Will the Heat Catch Fire Again?
Fourteen games into the season and the Miami Heat are at 6-8 after a loss on Wednesday night to the Washington Wizards. Last season at this point in the year, the Miami Heat’s record was 4-10 and they would continue that until the midway point of the season when they were 11-30. Over the next 41 games, they went 30-11 and looked like a great team. The off-season was full of speculation about how good this Miami team could be if they started the year with the same team that got so hot down the stretch. To Miami’s credit, they made sure to get the band back together by re-signing Dion Waiters, James Johnson, and Josh Richardson. They also went out and signed free agent big Kelly Olynyk from the Celtics. They proved that they were fully committed to the team, which is a smart move.The Heat looked to get the season started off right with their team of Goran Dragic (fresh from winning Eurobasket), Hassan Whiteside (Joel Embiid’s arch-nemesis), Waiters, Richardson, Tyler Johnson, James Johnson, Justise Winslow, Wayne Ellington, and rookie Bam Adebayo.
The season started and in their first 14 games, the Heat have struggled to score. They are ranked 26th at 101.3 points per game and have an offensive rating of 103.2, good enough for 24th in the league according to Basketball Reference. In particular they seem to struggle to score the ball in the third quarter and according to teamrankings.com, they score the least amount of points in the league in the 3rd quarter. They have guys that can score the ball, but there have been some issues they have had to deal with.
Last season, Dion Waiters had an ankle injury that cost him the final 13 games of the season and there is reason to believe that this issue did not correct itself. Despite the ankle trouble, Waiters has only missed two games and has put up some decent numbers. He is scoring 16 points per game. There is concern when it comes to his efficiency and in particular his three point shooting has been down. He is shooting more three pointers per game, but so far this season he is at 32% as opposed to 39% from a year ago. He has also turned the ball over more. It is a long season and if the Heat hope to correct their issues, they will need Dion Waiters to help them score.
Hassan Whiteside went down with a knee injury early in the season and missed 5 games. The Heat depend on Whiteside for his inside scoring and rebounding, but he had an issue when the Heat played the Golden State Warriors and he was benched. Since being benched, Whiteside has played about 30 minutes per game to go along with 16 points and 15 rebounds per game. Whiteside has always been able to put up numbers, but the Heat need him to be more if they are going to get into the playoffs.
The Heat have the makings of a playoff team and despite their 6-8 start there is no reason to be worried about the Heat. Waiters’ ankle issue could be huge if it continues because of how much they need him. However, the schedule that the Heat have played up to this point has been tough. They have already played the Warriors, Spurs, Timberwolves, and Nuggets, losing each game. They have also played the Celtics, Pistons, Magic, and Wizards, losing each of those games as well. Those are 8 good teams that have been great to start the season and the Heat came up short in each of them. They lost close games to the Nuggets and Timberwolves.
The good news for the Heat is that they have won the games that they have needed to win and look and have played well defensively. The Heat from last year proved that they are a resilient group. They have to be thinking right now that although they are 6-8, they were 11-30 at one point last year and still almost made the playoffs.
The bad news for the Heat is that the East may not be as bad as everyone once thought. The Sixers look great, the Celtics have a 13 game winning streak, LeBron James looks to have been woken up, and teams like the Magic, Pistons, and Knicks have exceeded expectations thus far into the season. While the Magic and Knicks may falter, the Pistons look for real. The Heat are going to have real competition to get into the playoffs and finishing under .500 might not be good enough. Can the Heat find their winning ways from last year or will they remain a middle of the road team competing for an 8 seed? With their team healthy and Spoelstra at the helm, the Heat seem to be a lock for a playoff spot despite an unimpressive start to the season.