It’s very early, yes. The season is only nine games in yes. But it’s ok to get optimistic about the Miami Heat.
If you’ve been very impressed with the way that Miami has played their last nine games then good for you because it’s warranted. Miami has been playing their tails off and one of the reasons why they’ve been winning games is because they’ve gone back to their winning roots.
On the court, the Heat franchise was built on a few ideas. It was built on sacrifice, hard work, and teamwork. It was built on staying in front of your opponent and not allowing him to take and make easy shots. The Heat franchise was built on championship caliber defense. This year Miami looks like they are back to their bread and butter because the Heat have started playing the defense that we’ve been accustomed to seeing in the past decade and a half.
Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder, who leads one of the best defensive teams in the NBA said this when he spoke about the Heat’s defense.
“They’re one of the best defensive teams in the league, if not the best” said Snyder.
When the praise about your team defense comes from other opponents, it’s truly a compliment. Don’t look now but the Heat look like they are charged up. Outside of the Cleveland Cavaliers who hold an 8-2 record and were on an eight-game winning streak, the Heat aren’t too far behind from the Eastern Conference leaders. Currently, the Heat are in the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference but they are only two games behind Cleveland for the No. 1 spot. In addition, they’ve been playing basketball at a high level and they are tied for the second-longest winning streak in the Eastern Conference. The Heat are surging at the perfect time because the beginning portion of their schedule is mainly played at home and they are in the middle of a long home stretch where they’ve already started on a three-game winning streak. Furthermore, at home the Heat already boast a 5-1 record which in itself is impressive. Last season Pat Riley knew he needed to make changes with the roster if he wanted more success, he needed more youth. Getting guard Tyler Johnson, and subsequently forward Justise Winslow has been a blessing for this team.
When these two play on the floor together everyone seems to play more inspired (Mentioned here).
If the defense can continue to stay ranked within the top three it will finally give Miami enough firepower to make a deep playoff run. In addition, no one can forget about the impact that center Hassan Whiteside has made on this team. Before the beginning of the year, Whiteside said that he wanted to win the Defensive Player of the Year award. It’s already nine games in and it looks like we should give him the trophy. Not only is Whiteside leading the Heat to the No. 1 best defensive team in the league (Miami currently is No. 1 in opponents points per game allowing only 90.2 points per game), he’s also validating it with the numbers he’s putting up across the board.
On the year, Whiteside is averaging 14.6 points, 11.7 rebounds, and four blocks per game. He’s also only averaging 2.1 fouls per game as well, so he’s not only blocking and changing shots, he’s also staying on the floor and avoiding foul trouble too.
What’s more impressive is that out of the nine games Miami has played he’s already had six games where he’s grabbed at least nine rebounds and blocked three shots. Whiteside is No. 3 in the league in field goal percentage, he’s No. 5 in rebounds per game, and he’s No. 1 in the league in blocks per game.
If Miami continues with this hot start, who’s to say the Heat, not the Dolphins will finally make a deep playoff run.
D’Joumbarey A. Moreau covers sports in Miami-Dade & Broward County. You can follow him on Twitter@DJoumbarey.