MIAMI -- Despite the 95-87 win over the Bobcats Friday night, the Heat shouldn’t be wholly satisfied with the performance. Here are three reasons why.
Lack of Ball Movement
While the Heat ended up squeaking by the Bobcats on Friday night 95-87, far too many possessions ended with a player putting his head down and looking for his own shot. One of Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra’s major points of emphasis this season has been quick ball movement on offense but it didn’t happen against the Bobcats. He’s made reference to his assisted field goal ratio (assists/field goals) at the postgame news conference on more than one occasion this season, although there was no mention of it after Friday night's game.
The figure tonight? A season-low 41.2 percent (14 assists on 34 field goals)
“They grinded us in the second half,” Spoelstra said after the game. “We did a much better job [moving the ball] in the first half. We were able to get some stops and get out in transition. You have to give [Charlotte] credit – they’re a very good defensive team, they make it physical. They can make it look like you’re really struggling. We have to learn to trust and execute particularly when it’s not easy, and get some of those end of possession options.”
The Heat’s offense instantly becomes stagnant as soon as LeBron James or Dwyane Wade shifts into isolation mode on the wings. It happened too often tonight, especially with LeBron settling for an early jumper off the dribble late in the game.
Need a good indicator to tell if the ball’s moving on the perimeter? Look at Eddie House and James Jones’ shooting numbers. Tonight, the two combined for two made field goals in nine attempts from the floor. As spot-up shooters, the only way House and Jones can get open is through kick-outs and swinging the ball around the perimeter. It’s no coincidence that they combined for a season-low eight points the same night the ball rarely switched hands. If their shots aren’t falling, there’s a good chance the Heat aren’t making the extra pass.
Miami got away with it tonight but it may not be so lucky next time.
Porous Interior Defense in 3rd Quarter
Remember when the Heat were supposedly a third quarter team? Or at least that’s what some early narratives suggested.
Well, the Heat got blasted coming out of halftime tonight, letting the Bobcats cut Miami's 19-point halftime cushion to just seven points by the end of the third frame. Sure, the Heat owe some of that to missing 13 of their 19 shots in the quarter. But a bigger problem was their matador-like defense that allowed an offensively-challenged team like the Bobcats score 31 points on just 21 possessions.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Bobcats scored a perfect 6-for-6 from inside 10 feet in the third quarter. That can’t happen, especially when the buckets are coming from the likes of Nazr Mohammed, Kwame Brown and Shaun Livingston. What’s worse is that basket defense is usually one of the Heat's strong points. Despite taking off the third quarter, the Heat maintained their position as second best in the NBA in opponent field goal percentage within 10 feet, at 50.6 percent (Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic lead the league).
Since the Heat trampled opponents after halftime in the early part of the season, they have to be careful about falling into a trap of complacency. The Grizzlies will test them on Saturday night as Memphis ranks eighth in third-quarter point margin.
Settling for Perimeter Shots
Entering Friday night’s matchup, the Heat lead the league with 55.9 percent of their field goal attempts coming outside 16 feet. Their propensity for shooting long jumpers is particularly worrisome considering the Heat have three of the most devastating basket attackers in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Tonight, it was more of the same. And boy, was their stroke off. The Heat shot a putrid 2-for-16 on long 2s and equally dreadful 4-for-17 from beyond the arc. Do the math and the Heat shot 6-for-33 from their favorite shooting zone.
Some credit should be given to the Bobcats, who are traditionally excellent at close-outs and getting a hand up on perimeter shots. But the Heat made it easy for them tonight, routinely taking ill-advised fadeaways and premature dribble jumpers early in the shot clock.
While they won this game, that's not winning basketball in the long run.