5 Biggest questions facing the Miami Heat for the playoff push

Plus four more of the biggest storylines to monitor over the Miami Heat's final 27 games.

Miami Heat v New York Knicks
Miami Heat v New York Knicks / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages
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How good is the defense?

Ask any Heat player about the team’s identity, and each one will point to defense first.

The Heat have bounced back after two lackluster months and now rank eighth in points allowed per possession at the break. But can they get better?

After giving up 115.5 points per 100 possessions in January, the Heat have the league’s best defense through seven games in February, allowing only 104.8 points per 100 possessions. 

Some of that can be chalked up to the schedule (Wizards, Clippers, Magic, Spurs, Celtics, Bucks and 76ers without Embiid), but the Heat also got healthier and cleaned up some of the non-Heat-like mistakes on that end after a team meeting at the end of last month.

Outside of Adebayo, Butler (when engaged) and Haywood Highsmith (when playing), the Heat don’t have other elite stoppers. The Heat give up 111.8 points every 100 possessions with Adebayo on the court, making him the linchpin of what can be elite units. 

Spoelstra will be able to mix and match his lineups. There’s a core nine in Miami when healthy: Rozier, Herro, Butler, Martin, Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Josh Richardson, Jaquez and Kevin Love. Nikola Jovic and Highsmith can get minutes based on matchups or availability. Perhaps Wright can push Richardson for a core spot.

The balance all season has been finding ways to juice the offense while maintaining a Heat-appropriate level on defense.