These 2 important trends bode well for the Heat's playoff chances

A scary Terry Rozier and an elite Miami Heat defense is a good combination.
Apr 2, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) passes the basketball as Miami
Apr 2, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) passes the basketball as Miami / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t look now (OK, now you can look), but a couple of things that once worried Miami Heat fans now look like strengths as the team makes its final push into the postseason.

The first thing is the team’s defense. After slipping to 13th in defensive rating at the end of January, when they were allowing 114.3 points every 100 possessions, the Heat have climbed to fifth in defensive rating, now allowing 111.6 points per 100.

The Heat made the leap by allowing an NBA-best 107.1 points per 100 possessions since Feb. 1. They’ve held five of their last 10 opponents to under 100 points – seemingly an impossible feet in the modern National Basketball Association. This includes Tuesday’s 109-99 victory over the New York Knicks, the team’s third-straight win.

“It’s been a goal all season to get to top five and stay top five,” Caleb Martin said. “So it’s good that it’s starting to come around at the right time.”

And, boy, is it coming around.

Miami’s defensive performance against Jalen Brunson and Co. on Tuesday was downright dominant. The Heat game-planned to get the ball out of Brunson’s hands (Brunson had been averaging 34.3 points in his previous nine games before being held to 20 on Tuesday night) by sending two to the ball or switching when he came off a screen. Communication was key. Miami’s defenders had to be on a string. They were.

“It’s just our DNA,” Terry Rozier said. “We try to make it tough on our opponents, we’re top five on defense and that shows how our culture is.”

Speaking of Terry Rozier, he’s been on quite a stretch. After struggling with his shot in the first few weeks since arriving in Miami, he’s found his footing on offense. (This is our second positive trend.)

  • Rozier in his first 14 games with the Heat: 13.9 points on 38.8% shooting (26.5% on 3s)
  • Rozier in his last 14 games: 19.6 points on 46.3% shooting (42.4% on 3s)

His 34-point outing on Tuesday was his best since getting traded to Miami. He poured in 10 of his 15 shots, including the dagger 3-pointer with 34.7 seconds to go. 

“I feel like I can score the ball pretty well,” Rozier said, “and it was just one of those nights.”

As Rozier got acclimated to his new surroundings, teammates and coaches told him to be himself. In 4½ seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, Rozier averaged 20 points on 43.6% shooting (37.2% on 3s).  Eventually, his stats were going to resemble something closer to the larger sample. That positive regression is happening at the right time, with seven games left before the postseason.

“He’s definitely arrived into a role where he’s able to be himself,” Kevin Love said.
“We wanted him to be that early on when he got here. When I first got here, I wanted it so bad, but he’s been a childhood fan of this organization and this team. 

“I think he’s finally settled in and it’s an amazing thing to see him getting back to being Scary Terry.”