"Live by the three, die by the three."
The famous words of so many coaches, announcers and fans. But for Miami, that doesn't seem to be the case. The Heat are in the midst of a historical run, gathering 27 consecutive victories. But too often, they have found themselves in a hole, down, and looking for answers.
And then, in a matter of minutes, the Heat can go from down to a commanding lead with the momentum. What changes? Shooters make their shots. Miami is never dead in the water because of what can happen from beyond the three-point line. Let's take a bit of a look at the Heat's shooting from downtown.
The Heat are 23-0 this season when hitting 10 or more threes in a game. That's astounding! In 41% of their wins this season, they have hit double digit shots from beyond the arc. This is why Miami puts so much attention on spreading the floor, because they know the value of stretching the defense and the game changing turnaround the long ball offers.
Miami has four players shooting above 40% from three: Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, and Rashard Lewis. LeBron James is right behind them with 39%. As a team, the Heat shoot 39.2% - good for 2nd in the NBA behind the Golden State Warriors. Yet, Miami still boast a league-best 49% overall field goal percentage. And Miami has hit a three-pointer in every game this season (their low is 1, Feb 4 against the Charlotte Bobcats).
Clearly, there are times when the hot shooting is so obvious for their dominance. In their most recent game against the Magic, the Heat made 15-28 from downtown. Everyone was chipping in and it was obvious that it was the reason for their dominance, assisted by LeBron. Earlier this year, the Heat dropped 17 threes in Sacramento against the Kings, 10 of them by Mario Chalmers. And probably what sticks out in most fans' minds is Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder where Miami racked up 14-26 threes, 8 of them by the hobbled Mike Miller.
What it means
When the Heat have 1 or 2 of these guys on target for a night (Chalmers, Allen, Battier, or even Miller) they are extremely difficult to beat. 23-0 with 10 or more threes speaks to itself - when the other guys are chipping in like that, this team is unstoppable. Mike Miller is only getting run this year if there's injury or foul trouble, and Rashard Lewis is the same. James Jones is completely out of the rotation and he is bulls-eye shooter from distance. Miami has unlimited weapons.
And this is before we get to the point where LeBron James is shooting a career-high in three-point percentage. We also have talked about Chris Bosh, who was able to spread the floor with the long ball late in the playoffs last year. Maybe even Dwyane Wade will get back in on the action. The three-point shot also equalizes the Heat's rebounding woes, which find them at the bottom of the league.
The Heat do not live and die by the three as conventional wisdom tells us (four lowest totals in threes this season are all wins), but the three separates them from good to unstoppable. The Heat have weapons to make the defense stay honest, and when they don't it leaves Battier, Allen or Chalmers open for a three.
You better hope they miss.