The season so far has the defending champs at a 15-6 record through 21 games in this young season (11-2 at home and 4-4 on the road) With this in mind we ask ourselves, are the Miami Heat on track so far?
This is a relatively small sample size but seeing as we are about 25% of the way in, it will be interesting to see how they stack so far.
The Heat are now second in the East and prior to the start of the season it was widely believed that the Heat would sit comfortably at the top of the conference. Alas, they are not, but this does not necessarily mean it is a bad thing for this team. So far the Heat have shown flashes of a well oiled offense and the potential for the combo of the shooting prowess of the team making space for the already difficult to defend, Wade and LeBron.
They key piece missing overall is the defense that we are accustomed to. As a fan, you would hope for your team to be tearing up every single game winning with an average of 20 points, but in reality the NBA is too good for such a feat to be expected. What I do like from the Heat season so far is the types of games (win and lose) that have occurred so far. This includes complete dismantling of teams and the offense running smoothly such as against Boston, Phoenix and the Hawks this year. To close grind-out wins, regardless if it was a sub .500 team or not (3 Ray Allen winners?). The Heat have also been on the other side of things, including two consecutive thrashings from the New York Knicks one very early in the season with a
barrage of 3 pointers, and the second time when Melo was out. They have also lost games in the clutch as well which are the types of games that generally have questions pop up about LeBron's clutchness (or lack thereof).
The reason that this type of showing so far has been positive is that there are no lessons learned from winning comfortably and never being challenged. Also, with the defense and lineup still being tinkered with, the Heat's 15-6 record is a strong showing for second in the East - this should not raise any alarm bells at this point considering the Heat haven't finished first in the East including their championship season. What we want to be seeing are these lineup changes and rotation changes even though majority of the team is still the same pieces. This still allows for coach Spo to have many more educated options when going with particular lineups against different teams.
New PiecesIn regards to the new pieces, they are performing close to what could be expected coming into the season. I see Ray Allen as performing slightly better than expected and Rashard Lewis performing slightly worse than expected (so far).
Position-less offenseThe position-less offense is still a concept yet to be fully proven, but I do like the idea of it and believe there can be much success from it. Last year when this was incorporated against the Thunder it was very effective as was proven by the result of the season. Against bigger teams though it still needs some work - mainly in the defensive coverages. As the team is stocked with versatile defenders like Wade, LeBron and Battier to highlight a few, this allows the Heat to use this style of game. The offense is never stagnant and
the out of bounds plays have resembled a veteran team so far this season.
OverallThe season so far for the Miami Heat has largely been a success. The losses have kept the Heats' defense honest, exposing the tendency to lean on offense to pull out wins (so far). The team has come to accept this and are (in theory) putting in the works to exorcise this bad habit.
They have 3 west teams coming up in the Timberwolves, the Mavericks and the Jazz to thoroughly test their defensive adjustment. Look for the Heat going 3-0 for this stretch with closer games against the TWolves with the return of Ricky Rubio providing a spark and perhaps a surprising Jazz. We'll check back in after the Jazz game just before the Christmas showdown of a finals rematch against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Next week lets see if this prediction comes true and review whether they are still "on track".