There’s no doubt that the Miami Heat’s quicker pace was a key reason as to why they’re currently the reigning NBA champions.
From 21st the previous year to 14th last year in pace, the Heat had the look of a far more efficient team than the one they had in 2011, where the offense sporadically stalled and the ball stuck at the top of the perimeter. The Heat knew they ran a chance of running into some barriers involving chemistry between the newly formed ‘Big Three’, but hardly expected LeBron James to finish with his lowest PER since 2007 as well as Dwyane Wade finishing with his lowest since 2005.
Chris Bosh was an enigma, attempting to adjust to being a third option.
In response, the Heat decided that the only way to improve their offense on a consistent basis would be to force opponents into playing to a tempo that only they could play at. With their speed, athleticism and stamina, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were going to literally run their opponents off the court. No other team was capable of keeping up with the Heat’s fast pace because they had two of the league’s most dynamic players in the fastbreak and the open-court.
Once the Heat got a rebound, their opponent would have to spring back in order to stop a fastbreak every single possession. Opponents would naturally get tired and the Heat would take advantage by continuing to maintain the steady pace they had been at all night. When opponents play the Heat, they’re also entering a battle with their bodies; knowing that it’s going to take every fiber in their being to limit the activity of Wade, James and Bosh.
It explains why you see a lot of teams play the Heat like their lives are depending on it. They’re motivated to beat Miami and they’re also exhausting a lot of energy in an attempt to keep up for 48 minutes. Most of the time, the Heat come out on top because their talent is overwhelming, but they can get caught sleeping from time-to-time by the teams who can save their reserve tanks.
Still, the fast pace resulted in a better Heat offense. LeBron James remained the focal point of the offense, but did so by way of receiving the ball in the post; an excellent method of getting the ball to your best player near the basket. When the league’s best player is 15 feet away from the basket and there’s still 15 seconds left to work with on the shot clock, that team is going to come away with a high-percentage shot.
Make or miss, good offense happened; and good offense will get rewarded.
Now we’ve reached a point in the offseason where the outlook of how the team will run its offense with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis in the picture. Many have thought the pace would slow down because of the two elder statesmen joining the team, but that may not be the case.
Coach Erik Spoelstra recently did an interview and commented on the outlook of how fast the team will run:
“I hope to play faster. We turned it up a gear last year and I think we have the personnel to hopefully go even faster. And I think with a normal training camp and a full season, we can build that habit a little bit more.”
Well, there goes that idea. Even with the 37-year-old Ray Allen and 33-year-old Rashard Lewis joining the squad, Miami wants to push the tempo even faster. It’s not as bad as you think, though. Allen and Lewis won’t be expected to run with Wade and James on every fastbreak. Instead, they’ll do even better by trailing the fastbreak and receiving passes along the perimeter after whoever is leading the fastbreak sucks the defense into the paint.
Spoelstra is going to want to do everything in his power to involve Allen and Lewis in the fast pace of the Heat’s game. If they could find ways for LeBron and Dwyane to coexist on the same court, then they shouldn’t have much trouble involving the NBA’s best three-point shooter. Allen will simply take on the role of a Mario Chalmers in the fastbreak; waiting along the perimeter while Wade and James lead the way.
The scariest thought crossing everybody’s mind is fatigue. The Heat experienced a bit of fatigue in the second half of the season and ended up settling for far more jumpers than they did in the first portion of the season. It’s natural for the team to get tired, especially within that condensed schedule, but it could still transition over into the regular 82-game season. Luckily for the Heat, the coaching staff is adamant about the postseason and would much rather rest their starters, instead of going after a number one seed.
Although, a number one seed seems to be within grasp, whether or not the Heat will employ a consistent, fast pace to each and every game. With Chicago dealing with the injuries to Derrick Rose and the likes of Boston and Indiana possibly being their biggest competition in the East, Miami could save up their energy for the postseason; utilizing Battier, Lewis and Allen to take some minutes from Wade, James and Bosh.
The coaching staff knows what’s best for the team. They’ve shown in the past two years they’re not adamant about pushing the envelope in the regular season, but they’ve also shown that they have no trouble breaking out that quick tempo to the game through certain stretches of the season.