Over the next few days, we’ll be writing a lot about the Miami Heat, and you can read about them at Hot Hot Hoops and the Peninsula is Mightier. We all know about Dwyane Wade’s all-around game, Jermaine O’Neal’s bounce-back season and Michael Beasley’s maddening inconsistency.
But here’s a brief, bullet point primer on the Heat as a team:
• This is, on paper, a very even series. The Celtics’ average per game point differential is +3.6; Miami’s is +2.3, but the difference can be almost entirely explained away by Boston’s early-season 23-5 rampage. Since then, their point differentials have been about the same.
Boston’s Pythagorean record (a Bill James-ian stat Basketball-Reference uses to predict record based on points scored and allowed): 52-30; Miami’s: 48-34.
And remember: If not for that incredible Paul Pierce to Rajon Rondo inbounds lob that tied Miami at the buzzer on Jan. 6—a game the C’s went on to win in OT—Boston would have finished with 49 wins, Miami with 48.
On paper—on paper—this is not a walkover.
• The Heat win with defense. The Heat allow just 104.3 points per 100 possessions, the 7th-lowest mark in the league. Their offense ranks just below the league average in points per possession.
• Don’t expect to shoot well—especially from in close. Only the Magic hold opponents to a lower effective field-goal percentage, which is a version of traditional field-goal percentage that adjusts for the fact that a three-pointer is worth more than a regular basket.
And the Heat are especially stingy around the rim. Only two teams allow a lower field-goal percentage on shots near the rim, according to Hoopdata. The C’s are only a couple of spots behind the Heat in this category.
Whichever team can pierce the other’s interior D will have a major edge in this series.
• Bad news: Miami always wins the turnover battle.
The Heat has been very careful with the ball for most of the D-Wade era, and they once again rank in the top 10 (#9) in fewest turnovers per possession.
On defense, the Heat force a turnover on about 14 percent of their opponent’s possessions—the 8th-highest mark in the league.
The C’s have cleaned up their turnover problem—dramatically, in fact—over the last quarter of the season, but they’ll have to be extra careful against Wade, Mario Chalmers and the other ball-hawking Heat(s).
• Don’t expect to grab a lot of offensive rebounds. Miami has pulled down 75 percent of available defensive rebounds, the 6th-highest mark in the league.
Are you sensing a theme here? The Heat take care of the basketball, protect the defensive glass and contest every shot. This is a fundamentally sound team. Their talent level after Wade might be pedestrian—the Carlos Arroyo/Joel Anthony screen/roll isn’t scaring anyone—but the players they put on the floor understand how to play. The Heat are not going to beat themselves by playing lazy or stupid basketball. You are going to have to beat them.
• Respect the small forward’s three-point range. The Heat are an average three-point shooting team, and the guys you might reflexively fear from deep—Wade and the point guards—aren’t the ones you should really worry about. Instead, it’s the Heat small forwards that represent the only true deep threat on the team. James Jones (42 percent), Quentin Richardson (40 percent) and Dorell Wright (39 percent) can all stroke it from deep.
Random Heat Facts:
• Celtics Record Against Miami over last two seasons: 6-1 (3-0 this season)
• Average Game Margin, last two seasons: Boston, +6
• Records against Eastern Conference Playoff Teams:
• Records against Eastern Conference Top 4:
• Records against Western Conference Playoff Teams:
• Record since Jan. 1, 2010: