The Miami Heat extended their winning streak to 24 on Wednesday after rectifying a poor first half performance to reduce a 27 point deficit and defeat the Cavaliers by three points. They are yet to do a thing wrong in the 2012-13 season, and are the outright favourites to win back-to-back championships. No doubt Lebron James is one of the greatest players in the NBA, and should well take out the MVP award again this year, but there are a number of contributing factors as to why the Heat should succeed in the postseason.
Firstly, they have the highest shooting percentage in the league, averaging a staggering 49.6% from the field. Lebron James leads the way with an unbelievable 55% field goal percentage. Surprisingly, they are dead last in the league for number of shots taken, yet they are still managing to sit fifth in the league in points per game at 103.5. The Heat are incredibly efficient on the offensive end, as reflected in their league leading 54.9 EFG%. They have also managed to score over 100 points on 40 occasions this season, and have won the game in 38 of those, a telling statistic.
Although they contain a star-studded line-up, the Heat are well supported by key bench players. Chalmers and Wade are well backed in the guard position as Ray Allen plays the sixth man role, while Norris Cole also provides valuable minutes off the bench. Last year’s playoffs showed Mike Miller can turn it on when required, and he would be expected to play some handy minutes for the Heat during the postseason. At the small forward position, Battier still remains one of the best defenders in the league and is a coach’s dream with the defensive intensity he brings to the court. Although registered as a small forward, he regularly plays the role of a power forward coming off the bench and is a required utility for the Heat. Although it is a relatively small Miami line-up, it has proven effective in recent times, despite any quality rebounders or shot blocking presence.
The only issue with their list in which they have tried to render is their limited stocks of quality big men, hence the signing of Chris ‘The Bird Man’ Andersen. He brings a physical presence to the side, although he is esentially just a quick-fix solution for the Heat. With the exclusion of Chris Bosh who was an all-star again this season, Anthony, Haslem, Howard, Andersen and Lewis are all mediocre power forwards/centres who will need to lift in the playoffs. Head coach Eric Spoelstra is aware of the issue, and has opted to regularly play James at the power forward position. Although it has seen a small rise in James’ rebounding average, the team still lacks a physical presence on the glass.
The lack of dominant big men is an issue that is reflected in their poor rebounding display this season. The Heat are currently the worst rebounding team in the NBA with an underwhelming average of 38.4 boards per game. Lebron James leads the team in rebounds with an average of 8.2 per game, which is a worrying sign for a side looking to go deep into the playoffs. Bosh is a serviceable centre, although he does not play the typical big-man role that is required. This is where Miami are so unique. Compare the next five highest ranked clubs – San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles Clippers New York and Indiana. In comparison to the Heat, all of these teams have at least one dominant big man that averages more than the measly 6.8 rebounds per game that Bosh produces.
Although a number of people look for reasons to doubt the Heat, one factor that could positively affect their success is the conference in which they are situated. The Eastern Conference lacks the class that is on display in the West, which bolsters arguably the two next best sides – Oklahoma City and the San Antonio Spurs, or at least as their season standings suggest. Miami look likely to face off against the Milwaukee Bucks in round one of the playoffs, and should have no concerns in that series. Realistically speaking, they should only have one concern in the East, that being Indiana, who have been one of the only teams this season to withstand the offensive dominance of the Heat. They have beaten the Heat in two out of their three matches this season and managed to hold them to below 90 points in both victories.
Last but not least, they have the King – Lebron James. He has had another incredible season, highlighted by an unbelievable all-round stat line, although even those do no justice to his faultless season. He again hit a game winning shot against the Celtics on Tuesday, and has silenced his critics with several fourth quarter heroics throughout the current season. He continues to break records and recently became the first player in NBA history to score 30 or more points while shooting 60% from the field in six consecutive games.
Lebron James and the Miami Heat are in a position to create history as they continue their 24-game winning streak. They are in prime position heading into the playoffs, and if they continue with this momentum they will be almost unstoppable on their way to a second championship in just as many years.
Blake Gray is a second year Bachelor of Journalism (sport) student.
You can follow him on twitter @blake_gray14