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Critical Keys for Miami Heat Heading into the Postseason

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 24:  Forward LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts after a dunk against the Charlotte Bobcats at American Airlines Arena on March 24, 2013 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
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Sam RichmondCorrespondent IApril 17, 2013

The Miami Heat will enter the postseason as the heavy favorites to come away with an NBA title.

But if the Heat are to accomplish its one and only goal of repeating last year's championship, there are three areas in which they need to focus on.

If Miami can hold its own on the glass and dominate the three-point battle as well as the turnover battle, then the Heat should be celebrating come June.

Let's go further in depth on why these aspects of the game are key.

 

1. Rebounding

There's no question about it: the Heat's biggest weakness is rebounding.

Miami grabs just 38.7 rebounds per game, which is the worst average in the NBA

Now, part of the reason the Heat's rebound totals are so low is that Miami's opportunities to grab rebounds is lessened because the team makes such a high percentage of its shots.

But even after correcting for that, it's clear the Heat still have a problem, as the team ranks just 22nd in rebounding rate.

At this point, the Heat's rebounding situation is for the most part unfixable. By design, Miami is small. That gives them plenty of advantages, such as offensive floor spacing, but it clearly hurts them on the glass.

As evidenced by the team's 65-16 record, the good of going small certainly outweighs the problems that came on the glass because of it. However, rebounding has cost them at times, such as in a January loss to the Chicago Bulls in which Chicago grabbed 19 offensive boards to the Heat's four.

The Heat have to hope guys like Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen can do enough work on the glass that rebounding doesn't cost Miami a couple playoff games.

 

2. Three-Pointers

A big factor in Miami's success this season has been the Heat's ability to hit at a high-clip from beyond the arc and preventing the opposition from doing the same.

Miami does an excellent job of spreading the floor and creating open three-point opportunities for themselves. The Heat have taken the sixth most three-pointers this season and have converted an absurd 39.6 percent of those attempts, which ranks second in the league.

Miami has shooters for days, with five of its key contributors shooting north of 40 percent from outside.

On the other side, the Heat's three-point defense has been terrific. Miami has held opponents to 35.2 percent from beyond the arc this season.

That's plenty good, but even that doesn't describe how stingy Miami's three-point defense is right now. In March, which is when Miami really began gearing up for the postseason and ratcheted up the defensive intensity, Heat opponents shot just 31.0 percent on three-pointers.

If Miami can continue to give itself an enormous edge in the long-ball department, it's tough to envision an opponent, especially a team so reliant on outside scoring such as the New York Knicks, beating them four times in a series.


3. Turnovers

Heading into last year's postseason, a big knock on the Heat was that they turned the ball over too much.

Well, that's been far from an issue this season. Miami has turned the ball over just 13.3 times per games in 2012-13, which is the sixth best average in the NBA.

But what helps separate the Heat from many teams, is that they force plenty of turnovers as well.

Opponents have turned the ball 14.7 times per game against the Heat this season. But similar to the Heat better preventing three-pointers as the season has gone along, Miami has been forcing more turnovers recently. In March, the Heat forced 15.9 turnovers the game.

That's terrible news for the Heat's potential playoff opponents because they are going to have put up a lot of points to match Miami's extremely formidable offensive attack. On top of that, with tremendous athletes such as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Heat are excellent in transition, so turnovers that lead to fast-breaks are especially hurtful.  

When Miami has been smart with the ball on offense and aggressive on defense, they've been nearly unbeatable.  This recipe for success doesn't change heading in the playoffs.

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