It's back to business for the Miami Heat.
That means it's time to begin turning on the jets and settling in for an arduous second half of the season. The Heat start off with four games in five nights starting Wednesday on a back-to-back with road meetings against Atlanta and Chicago. In March, they'll play more road games in a month than they have in franchise history.
As well as the Heat have played as of late, they have labeled themselves as a "seven out of 10" in terms of where they are. There are always improvements to made. For the Heat, that means continuing to work Chris Bosh into the offensive equation and finding ways for him to contribute at a high level at all junctures of the game.
While we were swept up in the phenomenon and pandemonium that is LeBron James playing basketball, Bosh quietly played his best basketball of the season. In the three games leading up to the break, he recorded at least 11 rebounds in every game and scored at least 20 in the final two.
He scored 32 points on 16 shots in the Heat's win over Portland. Miami is 6-2 when Bosh takes at least 15 shots.
Bosh's Heat have been as close to as unstoppable as you will see a professional sporting club get. They have scored at least 99 points in every win during this streak, haven't shot less than 46 percent from the field as a team and have dropped at least 107 points in the past five games.
Although the defense has succumbed over 100 three times during this streak, that can be attributed to the frantic pace the Heat set from the start.
Defensive adjustments for the Heat aren't going to come. The success of the defense relies solely on how much pressure the team wants to put on the ball-handler, as seen in their quick start in their road win against the Lakers and how quick the rotations are. Miami's defense is five players on a string, meaning that each player must be quick to rotate and keep tabs on chasing the ball.
With the introduction of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, and possibly the relaxation that comes with winning a championship the previous season, the Heat's defense hasn't been nearly as efficient as it has in years past. After finishing in the top five in defensive efficiency the past two years, the Heat currently rank 11th giving up 101.8 points per 100 possessions, according to SynergySports
When the Heat want to play defense, they're the best in the league, and it's not close because of how well and fast they can turn that defense into offense. All stats courtesy of SynergySports, 13 percent of this team's offense has come off of transition points resulting in 1.23 points per possession, tops in the league. Miami is converting 61 percent of their transition attempts and 38 percent from beyond the arc as well.
If there are going to be any adjustments in the second half for the Heat, it's going to come on the offensive end of the floor.
What we're experiencing this year, and in the past seven games, is everything we envisioned this Heat team would look like on offense. They rank first in points per possession overall at 1.01, first, in points per possession, in isolation, first in scores for the pick-and-roll man and first in transition, according to Synergy. Not only that, but they rank second in cuts and third on post-ups.
This team has become incredibly efficient on the offensive end of the floor and it shows in their league-leading 110.4 points per 100 possessions. The closest they came to that the two seasons prior was when they ranked third at 109.3 points per 100 possessions in the inaugural Big Three season, according to SynergySports.
Even though they rank at or near the top at just about all things offense, there is still room for adjustments to be made.
It's tough to instill any focus on someone like LeBron James making an adjustment when he's drawing comparisons to Michael Jordan. There are those who want to claim Dwyane Wade isn't the same player he was in years past, but, boy, won't they be surprised to learn that the two-time NBA champion is averaging 21 points per on a career-high 51 percent from the field.
Yes, his numbers are at their lowest since early on in his career, but coming off of offseason knee surgery when you're a guard who attacks the rim isn't as easy as so many would like to envision it.
Naturally, my attention is going to focus on Chris Bosh—the oft-forgotten third superstar. Since he's the team's most important player—notice how I said important and not best—you would assume there would be an inclination by the coaching staff to get him the ball at all costs. Besides that, he's also one of the league's most difficult players to defend.
Think about it. How many forwards or centers can you name that can defend Bosh's perimeter jumper AND his ability to drive to the basket? The list is thin.
Despite this, Bosh is averaging a mere 12.6 field-goal attempts per—the third lowest of his career. The 17.7 points per are also the third lowest of his career, and the 7.4 rebounds per he's garnering is tied for the lowest of his decade-long career. However, his 21.4 PER is his highest in a Heat uniform, and he's averaging 1.3 blocks per—the most since 2007.
There simply isn't enough attention being paid to Bosh and his shooting expertise. This is someone who's shooting 55 percent from 16 feet out to the perimeter (Dirk Nowitzki never shot better than 52 percent from that range) and converting a career-high 55 percent of his shots, yet he is constantly being forgotten in the offense, especially in the second half of games.
Courtesy of SynergySports, Bosh's areas of significance on offense became apparent.
While 27.3 percent of Bosh's offense comes by way of spot-up jumpers, only 17.4 percent of his offense is coming as the pick-and-roll man, despite this having a success rate of 60.6 percent,
He is converting 50.5 percent of his shots on spot-ups. The only part of the offense Bosh hasn't been successful at is his post-ups, which is at a 42.6 percent conversion rate.
And yet, Bosh's post-ups take up 15.6 percent of his time on offense.
Understood, the Heat have to possess some sort of large presence in the post, but LeBron is spending only 12.7 percent of his time in the post area that essentially enabled the Heat to a championship victory last year. Bosh is netting only 0.86 points per possession on post-ups.
Meanwhile, he's scoring 1.24 points per possession when he's on the receiving end of a pick-and-roll. Both Wade and James have spent a large majority of the time as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll. SynergySports has Wade spending 28.4 percent of his time on offense and James 17.5 percent.
They both rank in the top 20 in points per possession when they are the ball-handler in those situations.
It just so happens that the Heat are good when they're running a pick-and-roll featuring either Wade or James as the ball-handler and Bosh as the roller. When executed correctly, Bosh aggressively rolling to the rim, you end up getting masterfully run plays like this one against Denver:
Notice how Ray Allen's activity and his influence as a perimeter threat causes confusion amongst Andre Iguodala and Kosta Koufos. On the other end, Dwyane Wade and Mike Miller are keeping their defenders along the perimeter and away from the paint.
The Heat's idea of having shooters space the floor pays off leaving the paint wide-open for Bosh to attack.
Or this one against San Antonio:
One more, this time coming with Mario Chalmers as the primary ball-handler:
Tyson Chandler was too slow to react and Dwyane Wade dragged J.R. Smith out of the paint and along the perimeter. The result is a Bosh score near the basket with Chandler not being in position to contest without fouling.
Bosh has long been the player most significant to the Heat's success. He provides the Heat with a mid-range shot and size that no else can provide. He frees up the paint for Wade and James, all while providing a mid-range shot that is arguably the best in the league.
With a conversion rate of 76 percent near the rim and 46 percent on jumpers, including ill-fated three-pointers that drops his percentage significantly, Bosh has been the Heat's most consistent player when it comes to providing offense at every spot on the floor.
Miami has been running with Bosh for two-and-a-half years and still have yet to fully integrate him in the offense. As tough as the second half of the season may be, the Heat can become even more well-rounded by drawing up more plays for Bosh