Even though the Miami Heat have been a terrible rebounding team for the last three years, the key to beating them usually hasn’t been by simply winning on the boards. It’s been about moving the ball quickly against them on defense, and preventing the Heat from doing the same on offense, trying to turn their offense into a one on one gimmick through LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.
The 87-107 loss to the Chicago Bulls isn’t going to be something that just blows by, but things like this happen during an NBA season. The Heat lost to the New York Knicks by 20 points twice last year, when the Knicks looked like they just might be the best team in the league for a short while. No one is thinking that about the Chicago Bulls; not without Derrick Rose, but the losses, minus the missing players, bare a few resembling points.
The Heat finished with only 16 assists on their 32 field goals. They weren’t able to create enough fast break points or move the ball efficiently to get their three point shooters the time and space they needed. The Heat shot only 6-of-22 from beyond the arc, with LeBron James having a rare night of only 41.1% from the field. Add the absence of Chris Andersen, leaving the Bulls without a single natural center (Joel Anthony isn’t really someone Spoelstra is planning on using), and another game without Dwyane Wade that really hurts their offense, and it’s not that surprising to see them lose to a team they’ve traditionally have had problems with over the last three years.
The Heat have lost plenty of rebounding battles in the playoffs and survived. What they can’t afford to do is look so helpless on defense. Their deficiency in the paint (Chris Bosh grabbed just two rebounds) ruined any chance of them carrying on their usual defensive plan, which allowed the Bulls, usually an awful team from three point range, to hit 52.6% of their shots from beyond the arc, being able to move the ball freely along the perimeter.
Remember, Wade being out isn’t just putting more pressure on LeBron James to carry the offense. Wade might not be the most committed of defensive players, but he does an excellent job of coming off the weak side for steals and blocks, and is someone to consider for opposing teams when boxing out players coming from the outside to rebound or attack the basket. Without his athleticism, Ray Allen, a much worse defender, got the start, the lineups and rotations got messed up a bit, and the Heat suffered for it.
We can’t just brush this loss aside. We have to really own it, to understand what happened. They just got whatever they wanted, right in the paint, at the rim and if they missed those, then they’re just beating us up at the glass. We’ve never been a great rebounding team but we’ve been able to overcome that. I’m going to do a better job of that, get more rebounds. But it’s a group thing for a team. We don’t have a Kevin Love or Joakim Noah or Dwight Howard, those types of guys who can get you 15-plus, we have to do it as a collective group.
The Miami Heat do need to do better when it comes to rebounding, which means more minutes to Chris Andersen (when he’s healthy) and possibly using Michael Beasley, a very good rebounder when he’s motivated, in a different role on defense, being closer to the basket, but it’s not the end of the world. Not at this stage of the season, and not if they get back to their usual defensive rotations and efficiency, which makes it possible to overcome their problems in the paint, which will continue to haunt them deep into the postseason once again.