So far, the 2017-2018 season has been the best of times, and the worst of times for the Miami Heat. Over their first six games, they limped to a 2-4 record. Then followed that up by going 8-5 over their next 13. Turned a corner? Guess again. It’s back to the worst of times, 1-3 over their last four.
Beginning Wednesday in San Antonio, the Heat enter a tough stretch of games. Six of their next eight are on the road, and three of those tilts are against top contenders (San Antonio, Portland, Boston).
In a season marked by maddening inconsistency, this road trip is coming at a vulnerable time. The Heat are on a a slide, Hassan Whiteside is ailing, and my horoscope predicted bad fortune.
As long as Whiteside’s health is in question, and Goran keeps looking a step slow, it’s time for Dion to step up - although someone might want to tell him the first three quarters of the game count too.
Per NBA.com, Dion has been absolutely money in the clutch this year, but you probably already knew that. Here are some stats to back it up anyway: Dion is accounting for 53% of the Heat’s made field goals in clutch time, and slashing an absurd 61/58/80 line on those shots. Oh, and did I mention, only LeBron James attempts those shots at a higher rate.
Now, if I showed those stats to the layman, they would probably assume that Dion is one of the league’s premier players, right? I mean, not to inundate you with stats, but he has the fourth most points in clutch time (45). The players he’s trailing? LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Damian Lillard; superstars all. And he’s doing it more efficiently than any of them.
However, if you subtract those clutch baskets from his totals, his slash line drops to a miserable 36.9/28.5/73.7 on the season. Ouch. That’s borderline Lonzo Ball levels of efficiency. So what gives, why isn’t clutch Dion always Dion?
Heat fans know this struggle all too well. We’ve had to employ doublethink this season in order to keep these two diametrically opposed, yet equally true, versions of Dion in our heads. Meanwhile, the Heat’s season has been just as up and down as his stat lines.
In order to get any sort of consistency, the Heat need Dion to show up for the whole game. This ‘bizarro Dion’ routine he’s been doing for the first three quarters isn’t going to cut it. Per Basketball-reference, he’s leading Miami in usage percentage. That’s a distinction usually reserved for the team’s best player, and Dion has been anything but so far (he’s last on the team in Total Points Added at -55, per nbamath.com).
Going forward, the season largely hinges upon this battle between Dions: garden variety, brick-chucking Dion, or out-of-his-mind clutch time Dion. The version crowned the one-true-Dion could make or break the Heat’s playoff aspirations.
Let’s hope we get a far, far better Dion than we have ever known, to lead the Heat through this 8 game stretch.