If you’ve been impressed by the Miami Heat this season then good for you because their success is validated.
The Heat have been playing great basketball, not good, but great basketball. Miami this season has turned back the hands of time for a bit and they’ve started to play basketball with more confidence especially on the defensive end of the basketball. For most veteran-heavy teams, it’s difficult for them to want to play defense at an advanced age. However, because of the way that Pat Riley has constructed this roster by surrounding his veteran players with young and energetic talent, it only helps motivate his older roster.
The Heat this season have relied upon rookies and second-year players just as much as they’ve depending on veterans and it hasn’t hurt their success. The Heat this year stand as the third best team in the Eastern Conference behind the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers. Additionally, because of this infusion of talent on the roster it’s helped revitalize the team and Miami has reaped the benefits of Riley’s sound decision making. Currently, the Heat are the second best team in the league when it comes to defense only allowing their opponents to score 91.7 points per game.
For as good as the defense of the Heat have been so far, they’ll need to take it up a notch because this is the portion of their schedule when the games will start to get tougher. This week for the Heat is especially tough because they face three teams in a row that made the playoffs in the Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers. Two out of three of those are tough because they play in the Eastern Conference where Miami is trying to avoid missing out the playoffs for the second straight year.
These games will be very important for a number of reasons including our biggest reason, the play of Dwyane Wade. At one point, Wade could stand on equal footing with LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and still look like the best player on the court. At age 33, it’s difficult to imagine that he’ll be able to still stand on that same footing with all of those aforementioned players entering and still in their prime.
Wade is still a dominant player in the league, but in order to defeat the Thunder and the Cavaliers, particularly, they’ll need big games out of him in addition to continuing to play sound defense and team basketball on offense. Wade has a legit chance to shore up his All-Star game selection with a few sound games against opponents of this type of caliber because he deserves to make the game.
Furthermore, all of these games, especially the last two the Heat have to play in the week are very important because it will show Miami either how much further way they are from becoming a true contender or it will show them that they’re not good enough to compete with the best in the league. For most people, they tend to fall into the category that Miami can compete with anymore. But if you watched the way that the Detroit Pistons dominated against them you’d be singing a different tune.
During an interview with Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald, Heat power forward Chris Bosh said this…
“That’s why it’s a big week man,” Bosh said. “KD is back and looked like he hasn’t missed a step. He came right back and inserted himself right back into the swing of things. [Russell Westbrook] is playing at the highest level he’s been playing at for the last two years. And, of course, Bron, we know what he can do.
“It’s important that we’re at 100 percent. These are the games that I think are very important for us because we consider ourselves an elite team, or at least working to be an elite team. And the head-to-head matchups are very important. You always want to measure yourselves against the best.”
This Heat team this week will let you know how really good their defense is because Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and LeBron James are coming into town. If Miami really has a defense that is championship caliber and elite like many people feel it is, then it bodes well for the Heat’s chances to get precious victories over the great competition.
D’Joumbarey A. Moreau covers sports in Miami-Dade & Broward County. You can follow him on Twitter@DJoumbarey.