can run the floor and has been running pick and roll with LeBron better than Bosh does.

        The HEAT will see some bumps in the playoffs but I don’t see anyone good enough to beat them in a 7 game series.

    • itsonlyaspeedbump - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:43 PM

      Possibly, or maybe this whole thing about the Heat sucking if they played in the West is garbage.

      They are 23-5 against the West this year.

    • nobandwagonridersallowed - Mar 26, 2013 at 11:26 PM

      Comments like yours just show how poor of a sport you are… It utterly disgust me to hear people like you downplay what the Heat are doing because “the Heat are doing what they are built to do”. OKC was built to win, I don’t see them with a 27 game win streak; so was San Antonio, The Lakers, The Clippers, The Knicks etc… So spare me with that BS.

      If I’m not mistaken, there are a couple West Teams that fell victim to Heat on their current streak, so what’s your point?? I heard an idiot say the other day, “well 15 of the wins came against teams that aren’t in playoff contention”… Ok, well that means 12 of the wins came against playoff caliber teams! That’s impressive. What’s even more impressive is that because the Heat are the defending champs they get every teams full effort regardless the roster every night because, as we all know the Champs always has that target on their back; but get this, it’s even more of a target now because every team wants to be the ONE to end the streak!!! And no one has still yet to accomplish that. Impressive.

      Don’t be losers & Haters ALL your lives… Give respect where respect is due. No one said you had to like the Heat. If you are a true fan of the game, be appreciative and respectful of the fact that we are witnessing history

  3. dirtydavis - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    You can’t beat a team that has 2 Superstarts, an All star and good role players who took major paycuts in a 7 game series.

    • davidly - Mar 26, 2013 at 3:44 PM

      May I introduce you to the Lakers?

      • dirtydavis - Mar 26, 2013 at 4:03 PM

        How much experience does the Heat core have compare to the Lakers? Do Lakers have good role players? smh…

    • davidly - Mar 27, 2013 at 6:21 AM

      Ha. Busted me. I was aware that I was glossing over the role-player aspect when I hit “post”, but you make a good point about the Heat’s core being together a couple years longer. Also, the Heat’s superstars are healthier/younger.

      I guess what I was lazily trying to point out was that if it were just star-power with bench plug-ins, a lot of teams could do it. On paper everyone was declaring the Lakers a contender, when many of us knew they were going to have it tougher than Miami did two years ago, based on age and health alone.

      • dirtydavis - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:39 PM

        I expected otherwise… I wasn’t predicting a championship nor was I expecting this mess. IF Phil was the Head coach things would have been completely different. Having said that… I am not blaming the Players for their misfortunes. Mike D. Antoni and his one dimensional offense has to go. I doubt ” a lot of teams could do it” as in plug in superstars, all-stars.

  4. aboogy123456 - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    I agree with the points on how to beat Miami, especially about turnovers. They are so good at pressuring the ball that teams need to relax and make sure they take care of the ball. The one key I think that you forgot is that a team needs to dominate down low. That’s the heat’s biggest weakness with their lack of size, and if a team can get it into the post consistently then they have a good shot to beat miami. I’d like to see them in a playoff matchup against memphis or san antonio to see if they can handle some talented bigs.

  5. lemfaxx - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    Even they lost now, they nailed it already. Their Legacy

  6. Mr. Wright 212 - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    – Don’t turn the ball over.
    — Have shooters.
    — Have a consistent presence on the boards and interior defense.
    — Switch effectively on defense.
    — Have at least one, if not two, go-to scorers.
    — Possess quality depth.
    — Hope the refs don’t cheat.

    The Knicks had each of those in their two blowout wins, and about 3/4 through another blowout win, before the last bullet point became null and void.

    • bils293 - Mar 26, 2013 at 1:45 PM

      please don’t mention the knicks. the knicks are exactly what every team with carmelo has ever been, decent but can’t cut it in the playoffs. that will never change. they havent done anything to deserve to be mentionned when talking about the league’s elite teams.

    • heat256 - Mar 26, 2013 at 2:10 PM

      So you’ve listed just about every reason why the Knicks will never sniff anything approaching the Heat’s streak? Git it.

    • heat256 - Mar 26, 2013 at 2:10 PM

      So you’ve listed just about every reason why the Knicks will never sniff anything approaching the Heat’s streak? Got it.

  7. wgray981 - Mar 26, 2013 at 2:12 PM

    Who cares? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- there is nothing impressive about the Heat. Am I denying that their players are great? No. I’m just saying that instead of letting the chips fall, they basically cheated to create a “dream team.” That is why I hope nobody will remember them for anything except being cheaters.

    • HotHotHeat - Mar 26, 2013 at 2:34 PM

      Do us all a favor and shut up. No one care what you think. Thanks

    • dirtydavis - Mar 26, 2013 at 3:35 PM

      @wgray Good $hit! I agree 100%…I expected the Heat to flirt with the 33 game winning streak and a 72 win season.

    • pantsfreezone - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:27 PM

      Say it as much as you want, it doesn’t get any less stupid. They were free agents. They didn’t cheat, they don’t play for free and last time I checked there are about 6 teams in the league with multiple HOF/All star type players on the same team.

      So why haven’t the Clippers, Celtics, Lakers, Thunder, Spurs, or Knicks been as dominant or won 20+ in a row?

      • dirtydavis - Mar 26, 2013 at 7:53 PM

        I am not going to say cheater… But I am going to say that was chicken $hit of LBJ. Most players in the NBA will agree

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:31 PM

        Actually only Wade was signed as a FA. James and Bosh were traded for.

    • dolphindubs - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:42 PM

      Cheated? How did they cheat? The three of them played out their contracts without complaint and then when those contracts where up, they decided to go and play on the same team. You do realize these guys are all actually great friends too don’t you? How many of us would leave our jobs to go work with our friends at another job if the situation allowed for it? I would rather work with some buddies than not, if I had a choice.

    • nobandwagonridersallowed - Mar 26, 2013 at 11:45 PM

      @ wgray981…. Sounds like another cry baby. I’ve been a fan of this team since its inaugural season and suffered through some pretty rough stretches to say the least… Pat Riley transformed this team. He played his deck of cards better then other GM’s.. He sacrificed 2 years of winning, clearing books and having enough cap space to make a splash in 2010 free agency.

      LeBron initially didn’t wanna leave Cleveland as reported he was still trying to recruit Chris Bosh to Cleveland… Bosh, was the wild card. Once, Wade made it clear he was resigning with Miami, the dominos fell.

      So while other teams were looking at winning now, only seeing what was directly infront of them, Pat Riley was thinking about winning 2 years from that date… That’s considered a visionary

  8. HotHotHeat - Mar 26, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    Only thing stopping the Heat during the steak is themselves. And by that I mean tired legs. They have won 27 games in 52 days. At some point Lebron’s legs are gonna turn into jello just like the Boston series last year. Let’s hope they get to 34 and Spo gives his starters some rest. Go Heat

    • HotHotHeat - Mar 26, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      Streak not steak

  9. bifford - Mar 26, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    I’m hard pressed to believe anyone in the Leastern Conference is going to put up much fight against the Heat. They’ll cake walk to the finals this year.

    • aboogy123456 - Mar 26, 2013 at 2:45 PM

      yea and if the Thunder make it out of the west, the Finals will be a cake walk too.

  10. dreamzilla - Mar 26, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    as a thunder fan i agree…i dont want okc getting to the finals to get smoked out by the heat in what 5gms…hell even a sweep…as much as i love the thunder i honestly say that it’ll take a bigger/ titanic effort than dallas did 2yrs ago to upend the heat in a 7gm set. i hate the heat and lebron but i gotta give the heat there credit …there making history and its something i can look back on 20 30 yrs from now if they break the streak and tell my kids and grandkids that i witnessed history. heat playing to another level plain and simple

  11. livingsacrifice86 - Mar 26, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    So they cheated by taking less money to create the team, they can’t win without help from the refs and Stern, they’re steak doesn’t mean much because competition is weak. Meanwhile you have the Lakers extremely large payroll a couple games above .500 and the Knicks inconsistent as ever. How bout giving credit where it’s due. The Heat are rolling and honestly I think that “switch” people are talking about hasn’t even be flipped yet. These dudes are hungry and they have the team and chemistry to do it

  12. funktron2x - Mar 26, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    LeBron is entering his prime years. And nobody on Earth is on his level. Why break it down more?

  13. dirtydavis - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    If Kobe had awesome players during his prime… NBA history would have been completely different

    • aboogy123456 - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:42 PM

      that’s a great point. Every time kobe had a championship caliber supporting cast the lakers at least went to the championship. Jordan for example had the benefit of continuity with his bulls teams, not only with scottie pippen but also Phil Jackson.

      • dirtydavis - Mar 26, 2013 at 5:49 PM

        Scottie could have won a champion if he had a second banana on his team.

    • zeedoubleyou - Mar 26, 2013 at 6:21 PM

      Counterpoint:

      Kobe’s ’04-05 Lakers team went 34-48 in his athletic prime.

      Was this supporting cast any worse than the one LeBron dragged to his first finals or the 66 win team a few years later? Rudy T vs Mike Brown is splitting hairs IMO.

      • dirtydavis - Mar 26, 2013 at 7:49 PM

        Kobe’s “Athletic prime years”were form 04-05 to 08-09 season ( post shaq and pre Gasol) I think Kobe had far more poor supporting cast than LBJ through out that span. Dan Gilbert/Coach Brown signed players who complimented LBJs game. While Kobe has stuck playing along side (through out those 4 seasons) with Kwame Brown, Smush, Luke Walton, Sasha, Odom, and Farmar. All Kobe needed was a second banana to win championships

  14. sdb74 - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:27 PM

    The biggest key is to pound them inside. If they try to have Battier guard a PF you have to make them pay. Examine: Pacers w/David West. Battier is a good defender but is simply overmatched in the post against a good “4”.

  15. 13arod - Mar 26, 2013 at 9:04 PM

    another one limit fast breaks and guard everybody like they are lebron because they share the ball alot

  16. matsci2 - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:29 AM

    There is one and only one way to beat the Heat: score more points than they do. Period.

  17. kansacity88 - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:30 PM

    Looks like the Bulls listened to the advice!

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