By Dennis Berry
On December 26 the Miami Heat were 20-6 after a 105-92 win at Charlotte. Since then Miami has struggled in their last 10 games. They have gone 4-6 during that span and face another tough road game at Golden State on Wednesday night.
In their last 10 games the Heat have lost to Detroit, Milwaukee, and Utah. The other losses were to Chicago, Indiana, and Portland. The victories have come against teams that the Heat should beat: Dallas, Washington, and Sacramento.
This is not a new situation in Miami. Since they formed their “Big 3” of Chris Bosh, Dywane Wade, and LeBron James they have gone through periods like this before. During the 2010-11 season they started the year 9-8 before finishing the season 58-24.
In the lockout that shortened the 2011-12 season they did not suffer a 10 game stretch like this, but they did have times when they struggled. There was a three game losing streak on a West Coast trip early in the season. Then in March they went 4-6 on the road. To close out the season they lost 3 of their final four games when they had already locked up the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, last year they won the NBA Championship so that really did not mean anything.
This stretch is different. The Heat have struggled and you can see where teams are taking advantage of them.
One area that the Heat have really struggled in is rebounding. In their six losses during this 10 game stretch they have been out rebounded 272-218. The only time they won the rebounding battle in a loss was against Milwaukee 51-46.
It wasn't much better in their wins. In their four wins they were still out rebounded 176-165. The only game they won the rebounding battle against was the Washington Wizards 50-39.
Rebounding has been a problem all year for the Heat. They rank 30th in the NBA in rebounding at 46.7 rebounds a game. They are last in the NBA in offensive rebounding at only eight a game.
On the other side, teams are getting 50.1 rebounds a game against them. The Heat rank 24th in the NBA allowing opponents to get 11.9 offensive rebounds a game.
Another factor working against the Heat is that they are a middle-of-the-pack defensive team. What has a strength last season has become a problem this year. Teams are scoring 97.4 points a game against the Heat, which ranks 16th in the league. Last season they only allowed 91.9 points a game.
Another problem for the Heat is their perimeter defense. Teams are shooting 36% behind the arc this year against Miami, that ranks Miami 20th in the league. They rank 27th in the NBA giving up eight made three point baskets a game. The outside defenders are allowing opponents to get off too many uncontested shots.
Finally, the Heat have one of the worst benches in the NBA. They only contribute 17.8 points a game which ranks them 25th overall. Miami was hoping to have a more explosive attack off the bench with the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. That has not been the case, but the Heat can lay claim to having the best three point shooting bench.
These are many of the same issues that have been a problem for Miami the past two seasons. It has not hurt them in the playoffs yet, as we have watched them make the NBA Finals the last two seasons and win it all last year.
They should still be favorites to come out of the east, but the gap between them and the rest of the conference appears to be closing.