Scouting Report: Miami Heat
The two-time defending NBA champions enter Tuesday’s matchup against Atlanta with a 7-3 record, though they’re 6-1 since a sputtering 1-2 start.
The Heat have been very efficient on both sides of the ball, but especially offensively in the early going. They lead the Eastern Conference in field goal percentage, three point percentage and points per game, and they are number two in assists (behind the Hawks). I’ll get to the big three in a minute, but it’s important to know that Miami has a team full of shooters, and with the way they move the ball, those shooters are going to get shots.
Obviously the offense starts with LeBron James. The reigning MVP is off to another MVP-like start, averaging better than 27 points and nearly seven assists through 10 games. Obviously James can score seemingly whenever he wants to, but it’s the attention he draws that is almost more dangerous. DeMarre Carroll will have a tough assignment, but Coach Bud will be ready to give him the help he needs. The problem is, when that help arrives, James is very good at making that first pass that starts the ball movement Miami is so good at. With shooters such as Ray Allen, Shane Battier and, this season, Michael Beasley waiting in the corners, it’s almost a pick your poison situation. It should also be noted that James has made 15 of his 29 three-point attempts this season, so baiting him to shoot isn’t exactly a recipe for success either.
Of course, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh provide a nice compliment. Both are averaging 15+ points, and both are shooting 48+ percent from the field. Bosh in particular has increased his range over the past few years, and he’s now somebody you have to guard all the way out to the three-point line. His ability to stretch defenses opens up driving lanes for James, Wade and point guard Mario Chalmers. Again, pick your poison.
Miami is also a very underrated defensive team. They move well and obviously have athletes, and they’re very good at turning turnovers into points. Live ball turnovers and missed shots are trouble because they love to get out and run. , so the Hawks will have to do a good job of protecting the ball and taking quality, high-percentage shots.
One advantage Atlanta should have is on the glass. The Heat are the worst rebounding team in the NBA, so this game should be one in which Atlanta can crash the offensive glass if they do miss shots, and limit Miami to one shot on their end. The Knicks had 19 offensive rebounds against the Hawks on Saturday and still lost by 20. If the Heat get even close to that many, they’ll probably win easily.
Coach Bud prepared for Miami seven times during last year’s NBA Finals, so he knows how to play them. Last year San Antonio’s strategy was to give cushion to the perimeter players and force them to take contested shots outside. In my opinion, keeping them out of the lane and off the free throw line is the best chance you have to beat them, so I’d like to see that strategy Tuesday. The winner will claim first place in the Southeast Division.
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