Skip to content

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?

Latest Posts
  1. LeBron James leads long list of players wishing Paul George the best after suffering serious USA Basketball injury

    Aug 2, 2014, 12:07 AM EDT

    Paul George, LeBron James Paul George, LeBron James

    LeBron, like most NBA players, had nothing but get-well wishes for Paul George following what appeared to be a serious injury.

  2. Paul George leaves USA Basketball Showcase with severe lower leg injury, remainder of scrimmage canceled

    Aug 1, 2014, 10:51 PM EDT

    Team USA Practice Session Getty Images

    Gruesome injury suffered by George causes remainder of scrimmage to be canceled.

  3. Tony Parker didn’t get a no-trade clause in his new Spurs deal. Why not?

    Aug 1, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    2014 NBA Finals - Game Five Getty Images

    Only six NBA players have no-trade clauses, and Parker wasn’t eligible under the circumstances.

  4. Report: Corey Brewer not going to Cavaliers in Kevin Love trade

    Aug 1, 2014, 5:44 PM EDT

    Kyrie Irving, Corey Brewer Kyrie Irving, Corey Brewer

    Rumor had suggested Brewer could replace Kevin Martin or J.J. Barea in deal

  5. Derrick Rose: Bulls are more talented than at any point in his career

    Aug 1, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    NBA Cares All-Star Day of Service NBA Cares All-Star Day of Service

    Chicago added Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott this summer

  6. Knicks sign second-round pick Cleanthony Early

    Aug 1, 2014, 4:14 PM EDT

    Cleanthony Early Cleanthony Early

    New York had only minimum contract available

  7. Rumor: Corey Brewer to Cleveland now part of Kevin Love trade talk

    Aug 1, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

    If true, Corey Brewer would be a nice get for the Cavaliers.

  8. Tony Parker signs (another) contract extension with Spurs

    Aug 1, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT

    2014 NBA Finals - Game Five Getty Images

    Parker’s max extension: three years, $43,335,938

  9. Dwyane Wade says he has dropped weight, ready to take on more of offense

    Aug 1, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Dwyane Wade Dwyane Wade

    Wade is trying to drop pounds to make life easier on his knees. We’ll see how much that helps.

  10. Isaiah Thomas: “I always will love Sacramento, but when we play them I’m going to kill Sacramento”

    Aug 1, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT

    Sacramento Kings v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

    “So when I say I felt disrespected, I just felt like the way I played the game of basketball wasn’t appreciated.” —Isaiah Thomas referring to Sacramento management.

  11. Paul George: Cavaliers are Eastern Conference favorites

    Aug 1, 2014, 11:20 AM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game 3 Getty Images

    Why is the Pacers’ star choosing LeBron James’ team?

  12. Report: Greg Monroe ‘doesn’t really have a great interest in going back and playing with the Pistons’

    Aug 1, 2014, 10:29 AM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Detroit Pistons Atlanta Hawks v Detroit Pistons

    Pistons have reportedly talked sign-and-trade with Hawks, Suns and Blazers (but Portland is out)

  13. Spurs Coyote wins Mascot of the Year

    Aug 1, 2014, 9:44 AM EDT

    San Antonio Spurs Victory Parade And Rally Getty Images

    Finally, San Antonio basketball fans have a reason to be proud

Featured video

Why can't Lakers have a player-coach?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (4003)
  2. K. Love (3699)
  3. L. James (3625)
  4. K. Bryant (2615)
  5. K. Durant (2192)
  1. R. Allen (2095)
  2. D. Wade (2025)
  3. E. Bledsoe (1944)
  4. B. Griffin (1859)
  5. M. Beasley (1796)