Eastern Conference scout on whether the Heat should be worried about their recent struggles or if they’re merely cruising:
“The way they play is a little different than other teams. Defenses in the NBA are generally very protective of the rim. They lay back like NFL defenses that play with two safeties that are just trying to keep everything in front of them. It’s not a perfect analogy, but there’s a lot of bend-but-don’t-break [thinking] out there.
“But the Heat really get after you. They’re like Doberman pinchers. They’re like pit bulls on steroids. And it’s really impressive to watch when they’re on. But the problem with that type of system is that you gotta have athletes, you gotta have length and you gotta have great effort. And that’s why a lot of teams don’t want to mess with it.
“When they’re all dialed up, Miami’s D is one of the best things to watch in the league. But when the effort is not there, they can look bad. It can get ugly in a hurry. And let’s be honest: What’s the hunger level right now? They pulled it out of the fire against the Spurs [in last season’s NBA Finals] and now there’s really only one team in the East that can challenge them. So it’s probably human nature for them to start thinking, ‘We can turn it on when we need to.’
“Are they really hungry right now to get after teams the way they have in the past? They want to make the other team play faster than they want to play and turn them over and swarm you like the '85 Bears, but playing defense that way is really hard work. It has set them apart and makes them unique, but I think it is a concern when you start thinking that you can just flip a switch. You’re playing with fire there."