Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Positives in Heat's Three-Game Losing Streak

January 18, 2011

 At the twist of an ankle, the Miami Heat's hot streak fizzled in to a cold spell the past three games - leaving the Big Trio banged up and the team's short-term success up in the air. LeBron James and Chris Bosh now share in the pain of ankle injuries while Dwyane Wade clutches his sore knee alongside them. This is not the picture that Heat fans want to see. However, not all is grim in the South Beach these days.

During the Heat's three-game losing streak there were subtle signs of light amidst the darkness of losing. I'm talking about the integrity of this team beyond Wade, James and Bosh. And the first sign has a number 13 on it.

Re-Energized Miami Bench

Mike Miller is finally coming along in his recovery, playing more minutes and contributing in more ways than scoring. Miller began to show his worth as a well-rounded sixth man in the past two games, averaging 6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5 assists in 29.5 minutes of play. That stat line may not pop out at first, and at face value they aren't too impressive, but it is a preview of better things to come.

Fans can now see that Miller is a good passer, above average rebounder and decent ball handler (take into account his 6'8 stature). Give Miller a few more weeks and we will likely see him operating at over 90% of his capacity. At peak performance, Miller will not only head the team's second unit but also greatly benefit Wade, James and/or Bosh when playing alongside any of them.

Eddie House was another positive during Miami's slump. He proved, once again, that he is an absolute spark plug of instant offense off the bench - even when he hadn't played a single minute in almost a month. House averaged 14 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in the past two games, making Miami's bench look better than it has been painted out to be.

A healthy combo of House and Miller only makes the Heat a more formidable opponent, especially in the playoffs. Just imagine when Udonis Haslem returns from injury, then Erik Spoelstra's got himself three solid, dependable bench players to work with.

Heat Showing Resilience 

Take a look at the worst parts of the past three games and you can find resilience in just about every instance of negativity. Exhibit A: Miami allowed 44 points in the first quarter versus the Los Angeles Clippers. Response: The Heat were resilient enough to battle back within two points in the second half. Exhibit B: The Heat were blown out by 28 points versus the Denver Nuggets. Response: Miami came back and fought a close game against the Chicago Bulls, minus LeBron and partially without Bosh. This team has bounced back in the face of adversity multiple times this season, the only difference this time is the end results were losses.

Offense Not Lacking

The Heat are still proving to have a competitive fire but only mental lapses on defense and healthy starters are missing in the equation. In fact, the team's offense has done well during their three-game skid, averaging 101 points in that span. That means the primary element lacking is defense, which Miami has excelled in for a majority of the season (they're rank second in opponents field goal % and fifth in opponents points per game).

We can expect Miami's staunch defensive ways to return soon - you don't just suddenly become a poor defensive team. Once the coaches and players refocus, this stretch of struggles will become a faint memory. In a tough love kind-of-way, this could actually make Miami a better team in the long run. 

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