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  • Jorge Cantu

Miami Heat Week Four Recap – Costly Mistakes

Issac Baldizon/NBAE via GettyImages

After an exhausting week that saw the Heat playing four times in six nights, the team took two big losses and pulled off two close games. Here is a quick recap of everything that happened in Miami this week:

More close games

The fact that the Heat are nowhere near close of getting a top four seed in the East is no secret; best case scenario, Miami makes the playoffs as a bottom three seed. But it is very surprising to see how close their games are considering they are a middle of the pack team. Every game this week was tight until the very end, something that is both good and bad.

For example, Miami deserves a lot of credit for keeping it close against the Pacers last Friday. Indiana has continued to be impressive and the fact that a shorthanded Heat squad was able to keep it within reach speaks wonders about this franchise. But on the other hand, the team has no excuse to lose against the most dysfunctional organization in the NBA the very next night, that being the Washington Wizards.

And the situation is very weird by itself, because the Heat showed a lot of improvements in their two wins against the Detroit Pistons – which was an overtime thriller – and the San Antonio Spurs; the team closed out those games in nice fashion with good defense and executing on offense. But Miami was in firm control of the Pacers and Wizards games for most of the night before collapsing in the fourth quarters. These inconsistencies cannot continue.

Turnovers are hurting them bad

After the Wizards loss, in which the Heat coughed up the ball a whopping 19 times, their turnover season average went up to 16.2, almost on par with the likes of Dallas, Atlanta, and Phoenix, all top lottery teams this past season.

What is most surprising is that a lot of the damage is coming from the bench. Each of the top four players in turnover percentage comes off the bench for the Heat – Wayne Ellington, Bam Adebayo, Dwyane Wade, and Kelly Olynyk in that order – something worth monitoring moving forward.

Offensive rebounding is a big part of their success

The trend continued this week, as the Heat struggled when they did not grab enough offensive rebounds or were outrebounded on that end. But the team’s offensive rebounding is helping their offensive issues seem less apparent. Miami is averaging 12.5 offensive boards per game, 5th in the league, and grabbing 27% of available offensive rebounds, the third highest mark in the NBA.

Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo have both done a great job on the offensive glass. Whiteside’s absence in their overtime win at Detroit was big, as the Heat got outrebounded on the offensive end 21 to 9. Miami also got beat in that department in the Wizards game, as the Heat easily gave up a lot of second chance points.

Erik Spoelstra and the rest of the coaching staff should continue to emphasize offensive rebounding in their gameplan, as Miami is at its best when they are dominating the boards and keeping their opponents away from them.

Not capitalizing on free throws

Another big surprise is how bad the team’s free throw shooting has been. After finishing 25th in free throw attempts last season with 19.5 such tries, the Heat is averaging 26.9 foul line shots this year, good for 7th in the league.

The bad news is they are still hitting them at a mediocre rate, converting on just 70.9% of them. Increase that percentage from five to eight units and the team will get two or three extra points on the scoreboard, which will be key considering they often find themselves in close game situations.

Point Justise in full display

With Goran Dragic missing some games this week, Justise Winslow got more chances to bring the ball up and show off his distributing abilities. He dished out 19 assists as the starting power forward over the last four games.

I love seeing Winslow assuming a bigger role as a ball-handler and would like Spoelstra to explore putting him in more pick-and-roll situations with the ball in his hands. Take a look at a nice play by Winslow off a Whiteside roll that leads to an alley-oop:

Winslow has developed nice chemistry with Whiteside, and you can see both doing more damage after another great read by Justice:

Beautiful ball movement

Give everyone some credit because the basketball is moving more than it usually does. I have no idea why the Heat do not continuously move the ball quickly when even they realize how easy it is to score when that happens; this is especially true when the defense is caught off guard:

Rodney McGruder stepping up big on both ends

McGruder is the only Miami player with positive marks on both offensive and defensive box plus-minus – something that speaks worse about his teammates than good about him – but is still quite impressive considering the struggles he faced to have a bigger impact earlier in his career.

His offensive contributions are not hard to catch; he leads Miami in three-point percentage (46.6%) on almost five threes a game and has even proven to be a solid playmaker. But perhaps only the eye test can catch how good McGruder has been defensively. Take a look at how he stops DeMar DeRozan and forces him to pass out of a shot:

Kelly Olynyk making things happen

Olynyk has not been given that much playing time with the Heat getting back some of their injured players, but he is really getting the job done on offense. Not only can he stretch the floor, but he can also take the ball inside and set up his teammates with beautiful dimes. If you have read my weekly recaps before then I am sure you have heard me praising Kelly.

The following play shows Olynyk not only driving by his man and identifying the open teammate for a good shot, but also quickly fighting for inside position and getting ready to crash the glass in case that shot misses:

Olynyk leads the whole team in effective field goal percentage (58.7%) and two-point percentage (78.3% - mind you he is supposed to be a three-point specialist) while being by far the Heat player with the highest offensive rating (123) and offensive box plus-minus (2.8). With Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, and Derrick Jones Jr. all playing good minutes as big men or small-ball big men, coach Spo is in a very tough spot when it comes to distributing playing time.

The big man dilemma

Olynyk, Adebayo, and Jones Jr’s roles all figure to remain modest unless either Whiteside or Winslow suffers an injury. Benching the latter two or reducing their roles is clearly not the way to go, as Hassan is just too good of a rim protector and rebounder to not have him out there for long stretches and Winslow’s versatility allows the Heat to have different options on offense and defense. Should Spoelstra try and change the rotations more depending on the matchups?

Whatever he decides to do, it is clear the Heat have a deep roster that can always step up when needed. The one downside to this is that the team has no star; yes, Josh Richardson has improved his game a lot and Whiteside is sometimes an unstoppable wrecking force, but they are by no means established stars in this league.

That is not necessarily a bad thing, as Miami has proven they can be competitive even against the best teams they have faced about one month into the regular season. Week five will provide more tests, as they have upcoming meetings with the Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, and Los Angeles Lakers.

Data and statistics obtained from NBA Stats and Basketball Reference.

You can follow Jorge on Twitter @CantuNBA for more Miami Heat coverage and content.

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