Ah yes, the Miami Heat’s infamous “on/off switch.” We’ve heard about it so many times with the “experts” mentioning it whenever Miami seems to be in a funk–almost to the point where you start to doubt its very existence as we watch them struggle through the regular season.
Just think back to the final two months of this season when they appeared to be suffering left, right and center, and finished with a 13-14 record in the woeful Eastern Conference. There were worries of health, a lack of chemistry and fatigue.
Now, the Heatles seem reinvigorated having cruised their way through the postseason thus far. Erik Spoelstra’s team is now 6-0 during these NBA playoffs and even he, as meticulous as he is, can’t have a lot to complain about.
Despite the assist average being down by 2.5 from the regular season average to 20 per game, the ball is whizzing around the court more and the offense is clicking. No longer are they relying on LeBron James to come up with ridiculous play after ridiculous play (although he still does it because well, he’s LeBron James).
It’s gotten to the point where his scoring is down to a “measly” 22 points per game in the second round because everyone is chipping and making it difficult for the Charlotte Bobcats (in the first round) and Brooklyn Nets (second round) to hone in on the him.
Players such as Norris Cole are doing their bit as the backup point guard, who shot just 34 percent after the All-Star break, entered Game 2 shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 61.5 percent on 3-pointers in the playoffs. Spoelstra said one reason he thrives in big moments is because “he’s a tough kid. It’s part of the fabric we liked about him.”
Moreover, they are protecting the basketball exceptionally well with just 10 turnovers per game. Not only is that the best in the postseason, it is nearly five less than the regular season figure (14.8) and was a point of emphasis.
“We have to protect the ball, turnovers are going to be a huge part of this series,” Bosh said. “If we do catch it where we want to, especially in the paint, we’re going to have to protect it. They have those tricky vets down there, they know pretty much everything there is about stripping, drawing fouls, getting charges and just being a nuisance to you if you’re trying to score.”
The only hiccup that comes to mind is the miserable 15-point first quarter in Game 2 against the Nets when Miami missed the first five field goals and shot an abysmal 1-of-8 from beyond the 3-point. Though even then they were still down by just six points and went on to notch their fourth straight double-digit win.
However, as the saying goes: “defense wins championships” and Miami’s trademark suffocating D has picked up the intensity and stifled the opposition. The 99.4 points per 100 possessions is third only to the Indiana Pacers (96.1) and a hair behind the Washington Wizards (99.2) in the postseason. The 3-point defense is still a bit of a worry after Mirza Teletovic came up with 20 points, 15 of which came in the first half, primarily via the deep ball. While the fact that Brooklyn as a team only scored 82 points will leave him relatively happy, Spoelstra will look to fix the issue and soon. After all, we saw what happened when a shooter was allowed to run rampant during last year’s finals.
Though it has to be said, the way the Miami Heat look right now, it’s hard to bet against them winning their third NBA championship in a row. At very least it’s the kind of play that should see them make their fourth straight trip to the Finals.