Head coach Erik Spoelstra may have struck gold with Udonis Haslem as the team's reality check, who simply calls it as he sees it. Spoelstra only has to tell the Heat players, "Udonis will be waiting for you in the locker room at half-time," for them to realize they will have to answer for any lackadaisical effort on the court. Spoelstra and Haslem make the ideal good cop, bad cop combination often seen in the movies. It's really a brilliant and innovative technique to get peak performances from the team, by using a dual coaching/mentoring angle, even though Haslem is not technically a coach.
The combination of Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, Mario Chalmers, and Josh McRoberts have one characteristic in common: they are all unselfish people. From Chalmers capably conducting the team's offense, McRoberts looking for an open man, Winslow's pride in defense and Johnson breaking his jaw for the (Summer League) team, they all place the welfare of the group above their own statistics. Somewhat unexpectedly, McRoberts has turned out to be an excellent defensive player.
They swarm as a group, ready to be the next man up in covering the ball-handler or a cutter. Their knees are always bent on defense prepared to sprint to help, that is, they never stand around watching the ball. Whenever any one guy gets caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar, nobody complains and they move on to the next play. They never hold any grudges or demean anyone else for what happened earlier - their focus on the now is amazing.
As we discussed on Hot Hot Hoops yesterday, it must be noted that Winslow has a +/- of 10.1, which is the highest of any rookie so far season. That figure along with being on a winning team, makes him a candidate for being on the NBA All-Star Rookie team.
Winslow usually is first off the bench, so that has to be taken into consideration. That said, his +/- figures along with the other reserves confirm what we actually see during the game when the Heat rotation players are outscoring the other team when they are on the court. A strategy of Heat starters playing the other team's starters to a draw, and then having our second unit trouncing the other team's subs could be a winning formula.
Interestingly, Chris Bosh actually seems to enjoy playing center with the second unit. He has stepped up his already impressive defensive effort alongside them, giving the Heat an awesome tag-team at the 5 position of Bosh, Hassan Whiteside, and Chris Andersen. Bosh and Whiteside have both been close to double-double machines this season, which highlights how much the team rebounding has improved.
The Lakers game numbers are almost the exact opposite of the Raptors. Raptors were 20th in points scored and 6th in points allowed, while the Lakers are 5th in points scored and 28th in points allowed. To paraphrase Spoelstra on the team taking what they are given, the Lakers are going to present the Heat a very different challenge than the Raptors. Most likely the Lakers will score more than 76 points, and the Heat will top 96 points against the 28th-ranked defense in the NBA.