While offense can be streaky depending on how the team is shooting and what type of defense the opposing team is playing, defense is an aspect of the game that could remain consistent for upwards to a season or a decade.
It’s why the San Antonio Spurs have four championships in the past decade; it’s why the Boston Celtics are constant threats to win the NBA title despite having a starting lineup with four players over the age of 30; it’s why the Detroit Pistons ran the Eastern Conference for the latter part of the late 1980′s and the 2000′s.
The Miami Heat are now trying to become one of those teams with the offensive game to boot. They currently are giving up a league low 87 points per game, the second lowest field goal percentage allowed at only 40%, and have yet to give up over 97 points.
Their best defensive performance came in only their third game together when they held the usually volatile Orlando Magic to their lowest scoring output in nearly five years at 70 points. The Magic shot 31 percent overall and 17 percent from beyond the arc.
With defensive-minded teams like the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs growing older, there aren’t many other teams that could challenge the defensive intensity that the Heat bring to the table. Dwyane Wade is one of the top shot-blocking guards of all time as well as being one of the more quality lock down defenders in the league. LeBron James is recognized as one of the more intimidating figures on both sides of the ball while being a quality one-on-one defender as well.
You could claim that aside from Udonis Haslem off the bench, there aren’t many other strong defensive-minded players on this Heat team. Carlos Arroyo is as inept as it comes at defending point guards. Chris Bosh is weak in the paint. And despite Joel Anthony being a quality shot-blocker and defender, he is only 6’9″ and has already been dominated by the likes of Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor.
Nevertheless, the Miami Heat are still the NBA’s best defensive team and it’s not only because of LeBron’s chase-down blocks. What many critics don’t realize is that coach Erik Spoelstra is an extremely defensive-minded leader.
Even prior to the acquisitions of James and Bosh, the Heat were in the top five in points allowed per game. Spoelstra has already begun to take advantage of each player’s strengths on the defensive side.
Erik runs a defense where the individual is usually never left alone to defend an opposing player as help defense is a staple of his game plan. While help defense does require a player to leave their match-up open, it creates a lot more turnovers and fast break opportunities, where the Heat are the most dangerous team in the league to face.
The Heat are also attempting to master the art of the pick and roll defense by using a high basketball I.Q. and athleticism to limit an opposing teams.
The Heat’s rotation on the defensive side has been nothing short of amazing and has been the reason the opposition is only scoring 86 points per game against Wade and Co.
The defense along the perimeter has been stellar thanks in part to the Heat using their athleticism, agility and speed to defend the three-point line. It explains why the Heat are only allowing teams to shoot 32% from beyond the arc.
As for the thought of the interior being too weak, the likes of Brook Lopez and Dwight Howard have already found themselves stymied against the Heat’s interior defense. Despite the two players having dynamic first halves, they were limited to a combined three points in the second half, with Lopez scoring all three.
Two factors that might not show up in the stat column is simple—James and Wade.
Facing two of the most lethal and dangerous players on both sides of the court is enough to strike fear into the heart of just about anyone.
Wade and James are extremely intimidating figures that use their sheer presence alone to alter an opposing player’s shot. Whether it’s lock down defense, chase down blocks, or allowing no passing lane to remain open, LeBron and Dwyane have been the keys to the Heat’s brilliant defensive start.
Even with the chemistry yet to fully develop, their play on defense, has been the main reason why the Heat are 5-2.
The team still has its flaws and holes to fill, but for now the defense has been the staple to the team’s quick start and will remain as that until this dynasty comes to an end.
If LeBron wants to see his first championship this June, he and the rest of the team will need to keep up the defensive intensity.