After losing five out of six games, the Miami Heat pumped the brakes on their skid by taking down the Houston Rockets, 113-104. Trailing the Indiana Pacers in the standings for the entire season, the Heat have been taking a lot of flack from the media lately, with many wondering if they are falling off, losing their edge, or whatever other cliche one could use to imply the Heat are not as good as they have been in the past. The thing is, they have still not been proven to be anything but the best. The Heat are not, and should not, worry about a single other team in the league, not even the Pacers.
The easiest thing to look at for everyone wondering if the team has fallen off is how their record stacks up to their last two championship seasons, but first that should all be put in context. First, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have seen slightly reduced minutes per game this year. On top of that, Wade has missed 16 games due to a foot injury, from which he is only just rounding back into form. It should be expected that head coach Erik Spoelstra would try to manage minutes just a bit closer after three straight years of deep playoff runs. When all of the playoff games are added up–not to mention that James played in the 2012 Olympics–most of the Heat have played almost an entire full season worth of playoff games in the past three years.
With that said, it is true that the Hear are a bit behind last year’s pace, a season that happened to result in the 12th largest win total in NBA history. However, compared to their title run from the season before they are ahead of their pace. The Heat are doing what they have done each of the last two seasons, as well as the season before when they went to the NBA finals. They play consistently great offense and very good defense. No one in the entire league can stop James. On top of that, they added a bit more depth at center in Greg Oden, who might finally be a body the Heat can throw at Roy Hibbert.
Going beyond their record, the Heat actually have improved in a lot of areas. Much of this can be attributed to James, who is very gradually changing the discussion from “Is he the best player in the league?” to “Is he is the best player ever?” The Heat led the league in field goal percentage last year, thanks to a combination of their efficient three-point shooting and their ability to get to the rim. This year they are even better. Their free throw shooting has improved. Their turnover percentage has improved. Other teams like the Pacers may be have a better record than the Heat this year, but there just is not anything they should worry about when they are the best team and have only gotten better.
If the Heat have another minor hiccup, there will continue to be talks about their inconsistency, lack of fire after winning back to back titles, or other nonsense. Unless injury strikes one of James, Wade, or Chris Bosh the Heat are the most talented squad in the NBA. Basically, until proven otherwise there is not any reason to think the Pacers or anyone else should cause them worry.
Commentary by Brian Moore