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Miami Heat drop six notches in power rankings, aggressiveness key in win vs Grizzlies

The Heat snapped their losing streak but fell several spots in the power rankings after a weak showing in the previous three games.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat dropped from third place ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers to the ninth spot in the weekly NBA power rankings.

The comments about the team were as follows,

"Pace: 95.9 (27) OffRtg: 100.9 (19) DefRtg: 96.7 (2) NetRtg: +4.1 (7)"

"The Heat are 7-1 against the Western Conference after Sunday's comeback win over Memphis. But they're 6-8 against the East after losses to the Wizards, Hornets and Pacers (that dropped them from first to seventh in the standings) last week. From the fourth quarter on Monday through the first quarter on Sunday, they scored a paltry 84.2 points per 100 possessions. This week brings two more big games within the East."

John Schuhmann noted what has become clearly evident during the first quarter of the season: defense alone will not win a championship. The Heat rank 2nd in DefRtg, but being 19th offensively puts too much pressure on the defense on a nightly basis for an entire season of almost 100 games.

FREE THROWS WON THE MEMPHIS GAME

Box score from last evening's victory against shows free throw points decided the outcome.

TOTALS FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A OREB DREB REB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
HEAT 37-77 7-22 19-23 7 28 35 18 9 1 10 15 100
GRIZZLIES 40-77 7-19 10-14 5 28 33 23 10 3 13 21 97

Heat made 3 less field goal baskets than the Grizzlies, but still won. The difference was the 9 extra points from the free throw line.

Compare that to the loss against the Indiana Pacers, which actually scored one less point than the Grizzles. Go figure, allow a point more and win.

TOTALS FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A OREB DREB REB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
HEAT 35-81 5-20 8-13 8 37 45 14 6 8 19 16 83
PACERS 36-86 6-28 18-20 7 38 45 22 13 6 12 13 96

In Indiana, the Heat actually made four more field goal attempts (81 vs 77) than in Memphis, but scored 17 less points! The main culprit was scoring 11 less points at the free throw line.

The Pacers make only a single field goal (a 3-point shot) more than the Heat, but outscored the Heat by ten points at the free throw line in their double-digit win.

Having ten less free throws against the Pacers indicates not attacking the rim and settling for easy, uncontested jump shots. Against the Grizzlies they went to rim aggressively and were rewarded for it.

Strangely Dwyane Wade did not go to the foul line at all in the last two games, which tells us he might have changed his style. Luckily he is healthy so far, but Erik Spoelstra cannot count on Wade and Chris Bosh to carry the Heat for entire season at their age.

This last week bought the Heat back to earth. The Grizzlies game demonstrated how the Heat can grind out wins at the foul line by using their superior strength and toughness. The Pacers game, where the Heat took more shots and got to charity strip less, showed trying to convert open looks alone does not fit their identity.

Just as tenacious defense wins games for the Heat, so does offensive grit pay off for the Heat by getting almost 20 effort points at the foul line. Every point there is earned the Heat way: sacrifice, toughness, being knocked down and getting back up to make the other team pay by making both free throws..