Skip to content

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

Mar 26, 2013, 12:59 PM EST

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?

Latest Posts
  1. PBT Extra: Who should be the All-Star Game reserves?

    Jan 26, 2015, 7:30 PM EST

    James Harden, Jeremy Lin AP

    Will Steve Kerr start Klay Thompson or James Harden?

  2. Report: Kobe Bryant “definitively coming back to play next season”

    Jan 26, 2015, 6:43 PM EST

    Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Did you really think Kobe Bryant was going to leave the game on anything but his own terms?

  3. Kobe Bryant to have surgery on shoulder, is done for season

    Jan 26, 2015, 3:37 PM EST

    Kobe Bryant AP

    He should be back for the start of next season.

  4. PBT’s Weekly NBA Power Rankings: Hawks continue to fly high

    Jan 26, 2015, 2:38 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptnmmtzkyjjhzgm1zdzlogjiyza4mgjimdhiyjc2mjcy AP

    It’s Hawks and Warriors and everyone else. Just as its been for a while now.

  5. Kobe Bryant wanted to sign with Michael Jordan’s Wizards

    Jan 26, 2015, 2:04 PM EST

    Kobe Bryant with Michael Jordan Getty Images

    After Washington pushed out Jordan, Kobe re-signed with Lakers

  6. Nick Young benched because Byron Scott thought Lakers guard ‘didn’t want to be there’

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:47 AM EST

    The Los Angeles Sports And Entertainment Commission's 11th Annual Lakers All-Access Event Getty Images

    Lakers coach asked Young about his defense. ‘The answer he gave me, I couldn’t figure it out.’

  7. Pau Gasol’s trade tip put his and Marc Gasol’s All-Star futures in motion

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:44 AM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Memphis Grizzlies Getty Images

    Gasols, Pau of the Bulls and Marc of the Grizzlies, become first brothers to start an NBA All-Star game

  8. Reports: Kings at Knicks, Trail Blazers at Nets games Monday postponed due to coming storm

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:09 AM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptmzywjlotg5yji0ngq5mjezytm4mtg0mte4nge4zgq3 AP

    With the storm bearing down on the Northeast, this is the right move by the league.

  9. Did win over Lakers break Rockets out of their defensive slump?

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:30 AM EST

    Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Was it good defense or just that the Lakers were that bad?

  10. Timberwolves’ Robbie Hummel breaks hand, says he is out six weeks

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:00 AM EST

    Robbie Hummel Getty Images

    When he gets healthy and back the guys in front of him on the depth chart will be healthy as well.

Featured video

Stephen Curry leads NBA MVP race mid-season
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. Aldridge (8492)
  2. K. Bryant (8460)
  3. H. Whiteside (7636)
  4. D. Wade (7350)
  5. R. Rubio (6963)
  1. K. Martin (6800)
  2. J. Noah (6548)
  3. K. Walker (6372)
  4. C. Anthony (6278)
  5. N. Batum (6235)