Miami Heat: Losing Streak Continues, Playoff Resurgence in Question

The Miami Heat have lost seven games in a row and are currently the coolest team in the league. Traditionally, this team has a different gear for the playoffs – but can you rely on that this season?

Von Ole Frerks

There are only a handful of rules that should still be followed in the basketball world in 2024. “You can’t teach height,” for example.

“No rebounds, no rings” is another candidate, even if the OKC Thunder are currently putting this phrase from Pat Riley to the test. And, speaking of Riley: Don’t overreact if the Miami Heat lose track in the regular season!

This rule has been more reliable than almost any other over the past few years; Only last year, as is well known, Miami stumbled to a 44-38 record in the regular season with the sixth-worst offense in the league and into the play-in, but then stormed from there to the finals, defeating the two nominal major powers in the East along the way .

Miami has Erik Spoelstra, Miami somehow always finds the solution at some point, or so it seems. Even if you don’t always understand it, you usually don’t have to worry about this team.

With that said, isn’t every rule broken at some point? There are currently seven defeats in a row, Miami is the coolest team in the league and has clearly lost the majority of the games.

The most important things about the NBA in brief

Since the beginning of January, only Charlotte and Portland have had worse offenses, and the Heat are in 23rd place here over the season. They have already addressed this problem with the trade for Terry Rozier last week, but have not yet solved it.

The question is: Why are things going so badly at the moment – and is it realistic to assume that Spo & Co. can somehow pull the cart out of the mud again?

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Miami: The threes are not the problem

The bad news first: It won’t be a shooting regression this time. Last season, Miami shot just 34.8% from outside in the regular season (27th place) and then exploded in the playoffs (37.8%, 3rd place).

The Heat are currently hitting their threes a little better and are ninth in the league with 38%.

They probably try it too rarely for that – only 35.5% of their shots are three-pointers, which is the lowest proportion since 2018/19.

Rozier is a player who can help with that. He is a much more aggressive scorer than his “predecessor” Kyle Lowry, whom Miami sent to Charlotte for him; For years he has taken between seven and eight three-pointers per game with the Hornets, can create three-pointers for himself off the dribble, but can also make attempts off the catch while moving.

So far this season he has only hit just under 30% of his catch-and-shoot threes, but that can also be explained by the fact that he had to play a lot of ball without LaMelo and there was very little playmaking next to him.

Things should be different in Miami, even though he only scored 2/11 over his first three games. This was followed by 5/12 against the Suns. But Rozier is even more important for the other, even bigger problem.

Heat: Where’s the pressure?

Only the Warriors and the Mavericks take fewer shots at the ring. These teams flirt with top-10 offense, but they also take a lot of threes (and have better individual offensive players), which the Heat just don’t do.

They take more mid-range throws than anyone else. That’s not the combination teams want to see up front in 2024.

There are of course reasons for this. What has been striking, especially over the past few weeks, is how much Miami lacks dynamism and speed.

The Heat have actually been one of the best teams in terms of off-ball movement for years, and they know how to prepare shots. However, it is partly missing at the beginning – the factor that collapses the defense and creates advantages that can then be used.

Butler is this factor in the playoffs – in the regular season he traditionally plays much less aggressively and with less pressure. In exactly half of his previous appearances (23/24), Butler has scored fewer than 20 points… and yet he is by far the player who has had the most positive impact on the offense. In his minutes, the Heat’s offensive rating is 8.8 points better.

This is also because the rest of the rotation lacks creation skills and drive. Rozier can do that: In Charlotte this season, the 29-year-old provided the most assists of his career and hardly lost the ball. He took at least 6.3 throws from the drive per game, more than any Heatle in the current season.

Tyler Herro and Terry Rozier: Is that a good fit?

So far, Rozier hasn’t been able to change the statics on the court, probably because he wanted to “adjust” a little too much (the game against Phoenix was a step forward for him).

The Heat take a long time to get their offense going. They are prone to turnovers and there are rarely easy finishes. Compared to their playoff version, the Heat have lost some of their naturalness.

The “poster child” of this is Tyler Herro. The 24-year-old puts up the most points of his career (21.5), but struggles with efficiency and shot selection.

Although Herro is one of the best shooters in the league, he – as in every year of his career – has a true shooting percentage below the league average (54.8%). This is mainly due to the fact that he takes almost no free throws and finishes worse at the rim than ever before (and almost every player in the league).

There are only nine NBA players who score better from catch-and-shoot (on at least four attempts per game) than Herro (43.9%).

However, there are 53 NBA players who take more of these three-pointers per game than him – Herro still too often misses out on good opportunities in favor of dribbling and attempting a more difficult two-pointer. This limits the value he could have for the Heat offense; At the moment the offense is actually a little worse with him on the court.

Miami: The defensive question

The Rozier trade could now ensure that Herro is used more off the ball in order to be more of a “designated shooter” and to make the best possible use of what is by far his greatest strength. However, it remains to be seen whether he will willingly accept this role.

And both guards first have to prove that they can coexist offensively, where they have some redundancies, and, above all, defensively.

Herro has been one of the weaker defenders in the NBA for years. Rozier has a different reputation, but it came from his role-playing days in Boston.

In Charlotte, he didn’t perform as a two-way player. According to Estimated Plus/Minus, Rozier is one of the absolute weakest defenders in the NBA this season, which could be a problem – especially since Miami doesn’t have a top 10 defense for the first time since 2015/16… and now has a still good defender (Lowry ) for someone who first has to show that he can still do it.

It’s a dichotomy. Miami actually needs shooting – but the three best (only) volume shooters on the squad (Herro, Rozier and Duncan Robinson) are at least suspect defensively and probably can’t all be on the court in crunch time. And another contradiction: Miami urgently needs scoring punch. But not necessarily the way your top scorer Herro prefers.

What comes to mind for Erik Spoelstra?

The good news is that Miami has experience in these situations and a masterful head coach. On paper, a roster with Herro, Rozier, top rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Josh Richardson is more talented than the one that reached the Finals in June.

Even if the fit seems complicated at times, if anyone can put the puzzle together, it’s probably Spoelstra.

It is therefore advisable to stick to the rule and not to worry too much about the heat. Even if rationally everything currently suggests that the top of the East is simply better than Miami – rationality often didn’t play a role in the past.

The Heat have been a better playoff than regular-season team for years.

You still have work to do. Lots. Things are already getting tight with direct playoff qualification. The deeper the hole the Heat are currently digging themselves, the harder it will be to crawl out of it in the end. Missing the play-in tournament would be a catastrophe.

Miami hasn’t lost seven games in a row since 07/08, a tanking season under Riley. There are exceptions to every rule.

2024-01-30 09:23:00
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