The Miami Heat have been on a tear as of late. Not only have they won nine of their last 10 games, but both the offense and defense are beginning to round into championship-caliber form.
From an offensive standpoint, the Heat have been on fire right out of the gate. Their current roster ranks fourth in points per game and second in assists per game. These early-season rankings show just how lethal the Heat offense can be when clicking on all cylinders. Having seven players drafted in the top 10 also doesn’t hurt (these players are LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Greg Oden and Michael Beasley).
Although their defense was extremely sluggish at the start of the regular season, the intensity has picked up. The Heat finally entered the top-20 in defensive efficiency this past weekend after their victory against the Orlando Magic. Although the Heat are holding teams to just 97.8 PPG, which is eighth in the league, the defending champs are still getting crushed in one major statistic, and that is rebounding.
Rebounding is now the biggest area of improvement for the Heat (currently ranked 30th in the league), and has been since the formation of the Big Three. Priding themselves on a “small-ball” approach that has worked well in the past, the attitude held towards rebounding in the Heat organization doesn’t seem to be as strong as it is for other statistics.
The small-ball approach may work throughout the rigors of an NBA regular season, but come playoff time, this philosophy might need to be abandoned.
The Heat will undoubtedly face teams that can absolutely destroy them on the boards like the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets. This might be a major reason why the Heat took financial gambles on both Oden and Beasley. Both are large players that can help crash the boards, especially Oden, who at 7-feet can definitely help defend against the likes of Roy Hibbert, Tyson Chandler or Joakim Noah.
Rebounding has always been a weakness for the defending champs, but this could be the first year it prevents them from advancing to their fourth-straight Finals appearance. This area of improvement needs to become a priority, not just an afterthought. A three-peat could very well depend on it.