Despite their glittering 16-6 record, the defending-champion Miami Heat seem to be anything but invincible.
Indeed, even though they had only a modicum of trouble in beating Minnesota last night, their 103-92 victory did expose several meaningful flaws in Miami’s game plan.
It’s no secret that the smallish Heat have trouble rebounding the ball. The T-Wolves two bruisers, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love, combined for 30 rebounds — four more than Miami’s team total.
Overall, Minnesota’s rebounding edge was 58-24, which included an 18-6 advantage in offensive retrievals. This is why the visiting T-Wolves had 86 shot attempts to Miami’s 77.
Even though the home team overcame these lopsided differences with excellent 3-point shooting (13-for-25), and by inducing numerous (19) turnovers, rebounding at both ends of the game are (and will remain) a weakness that could very well be the determining factor in an otherwise competitive playoff series.
In addition, even a relatively slow-footed team like Minnesota routinely penetrated into the lane from the top and from either wing. From a starting position at least twenty feet on the perimeter, both J. J. Berea and Luke Ridnour too often were unimpeded as they dribbled to the ring. Only Norris Cole proved to be a defensive stopper at the point.
The Heat’s defensive rotations are invariably timely and well-coordinated in defense of low-post players. However, Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh, and Joel Anthony have difficulty preventing their opposite numbers from gaining such good position in the pivot that the defensive help is unable to arrive in time to do any good.
Since none of this trio of bigs had the muscle to move Love and Pekovic off of prime interior real estate, playing fronting defense was their primary strategy—which was mostly successful only because the T-Wolves did a poor job of vacating the weakside and taking any help defenders away from the lane.
Off-the-ball cross-cuts and dives by Minnesota’s bigs almost always produced openings.
Also, on high-wing pick-and-rolls, Berea and Ridnour were easily able to turn the corner and zip into the paint.
The last shortcoming in Miami’s defense is their erratic transition, which would provide a huge advantage to a super-quick team like Oklahoma City.