NBA Playoffs – Miami Heat Defense is About Speed & Length, Not Size

Rashard Lewis

It’s pretty much true for most teams in the NBA, but especially when it comes to the Miami Heat: When they get their way defensively, everything opens up for them on offense. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have open floor opportunities to take advantage of and open three-point shots are created. The Heat’s defense works on speed and length instead of size, which is something they willingly give up to the Indiana Pacers.

Not that it doesn’t hurt them at times. The Heat are suspect to get killed on the boards by Roy Hibbert and David West, but committing too many players to stopping those two really hurt them in game 1, as the Pacers were able to find open shooters again and again. The Heat have “suffered” from Hibbert’s dominance in the past, but a good game from him individually isn’t the worst thing in the world. Obviously, like the Wizards and Hawks can attest to, him having a bad-to-awful day doesn’t hurt either.

The combination of Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem or Shane Battier didn’t work in the first game, so Erik Spoelstra did the right thing by going to Chris Andersen with Bosh, something of a twin-tower lineup for the Heat but not really. It worked wonderfully in game 2, but Andersen’s injury forced him to do something else in the next game. The Heat had an awful start to game 3, finding themselves 19-5 behind in the first quarter and 37-22 later on. Couldn’t stop Hibbert, West and from that it led on to George Hill, Lance Stephenson and Paul George having a blast on the perimeter.

Erik Spoelstra

Spoelstra doesn’t believe in just one thing working for him, so he dug up Rashard Lewis, a 6’10 forward who didn’t play in the first two games and averaged 16.2 minutes per game in the regular season with plenty of DNPs. That belief in a veteran who is on the end of his NBA leash might have swung the series in the Heat’s favor for good, even though Lewis provided something he’s not really known for.

Outside shooting was his specialty, but from his awkward shooting so far in the series (0-for-7 from the field in two games), the Heat aren’t going to get much from him or at least shouldn’t count on it. However, his focus on defense and ability to corral David West while helping out others with his long arms, getting two steals in game 4 but helping out on at least three more with deflections and timing, have changed the way the Pacers approach their opponents.

Lewis hasn’t scored a single point, but the Heat are a +35 during his 43 minutes. We might get to see less of him if Andersen is healthy, but Lewis has proven that trusting him and putting him in the right spot in extremely beneficial. The Miami Heat try to change and adjust even after wins and on the fly, which is something the Pacers do very badly. Still, giving up on what has worked for them so well over the last five quarters or so isn’t likely to happen.

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