In the 2013 NBA Playoffs, the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs showed the blueprint on how to beat the Miami Heat. You get an athletic small forward that is good defensively and attacks the boards, a skilled power forward that can score in the paint and rebound and a shot-blocking, defensive-minded center.
The Pacers pushed the Heat to a Game 7 with Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert causing the Heat to move away from their small lineup and matchup with the size in the paint. They were out rebounded throughout the series by the Pacers and had difficulty scoring at the rim.
The Spurs almost won the title in six games with Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter in the frontcourt. Leonard averaged 11.1 rebounds per game and forced LeBron James to stay with him on defense and box out instead of leaking out and starting the fast break. Duncan averaged 12.1 rebounds per game and had double-figure rebounds in six of the seven games of the Finals.
This past offseason, the Detroit Pistons added Josh Smith to a frontcourt that already included Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. The latter has drawn a lot of comparisons to Dwight Howard for his size and athletic ability. He is one of the best shot blockers and rebounders in the league and leads the NBA in field goal percentage. Adding Smith gave them one of the longest and best rebounding trios in the league.
On Tuesday, the Pistons ended the Heat’s 10-game winning streak by dominating in the paint and on the boards. They outrebounded Miami 46-34 and outscored them 60-48 in the paint. They won by a score of 107-97, so that 12-point differential in the paint was the difference in the game. Drummond grabbed 18 rebounds, which is a high for any Heat opponent this season, including eight offensive boards. The trio of Smith, Monroe and Drummond outscored the Heat frontcourt trio of James, Shane Battier and Chris Bosh 41-39 and out rebounded them 28-13.
While Detroit might not be a legitimate contender in the East this year, their ability to dominate the paint has to scare the Heat. Miami is likely to get the No. 2 seed and are probably hoping Detroit finishes anywhere other than seventh.