The Key Numbers Behind Miami’s Recent Defensive Struggles

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Defense wins championships. We’ve all heard it; if you know sports, it’s a no-brainer that suffocating defense translates into W’s. Well, as obvious it as it seems, it’s apparent that the Miami Heat haven’t gotten the memo lately.

Despite sporting the league’s 9th best scoring defense in the NBA at just under 98 points a game, Miami’s defense in its past two games has been anything but the league’s best. Back-to-back 100-point games by the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks is a clear indication for the 9-9 Heat that, whether it’s attributed to individual breakdowns or just a collective lack of intensity, the defense needs to pick up if they want to get back to winning ball games consistently.

Sure, the Washington game was on a back-to-back, and Dwyane Wade has been in and out of the lineup lately, but even still, defense has been a glaring issue. Part of the reason is a lack of size in the lineup. The Heat are the worst rebounding team in the NBA, and the third worst at defending efficiently—in layman’s terms, they’re letting teams get good looks, and as evidenced by the numbers, opposing squads are making them pay. Without a lot size or length, it’s difficult to disrupt opponents’ passing or shooting angles, and it’s even tougher to keep the more athletic, rangier bigs off of the glass.

For those that don’t believe the drop-off is real, go check the advanced stats for yourself.

Just take a look at the Heat’s defensive and offensive ratings from previous seasons. Using just last season as an example, Miami scored 110 points per 100 possessions, and they gave up 105 points per 100 possessions. This season, they’re tallying 106 points per 100 possessions while surrendering 108 points per game per 100 possessions. So not only have they taken a step back offensively, but their defense has slackened as well. We all expected offensive regression with the departure of LeBron James, but with Luol Deng on board, many hoped the defense would remain as potent as it was during the departed King’s short-lived reign as Miami’s MVP.

Despite the flawed defense, the Heat currently force the 7th most turnovers in the NBA, but they also rank dead last in blocks; both stats make perfect sense considering the current makeup of the roster. Without big men in the middle, blocks are hard to come by, but with a lot of scrappy, clawing guards and forwards, Miami often deflects and intercepts passes in the lane.

There’s only so much the Heat can do with what they have, but their porous defense has been front and center lately. After a two-game slide, the Heat have a chance to make it all back Friday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that recently felled Miami by a count of 91-84. With freakishly long forwards like Larry Sanders and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Miami will have to crank up the intensity to score some much needed payback, but as it is with all things, you get what you put out.

If the Chris Bosh, Wade and others have serious intentions of being a competitive squad in a wide open Eastern Conference, their inconsistent and shoddy defensive play can only be excused for so long. Friday night is the time to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
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Eric grew up in South Florida, and he loves sports, writing, and hip-hop. A native of Maryland, If he isn't running or writing, Eric is likely watching (and probably betting on) the NBA. His all-time favorite athlete is Rasheed Wallace, but his all-time favorite Heat players include Dwyane Wade, Daequan Cook, Michael Beasley, Chris Quinn, and Udonis Haslem. Aside from his work on HeatNation, Eric has worked as a Featured Columnist with the Bleacher Report covering everything from NBA to NFL.