A 10-4 stretch coming out of the All Star break has given the Miami Heat new life. The first half of the season could be described in one word, inconsistent. When the competition was high, the Heat would usually match that and be competitive. When they faced an opponent they were superior than, they would sink down to that level.
The second half of the season has seen a shift in that philosophy. They seemed to have clicked and found a rotation where they can have the most success. The improved pace and action has allowed the Heat to surpass 100 points in 12 of the 14 games since the break. This is a welcomed increase as they have been among the league’s lowest scoring teams.
Since the break, Hassan Whiteside has emerged as one of the best players off the bench in the league. Averages of 17.6 PPG, 14.4 RPG and 3.7 BPG show that he’s contributing stat wise but it’s what you see with your eyes that show there has been a real difference. His movements off ball screens, his activeness when his man doesn’t have the ball and most importantly his body language has all improved since the break.
“Rook1” and “Rook2” round out the three headed youth monster off the bench for the Heat. When Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson enter the game, their energy rubs off instantly on the team. When Goran Dragić teams up with them, you see the joy and extra pep in his step because he has guys that want to run with him.
The main weakness of this Heat team was they had no one to consistently knock down 3’s. Watching them play you realize they have to work twice as hard as the other team to score because their strength is finishing at the rim. With the addition of Joe Johnson it has added another ball handler and veteran but most importantly, a historically proven knockdown shooter.
This team is among the league’s most interesting for many reasons. Their mix of players from all ages is one of them. Another is the chemistry and balance that they have showed in wake of losing their best player indefinitely, Chris Bosh. With time winding down on the season, it doesn’t appear likely that they’ll catch the Cavaliers or Raptors in the standings. But that three seed is still in play and they look poised to capture it.