Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Heat Defense: An Unsung Hero

November 4, 2010

The new-look Miami Heat captured the attention of the basketball world with the offensively adept characters it assembled over the Summer. Dreams of LeBron James tossing alley-oops to Dwyane Wade, or vice-versa, while Chris Bosh picked apart front courts with his mid-range jumper flooded the minds of Heat fans since the trio's inception.

But deep within the core of these gifted scorers is a foundation of solid defense; a foundation that Erik Spoelstra has harnessed to further his culture of defense in Miami.

Think about it, before James, Bosh or any of the other fresh faces joined the Heat this offseason, Miami was already a quality defensive team in the NBA.

Since 2008, when Coach Spoelstra was named head coach, the Heat adopted a defense-first mentality - progressively improving their defense each succesive season. From the dreadful 15-win '07 season to '08, Miami reduced their opponents' field goal percentage (OFG%) from 46.8 to 45.5, and their opponents' points per game (OPPG) from 100 to 98.1. These were minor improvements, but improvements nonetheless. 

But the Heat didn't stop there.

Just last season Miami took the next step and elevated their defense once again. Their OFG% dropped by almost two percent to 43.9 (tied for first overall), while their OPPG took a four-point dip to 94.2 (second in the league). That is, the Heat defense catapulted from poor to average to top-tier in the span of two seasons.

Fast forward to 2010 and you'll find the Heat picking up right where they left off. To date, the Heat lead the Association in OPPG and are second in lowest OFG%.

In essence, what you have is the same system only with better pieces.

There is no doubt that the flash and frills of a high octane offense are the most exciting element of the Heat product. However, as LeBron would say, "don't think for one min[ute]" that the real hero is the gritty, hard-nosed soul of the Miami defense.

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On a side note, sometimes defense steals the show in Miami as we witnessed (we were all witnesses) this week by LeBron's tremendous block on New Orleans Hornets' rookie Wesley Johnson. It was so emphatic we thought it was worth taking another look at. Let us enjoy:

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