The Miami Heat posted some interesting numbers in 2017-18, but one in particular stands out.
Miami Heat fans such as myself are accustomed to a rugged team that tends to find itself hanging around late in games, due to its 7th place defensive rating of 104.
Instead, we’re going to dive a little deeper into a game our Heat had right out of the twilight zone.
Somehow on Monday, March 19, 2018 they managed to drop a league season record 149 points on the Denver Nuggets.
Let’s take a closer look.
(This was certainly a night to remember and it’ll never happen again. They just don’t have the firepower.)
While it’s great to share this particular leaderboard where the Golden State Warriors appear three times and the Houston Rockets appear twice in the top ten, it just further exposes the team’s inability to make shots from the field and their ever frustrating free throw line troubles.
Have you ever been reprimanded as a child and the person says to you, “I’m not mad. I’m disappointed?” This is exactly the feeling I had about the Heat that night.
The potential is there to drop a lot of points on teams on a nightly basis but for some reason, Miami just doesn’t.
And that is why that point total is by far the worst statistic from last season.
Ok, let’s get a baseline here.
Last season the Miami Heat finished with a 104.5 offensive rating, which was good for 20th place.
(Note: this was only half a point better than their defensive rating.)
Throughout the regular season, the Heat were not to be rushed to put up a shot. They took 46.7 percent of all their shots within what the NBA considers to be the average shot clock range (15-7 seconds).
This is great. This is indicative of a defensive minded team that doesn’t rush shots. This can be measured by their 50.3 percent frequency rating when it came to shot attempts with zero dribbles taken, and their 58.8 percent frequency rating to take a shot within 2 seconds of touching the ball.
On their twilight zone night, the Heat took just about their season average of shot attempts in the “average shot clock range” at 44.3 percent, as well as shot attempts with zero dribbles at 49.5 percent.
The outlier this night was their willingness to take and make contested two-point shots.
During the regular season, the Heat averaged a 10.4 percent frequency rating in that category with a defender within two feet or less of the shooter, while shooting 56.2 percent. The NBA considers this to be “very tight” coverage.
On twilight night, the Heat exploded in this category by taking 14.4 percent of their total shots with very tight coverage and made a blistering 64.3 percent of those attempts.
Although the pace was clearly picked up in this game, the Heat stuck to their offensive philosophy of not taking contested 3’s. On twilight night, the team took zero contested 3’s.
Think about that. How many fanbases can confidently say their team would stay disciplined enough to not get sloppy and out of character while playing a team whose sole goal is to get up and down the court?
Some might say that their disappointing free throw line performance (63 percent) was the reason the game had to go into double overtime, but that’s just something we had to live with since Bam Adebayo played 27 minutes in Whiteside’s absence.
That night he shot 1-6 from the stripe, a performance he took on the chin and learned from. He must’ve gotten in the gym with a pinpoint focus on free throw shooting because he improved dramatically (92.9 percent) for the remaining 10 games of the season.
The disappointing part out of this season record is that I have no faith that the Heat can find this area of excellence on a consistent basis.
Many people preach patience but there does come a point where too much of it could be a detriment to your success. Ever heard the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers?” In the case of head coach Erik Spoelstra, he may need to take that advice.
I know the new NBA is all about 3’s and layups, but it’s ok to sometimes run plays that end with an open or at least a semi-contested jumper. We already run good sets and exercise patience by not taking shots early in the clock.
Sometimes, instead of moving the ball along to look for a better shot that’s not coming, a player like Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington or even Devin Harris might consider taking a mid-range shot with an offensive rebounder in position like Whiteside, Adebayo or Kelly Olynyk.
Small adjustments in the areas above plus getting Waiters back, are definitely worth another 4-6 wins and contention for home court in the first round of the playoffs.