There isn’t a carousel at the center position anymore.
No, instead the Miami Heat are finding themselves at a perplexing situation in the form of finding the right pairing for Chris Bosh in the starting lineup. Shane Battier started out the year starting at the four following the Heat’s success with the small lineup that featured Battier being the x-factor in their championship victory.
Battier made it difficult for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Heat found a weak point in Serge Ibaka being unable to defend the perimeter, rendering him, as well as Kendrick Perkins, essentially useless when it came to defending two perimeter players in Battier and Bosh.
Battier ended up shooting 55 percent from deep. That becomes a lot easier to do when your defender is constantly shadowing the rim in hopes that his use as a shot-blocker will come in handy.
Small-ball works. It’s proven. But only for so long. It’s smart to do when it continually causes matchup problems in a seven-game series, but not for the duration of a strenuous 82-game season where contests are won on a game-by-game basis.
What opponents are basically doing now is throwing shots at the rim and allowing their taller post players to give them second-chances on offensive rebounds. The Heat are currently giving up 11.9 offensive boards–good enough for seventh worst in the league–and are coming off a loss to Utah that featured the Jazz winning the offensive rebounding battle by a substantial 13-5 margin.
The second-chance points margin? 19-0 in favor of Utah. For a game the Jazz only won by seven, that hurts.
That’s a recurring trend that has been seen in Heat losses: poor rebounding. Miami was outrebounded 55-36 in their 10-point loss to Indiana and 48-28 in a 7-point loss to Chicago are just a few of the recent instances where the Heat ended up losing solely because they’re not crashing the boards, nor are they keeping their opponent off the glass.
Nobody is stepping up to the challenge of making an effort to grab more rebounds. LeBron James currently leads the team with 8.2 rebounds per. Meanwhile, the center, Chris Bosh, is averaging 7.2 boards, and the power forward, Udonis Haslem, is grabbing 5.2 boards per.
That’s 12 rebounds per game from your starting center and power forward. Are you at all surprised the Heat currently rank dead last in total rebounds per, as well as offensive rebounds? LeBron’s only going to do so much, and that’s where guys like Bosh and Haslem are expected to step up.
The Heat simply aren’t getting that. The worst part is that this can only be solved internally. As much as we want to think Chris Andersen or Kenyon Martin is going to solve the Heat’s rebounding woes, they’re not. They’re free agents for a reason; because not a single NBA team found it useful to use a veterans minimum on either of them.
Where would they even fit in the rotation? Do you sacrifice the minutes of wing players like Battier, Allen, and Miller to play bigger, or do you just wipe out Haslem’s minutes entirely? Either way, once the postseason begins you’ll never see them.
The current starting lineup of Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, James, Haslem, and Bosh is yielding one of the lowest rebounding percentages of any of the Heat lineups at 43.5 percent. Out of 20 lineups, there are only four lineups that rebound worse: one that includes Bosh as the only power player, another that includes Haslem as the only power player, one that features Haslem and Rashard Lewis at the four and five, and the worst one which features LeBron playing alongside Bosh, Battier, Allen and Cole.
When it comes to team production by position, the Heat are -1.5 compared to their opponent at the power forward position and -3.8 at center on the rebounding front.
No matter which way you put it, the starting lineup the Heat are currently sending out night in and night out is one of the worst when it comes to rebounding.
So, what exactly can the Miami Heat do to solve these rebounding woes? Because the Haslem and Bosh lineup just isn’t working. They got worked against the Utah Jazz combining for only five rebounds and, sadly, this isn’t the first time this has happened when the Heat were rebounded by a substantial margin. When the Heat were outrebounded by Minnesota 53-24, Bosh and Haslem combined for three rebounds; against Chicago they had eight; against Indiana they combined for nine.
Haslem has two double-digit rebounding games all season. Bosh’s two best rebounding outputs came against the same Milwaukee Bucks team, and has 14 rebounds in the past four games. The rebound he had against Utah was a season-low, but he also had a two-rebound game against Brooklyn and a game against Denver where he had a mere three. Bosh has one double-digit rebounding game since December 15th.
Effort is an attribute the Heat’s frontcourt players could use. It seems almost silly to say, but the Heat simply aren’t getting to rebounds. Fundamentals aren’t being used to box-out and there isn’t enough being done to keep taller opponents away from the rim. There is a need for more activity under the rim and there has to be a conscious effort, similar to how the team reacted upon the loss of Bosh against Indiana, to gang-rebound and keep opponents away from the ball.
Miami’s defense isn’t the problem. Although they’re allowing 97.4 points per game, they’re only allowing their opponents to shoot 43.6 percent from the field. Only seven other teams are holding their opponents to a lower field-goal percentage. Miami is allowing their opponents to make 8.3 three-pointers per (26th in the league), but at a 36.2 percentage rate (only 12th in the league).
Here’s the most jarring stat that not many have taken into account: Heat opponents are attempting 82.8 field-goal attempts per. That’s not too bad. What is bad, however, is the fact that Miami is taking only 77.9 shots per game, last in the NBA. That comes as a result of the Heat shooting a league-best field-goal percentage, but also because the Heat are getting only eight offensive rebounds per while the opposition is getting 12.
Miami is doing mostly everything right. They have one of the most efficient offenses in the league and their defense has greatly improved since the beginning of the season. What it’s coming down to now, however, is rebounding and nothing else. There needs to be a collective effort to crash the boards because opponents are just now figuring out that throwing the ball at the rim and relying on their teammates to grab an offensive rebound for a second chance actually works.
Pat Riley said it best: “No rebounds. No rings.”