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. Report: Thanasis Antetokounmpo chooses Knicks D-League team over playing in Europe next season

    Aug 21, 2014, 8:59 PM EDT

    thanasis nba draft

    Knicks finally considering the importance of developing young talent for the future.

  2. Report: Timberwolves to end up with Thad Young, Anthony Bennett as part of Kevin Love trade

    Aug 21, 2014, 7:31 PM EDT

    Kevin Love Kevin Love

    Wiggins too, while guys like Alexey Shved will be sent to the Sixers.

  3. Shaq answers the question: Kobe or LeBron?

    Aug 21, 2014, 6:12 PM EDT

    Shaquille O'Neal AP

    Gone are the days when Shaq would have used this as an opportunity to take a shot at Kobe.

  4. NBA GM says ‘there’s no reason’ to trade for restricted free agents Greg Monroe or Eric Bledsoe

    Aug 21, 2014, 5:02 PM EDT

    John Loyer, Greg Monroe John Loyer, Greg Monroe

    Why give up assets now, when either player could be signed outright as an unrestricted free agent next summer?

  5. DeMarcus Cousins wants to be the third ‘Splash Brother’ (VIDEO)

    Aug 21, 2014, 3:59 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

    Stephen Curry: “We’re still taking applications.”

  6. Jeremy Lin smashes a cake in his mother’s face (Instagram)

    Aug 21, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT

    Jeremy Lin Jeremy Lin

    Being Jeremy Lin’s parent must be an interesting experience. What do you say to him to correct him.

  7. Kyrie Irving with crossover, step-back jumper for Team USA (VIDEO)

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    Team USA Showcase Getty Images

    It’s a great move, one Irving pulls off almost ever game.

  8. Derrick Rose says he’ll play Friday vs. Puerto Rico

    Aug 21, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT

    Derrick Rose, Tom Thibodeau Derrick Rose, Tom Thibodeau

    Patience is the right play here. And patience is never popular with any fan base.

  9. Kentucky’s Calipari calls David Blatt right guy to coach Cavaliers

    Aug 21, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

    David Blatt David Blatt

    Blatt can coach, but if it takes a season for the Cavaliers to find their identity (as it did with LeBron in Miami) will he get the chance to stick around for it?

  10. Report: Don’t be so sure on Anthony Bennett to Philadelphia rumors

    Aug 21, 2014, 9:16 AM EDT

    Anthony Bennett Anthony Bennett

    If you’re now rebuilding in Minnesota, why trade Bennett?

  11. DeMar DeRozan leads Team USA in scoring, could well stick with team (VIDEO)

    Aug 21, 2014, 1:33 AM EDT

    Dominican Republic v United States Getty Images

    He also was a scoring machine at the showcase in Las Vegas.

  12. Coach K: No Team USA cuts before Friday’s game

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT

    Team USA Practice Session Getty Images

    16 players will practice and be available for Friday’s game against Puerto Rico, but the roster needs to be trimmed to 12 in advance of the FIBA World Cup.

  13. Wednesday And-1 links: Youths who entered Ray Allen’s home charged with trespassing

    Aug 20, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    2014 NBA Finals - Practice Day And Media Availability Getty Images

    Including a link to the trailers of the STARZ show LeBron James is producing loosely based on his life

Featured video

Will LeBron get booed Christmas Day in Miami?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (3414)
  2. L. James (2108)
  3. S. Marion (2101)
  4. K. Bryant (2016)
  5. D. Cousins (2009)
  1. R. Allen (1906)
  2. A. Davis (1868)
  3. C. Anthony (1779)
  4. P. George (1776)
  5. K. Irving (1692)