The Miami Heat won 9 of their last 13 games, including scoring over 110 points in back-to-back wins for the first time this season. The improvement hasn’t gone unnoticed as LeBron James shouted out a better-than-expected Eastern Conference this season.
”I’m always concerned about other teams getting better and better,” James said after Wednesday’s loss. “But I’m more concerned about us getting better and better. That’s the bigger thing. Washington and obviously this team [Boston Celtics] right here, Miami is trying to get better and better, Toronto is playing exceptional basketball right now. The East is pretty damn good this year, and right now we’re not so good.”
In the second game against the Detroit Pistons, the Heat showed their improved basketball IQ as Goran Dragic and Kelly Olynyk took advantage of what Detroit gave them.
Later the Heat handled the basketball like a hot potato as the Pistons couldn’t keep with the Heat as Miami found a high-percentage shot for a basket.
Speaking of crisp offense and idealized possessions. pic.twitter.com/GmfRd3VM0b— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) January 4, 2018
Even rookie Kyle Kuzma notes hero ball may work in the AAU, but doesn’t win games in the NBA.
”We gave up. You could see, they got basket after basket, we had no resistance on them on the defensive end and offensive end. When things got tough, we tried to do it individually, and you can’t do that in this league. ... They took a little lead and we just went to being selfish on the floor. We didn’t compete on defense. They killed us.”
With the signing of Derrick Jones Jr. to a two-way G-League contract, the Heat have two 20-year athletic players, Bam Adebayo being the other, who can bring electricity and excitement into American Airlines Arena down the road, with both their defensive and offensive potential.
But Dikembe Mutombo has a message to youngsters who believe they can overpower NBA-caliber defenders like they did in college.
Once Jones Jr., Adebayo, Justise Winslow sign on to the fact NBA defenses aren’t the same as AAU schoolyard ones, the Heat have a roster of experienced and promising talents. Josh Richardson has grown this season into a scoring, passing and defensive force who added a mid-range game that brought him to another level.
In part due to injuries the Heat are getting better and better, because rotation players got more minutes to build winning habits. Miami’s style has changed dramatically since opening day, with a focus of team effort leading the way. The exciting part is there’s more room to grow as the season goes on.