“We make our mark defensively,” MVP LeBron James said.
He’s right. But maybe that’s about to change a little bit. Maybe.
For years and years, the Heat have prided themselves on defense. That’s the culture. This is the team that gets its defensive philosophy from Pat “Contest Every Possession” Riley. It is defensive-minded right down the line.
James might be the best defensive player in the NBA. Dwyane Wade is the best shot-blocking guard in the NBA and has made the All-Defensive Team. And you will never confuse Heat coach Erik Spoelstra with Doug Moe.
But Miami is allowing 106.5 points per game, while scoring in bunches. This ain’t right.
So what in the name of Paul Westhead is going on here?
“We’re not last year’s team,” Wade said after Monday’s 124-99 victory over Phoenix. “We’re trying to find our own identity. We have work to do. We did a better job tonight.”
Here’s what could be going on: We might be looking at the wrong thing. We might be seeing the evolution of a higher-scoring Heat team, an improved team offensively, a more dangerous team.
Set aside the defense. It will come around.
Offensively, this could become a Heat team that, right from the start of the season and throughout the playoffs, puts an unreal amount of pressure on its opponents.
No, the Heat are not last year’s team. They might be even better.
Defense and effort are the reasons Miami spanked Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals. Spoelstra’s brand of position-less basketball made center Kendrick Perkins and power forward Serge Ibaka powerless to use their size. And the Heat’s defense took care of guard James Harden. The defense will be fine.
Plus, the Heat are doing well overall. They’re 3-1.
Granted, there are defensive issues. The fact that the Heat are tied for 23rd in rebounds (39.5 per game) isn’t a big deal. They finished tied for 21st in the league (41.6) last year and won the title.
Here’s what’s out of whack. Denver had 18 offensive rebounds and outscored Miami, 30-6, in second-chance points.