It all became very clear and obvious as the Miami Heat attempted to stick with the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night. The Heat's defense is not what it used to be. The Grizzlies shot a blistering 59% on their field goals in route to a 16 point win. And now, the Heat are in a code red alert as they search for their defense.
Right now, the Heat are giving up .476% on field goals for the season, which is good enough for 27 in the NBA. The Heat haven't been in the bottom half (15-30) in FG% since 2008, and yet right now it seems like the Heat will live and die by how hot their opponent is.
After the loss to the Grizzlies, Chris Bosh spoke about the Heat's struggle to contain their opponents and he said, "It's like open season on us."
Dwyane Wade wasn't shying away from the reality that things aren't going their way right now either, adding, "It's a work on progress...the ball's going in for the other team at a rapid pace."
Take for example this way of looking at it:
When the Heat hold their opponent under 47% shooting, they are 7-2
When their opponent shoots over 47%, they are 2-9
It becomes pretty clear, that among other things, field goal percentage from their opposition is one of the key factors in determining whether the Heat are going to be successful or not. Miami is third worst in adjusted field goal percentage at .529% taking in all aspects of the shooting game.
Last season, in which the Heat were not a defensive juggernaut as the previous two season, Miami gave up 26 games with .500% FG which was good for 31% of their games. So far this season, they have given that up in 9 or 20 games, good for 45% of their season has seen their opposition make half or more of their shots.
They have some work to do, most notable, keeping points guards out of the paint and creating for others. Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Jeff Teague, and John Wall have all carved up their defense this year. More troubling than that, they struggled to contain Donald Sloan, Patrick Beverley, Kemba Walker, and Brandon Knight. It seems every point guard is able to penetrate and create easy scores against the Heat. It's not all hot shooting, it's quality shooting.
One has to wonder if teams are just ready to give it to the Heat. Right? I mean, after the last four years of Heat dominance and supremacy, one has to imagine opponents are just geared up and ready to put Bosh and Wade in their place after The King's departure.
I feel like part of this problem still lies in the fact that this team is still learning each other and trusting one another and the system. Josh McRoberts, Luol Deng, Shawne Williams, and Shabazz Napier are all new to Erik Spoelstra's system and are rotation players. This doesn't even include James Ennis or Danny Granger. There's on;y so much the other guys can do, everyone has to do their part and not fall apart on defensive rotations for the full 24 second shot clock. I've seen over the course of the season, a bit of defensive break down on who is supposed to be where and when.
I'm sure there are plenty of issues Spoelstra is addressing to fix this, but it's deflating as a fan to watch a team whose opponent continually lights it up. The Heat will need to make adjustments.
Because if they don't, Pat Riley will be forced to do the adjustments in a much less pleasant way.
What do you think is going on with the Heat defense and how their opponents are shooting? Leave your take in the comments for us.