Miami Toying With Opponents

by Jeff Fogle 17. December 2010 23:36

If you’ve been paying close attention to the Miami Heat during their recent surge, you may have noticed a developing trend.

Miami seems to coast through the first half, basically treading water for the first 24 minutes even vs. weak opposition. But, then Miami EXPLODES in the second half, with much more intense defense and a more aggressive offense.

Here’s the breakdown of the last five games…

FIRST HALVES
Miami 48, Golden State 45
Miami 47, Sacramento 42
New Orleans 54, Miami 53
Cleveland 49, Miami 46
Miami 57, New York 57

That’s a won-lost record of 2-2-1 over five halves, even though Miami was a clear favorite every time they took the floor. The average score at the break is Miami 50.2, Opponents 49.4. That’s a victory of 0.6 points.

SECOND HALVES
Miami 58, Golden State 39
Miami 57, Sacramento 41
Miami 43, New Orleans 30
Miami 55, Cleveland 46
Miami 56, New York 34

The scoring average leaps from 50.2 to 53.8, but the defense turns into a brick wall, allowing just 38.0 points per half rather than 49.4. We talked the other day about Miami winning with defense since players and coach have been on the same page. It’s now clear that the improved defense is a second half phenomenon…really clamping down when it’s time to take care of business.

Something to watch for tonight when Miami visits Washington on night two of a back-to-back. The win over Sacramento was also a fatigue spot, and was also against a very bad team. Heck, it was also on a Saturday Night! Let’s see if form holds for the Heat this evening. If they’ve figured out how to coast to blowouts on a regular basis, earning the #1 seed in the East may be a mere formality.

Other Notes:

*New York confirmed its “tweener” status (discussed the other day) with losses to Boston and Miami. Of particular concern in those games for Knicks fans: The Knicks were pushing tempo with a short rotation, which is a certain way to wear out your own players in the second half. The Knicks don’t play very good defense when they’re fresh. The Knicks play REALLY BAD defense then they’re tired!

SECOND HALVES
Boston 67, New York 58
Miami 56, New York 34
Combined: Opponents 123, New York 92

Amare Stoudemire is likely to continue dominating the large hunk of poor teams, though New York’s schedule was front-loaded with a lot of those. This just isn’t a team that’s currently ready for the renaissance that ESPN seemed to be begging for during it’s build-up to this week’s TV appearances.

New York will play tonight at Cleveland, with both teams on night two of a back-to-back. A rest break leads into a Wednesday home game with Oklahoma City.

The next step for analyzing the Knicks…who are the “tweeners” between? We know they’re behind Boston and Miami, and ahead of the Minnesota-Toronto-Golden State-Detroit class. There aren’t any freebies in the next 10 games after Cleveland. Opponents are: Oklahoma City, Chicago, Miami, Orlando, Indiana, San Antonio, Phoenix, LA Lakers, Portland, and Utah.  

These next three weeks will go a long way toward defining the rest of the season. It’s tougher to get away with a short rotation when you’re facing quality night in and night out.

*New Orleans may have reached its nadir Wednesday Night when trailing Sacramento 66-43 with nine minutes to go. The Hornets would win the rest of the game 51-25, then went on to crush Utah 100-71 Friday Night. That has temporarily, at least, brought an end to the doldrums the franchise was suffering after the league took over ownership.

Amazing the extremes you can see with NBA teams within short term samples. Maybe something about falling way behind horrible Sacramento triggered an ENOUGH IS ENOUGH reaction. Losing badly on the road to Philadelphia is one thing. Getting embarrassed at home by Sacramento is quite another.

*Now is the time to mark in your game logs that the “no-Noah” stretch for Chicago has begun. Joakim Noah will miss the next 8-10 weeks after undergoing surgery on his right thumb. The Bulls host the LA Clippers tonight, then Philadelphia on Tuesday. It took Chicago a couple of games to get used to having Carlos Boozer back in the lineup (two double digit losses before a seven-game winning streak). What kind of transition should we expect?

Noah is averaging 14 points and 11.7 rebounds per game this year, and is a key element of a defense that ranks third in the league in efficiency at the moment with 98.2 points allowed per 100 possessions.

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