The Miami Heat have had one of the best starts in team history this season, yet they find themselves second in the Eastern Conference to the scorching Indiana Pacers and fifth in the entire league. With so much depth and superstar talent, how is this possible? The Heat should be cruising through the standings, especially playing in the “L-Eastern” Conference, but instead they have dropped six and two of those were blowout losses by over 10 points. So what is the issue?
The Heat have elected to not heavily pursue the No. 1 seed this season overall and instead focus on maintenance with proper rest and recovery throughout the year in order to be in full force come April for the NBA Playoffs. Dwyane Wade has missed a third of the games already this season while key role players Michael Beasley and Udonis Haslem have been struggling with injuries of their own. All of this equates to Erik Spoelstra being forced to utilize lineups that he normally doesn’t resort to. The two recent lineup changes that stand out the most from recent memory are the pairing of Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen in the front court and Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers in the back court. Both have been successful to some degree, but the big underlying issue here is the lack of continuity in the starting lineup and the second unit that follows. Not having ample time to develop rhythm with your lineup (whether you are starting or coming off the bench) can lead to reduced shooting percentages, more turnovers, and just plain frustration for the game in general.
Although many of the bench players are gaining quality playing time, the starting lineup has yet to retain the same five players for more than 3-4 games at a time leading one to believe Spoelstra is still trying to determine which lineups are more efficient. By the time February rolls around we should have a clearer picture of the starting lineup Spoelstra plans to use with the Heat in the playoffs. Until then, the lack of continuity could keep delivering losses to the defending champs.