In the past four games, the Heat have played the Charlotte Bobcats (March 24th), Detroit (March 22nd), Cleveland (March 20th), and Boston (March 18th). All of these games have involved double-digit deficits followed by great comebacks, particularly at Cleveland, where they came back from 27 points down, and at Boston, where they came back from a 13 point fourth quarter deficit.
In case you missed either game:
The Heat have clearly been outplayed in the first half of many of these games — the question is how badly have the Heat been outplayed, and how have they responded? And do we see different patterns/trends for particular areas of the Heat’s game?
To answer these questions, let’s start by comparing the Heat’s offensive, defensive, and net rating over the past four games to the Heat’s offensive, defensive, and net rating over the season (excluding the past four games).
- Offensive Rating: Points Scored Per 100 Possessions
- Defensive Rating: Points Conceded Per 100 Possessions
- Net Rating: Point Differential Per 100 Possessions
- Offensive Rebound Percentage: Percentage of All Potential Offensive Rebounds that Heat obtain
- True Shooting Percentage: A more accurate measure of field goal percentage that incorporates three point shooting and free throws
As you can see, in the past four games, the Heat’s offense has been pitifully bad in the first half of games, scoring around 98 points per 100 possessions (to put this into perspective, this is the same offensive level that the Phoenix Suns/Charlotte Bobcats/Washington Wizards have played at this season). This is a good 10 to 12 points less than what the Heat have been averaging this season, in the first half of games. The only positive pattern to see is that the Heat can flip the switch, and when they do flip the switch — watch out. In the fourth quarter of the past four games, the Heat have averaged a 131 offensive rating, 20 points more per 100 possessions than what they have averaged over the course of the season.
We see the same thing happen with the Heat’s defense — start out badly (giving up 116 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter), and then recover to play at an incredibly high level (giving up only 84 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter). This Jekyll and Hyde behavior from the Heat has led to a point differential of -19.6 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter of the past four games, and a point differential of 46.8 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter of the past four games.
Many people have suggested that one of reasons behind the Heat’s recent struggles have been their rebounding (nothing new here…the Heat are currently 30th in the league in rebounds per game) , but what hasn’t really been documented is just how badly the Heat have rebounded. For example, let’s take a look at offensive rebounds:
I wanted to put this graph in here because I could not believe what I saw: in the second quarter of the past four games, the Heat have gotten 2.6% of all possible offensive rebounds.
Now, there’s not a huge sample size (it is only four games), and they do revert back to more normal levels in the first, third, and fourth quarters so this is probably more of a statistical anomaly than anything else, but I think it shows (at least a little) how badly the Heat have gotten killed on the boards, especially in the second quarter of games.
Recently, the Heat have come out simply ice-cold in the first quarter of games with a true shooting percentage of 51.5% — roughly the same level that the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers have shot at all season, which is fitting since the Heat have played both of these teams in the past four games. To say that the Heat shoot much better after the first quarter would be an understatement: they are absolutely ridiculous shooting the ball in the second half. Both the Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder have a true shooting percentage around 58% this year — in the fourth quarter of the past four games the Heat have shot around 68%.
The recent play of the Heat has been a story of two halves (you could even make the argument it has been a tale of the first quarter versus the next three quarters). The Heat start out very slowly before improving on every facet of their game. Whether this slow start is due to the fact that the Heat are getting everybody’s A-game, are simply exhausted from the winning streak, or have started getting complacent, this narrative of two halves is not sustainable — I think the Heat are expending too much energy erasing these double-digit deficits. That being said, seeing the Heat take their game to a whole different level is impressive and bodes well for the Heat during the playoffs.