How the Miami Heat Saved Their Season
During the All-Star Break, Pat Riley and the Miami Heat must have felt like they really related to Yogi Berra’s quote, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
Just like last season, Chris Bosh would be sidelined due to blood clots. After stumbling to a 10 seed in the Eastern Conference last year, it seemed like losing Bosh at the All-Star break again would be a big blow to a competitive Miami team.
However, the Heat have won five of seven since the break and added Joe Johnson after his buy-out from the Nets.
Can this continue?
Having played for the uptempo Phoenix Suns for the best years of his career, Dragic is benefitting from playing with the new fast-paced approach.
Before the All-Star break, the Heat played at the second slowest Pace in the league. Now, in seven games post All-Star break, the Heat have jumped up to the 11th-fastest Pace. In addition, after averaging just 96 points per game as a team pre All-Star break, the Heat have scored 108 points per game over their last seven contests.
These offensive adjustments by the Heat have really benefited Dragic; in those seven games, Dragic is scoring 18.4 points per game, while adding 7.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. His Usage Rate has jumped four percent since the break, but he hasn’t lost efficiency, maintaining his True Shooting Percentage of 53%.
To continue to make noise in the Eastern Conference, the Heat are going to need their $85 million dollar point guard to continue this level of production, which seems likely in this new, faster offense.
Luol Deng has been one of the main beneficiaries of Chris Bosh’s unfortunate situation. Deng has slid into the starting power forward role and is thriving. Since the All-Star break, Deng has seen his minutes go up from 31.3 to 35.2 per game and has seen a six percent increase in his Usage Rate. Over the last seven games, he has averaged a double-double at 18.9 points per game and 10.1 rebounds while shooting over 50% from the field, after shooting 43% pre All-Star break.
For some reason, Luol Deng is only 66.5% owned in ESPN Fantasy Basketball leagues. With no return from Chris Bosh in sight, if Deng is on the waiver wire in your league, add him immediately.
The Miami Heat rank last in the NBA in three-point percentage, at just 31.9%, and attempt the fourth fewest shots from behind the arc:18.2 per game. Joe Johnson is certainly not the All-Star, 20-point-per-game scorer that he was with the Atlanta Hawks, but he can provide some severely needed outside shooting. In 57 games with the Nets, Johnson shot 37% behind the arc, which is higher than any Heat player this year.
In his first two games with the Heat, Johnson has played over 30 minutes in each game and has knocked down three of his six three-point shots. He is still capable of having a big game, like he did against Chicago on Tuesday night (24 points on 10 for 13 from the field), but as long as Johnson provides a little scoring punch and three-point shooting, he’s a solid addition for the Heat.
Just the other day, we broke down Whiteside's continued dominance and improvement. But, after going for a career-high 26 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 blocks on Tuesday night against the Chicago Bulls, he deserves to be mentioned again.
Whiteside has come off the bench in his last six games, but that hasn’t affected his overall performance. In fact, he’s playing better than ever. Post All-Star break, Whiteside is averaging 20 points per game, 15.7 rebounds, and 4 blocks while shooting 61.8% from the field. Also, surprisingly, Whiteside has knocked down 26 of his 32 free throw attempts since the All-Star break, good for 81.3%. It remains to be seen if he reverts back to his career 54.8% free throw percentage, but this streak is an encouraging sign.
Pushing Toward the Playoffs
With a 34-26 record, the Miami Heat currently sit two games back from the 3 seed Boston Celtics and are 1.5 games ahead of the 5 seed Atlanta Hawks.
Miami’s schedule is fairly easy as well, with 13 of their final 22 games coming against teams currently under .500.
With new contributors stepping up and a faster-paced offense, the Heat will be a team to watch out for as the season winds down and the playoffs begin.