At the end of regulation that is. The Heat dropped their fourth straight game Monday night versus Atlanta. The two games prior to the losing streak were overtime victories at Milwaukee (91-all after 48 minutes) and at Portland (93-all). This is important to note because the "slump," to the degree it exists, represents playing below par for six straight games rather than just four.
I won't run the efficiency numbers because effiency in one game is simply restating the score to represent 100 possessions per team. Because Monday Night's game also went overtime, three of the six would be dead heats in efficiency after regulation! Let me run some stats that emphasize the decline in inside play and execution.
Miami: 39% on two-pointers, 48 rebounds, 16 turnovers
Milwaukee: 48% on two-pointers, 53 rebounds, 23 turnovers
Miami gets outplayed badly inside, but makes up for that by either forcing a lot of Milwaukee miscues, or just benefitting from a sloppy night from the Bucks. This was the first chink in the armor in a while in terms of boxscore stats. It was still a win...continuing a winning streak that went back a long way. A win, but a below par performance.
Miami: 63% on two-pointers, 41 rebounds, 17 turnovers
Portland: 49% on two-pointers, 43 rebounds 13 turnovers
What will be the only good performance in this sextet on two-point baskets. Miami loses rebounds again, and continues to be sloppy on offense. They "won" turnovers in the first game despite losing the ball 16 times. Here, the category was a negative that counteracted some of their two-point edge.
Miami: 48% on two-pointers, 46 rebounds, 7 turnovers
LA Clips: 53% on two-pointers, 42 rebounds, 10 turnovers
This was the first scoreboard loss. LeBron got hurt late in the game as you probably remember. This would be the only rebounding victory amongst the sextet. Miami cleaned up its ball protection for a night, but didn't do much in terms of forcing miscues from the Clippers.
Miami: 47% on two-pointers, 41 rebounds, 16 turnovers
Denver: 56% on two-pointers, 50 rebounds, 9 turnovers
Tough spot on the schedule. Miami was in a back-to-back after a very intense game in Los Angeles. Plus, LeBron was out with his bad ankle. The Heat fell behind early and took their loss rather than asking tired players to mount a big comeback. Fatigue's even worse at altitude.
Miami: 43% on two-pointers, 30 rebounds, 12 turnovers
Chicago: 49% on two-pointers, 42 rebounds, 9 turnovers
LeBron misses this one, and Chris Bosh gets hurt after 31 minutes of action. Dwyane Wade reportedly banged his knee in this game too. You can see a clean sweep for the Bulls in our focus categories. Once again, Miami is having trouble inside the arc, on the boards, and in the area of forcing turnovers.
Miami: 45% on two-pointers, 46 rebounds, 16 turnovers
Atlanta: 48% on two-pointers, 48 rebounds, 10 turnovers
LeBron returned to the lineup, and played 44 minutes (though he seemed sluggish offensively all night). D-Wade played 46 minutes. Bosh is still out. Atlanta wins the three categories. Miami only forces 10 turnovers even with the extra five minutes. This was in a "first home" spot after the long road trip. Every so often you'll see very sluggish performances in this situation. The Knicks lost to lowly Sacramento at home last week afer returning from a cross-country trip.
I'm not suggesting Miami fans should panic or anything. Yes, Miami has been shorthanded. But, they were at full strength for the first two overtime games, and most of the loss in LA. James and Wade could only lead the team to 77 points in regulation Monday. They were supposedly capable of rulling the world without Bosh.
Looks like we can see the areas of weakness when the Heat take their foot off the gas so to speak, or when they're shorthanded. You can beat them inside. You can win the turnover battle. Even if you're Portland, Milwaukee, Atlanta, or the Clippers, rather than Boston, Orlando, or the Lakers.
*Miami is now 30-13 on the year, which means anyone guessing 70-12 before the season started is out of luck. And, yes...some people were suggesting 70 wins was possible.
*Atlanta only trails Miami by two games in the Southeast Division. Even with the Heat looking like gods for about 20 games...and even with the Hawks being mostly off the radar this year...only two games separate the teams in the standings. Could the Heat drop to a 5th seed if one of the big two is lost for an extended period?
*The meme is still persisting that Paul Silas has turned Charlotte into a team that likes to run...and that their recent string of successes is a result of that increased tempo.
Here's a look at their recent possession-per-game totals:
93 vs. Philadelphia (regulation estimate)
85 vs. New Orleans
87 vs. Boston
91 vs. Chicago
92 vs. Memphis
94 vs. Washington
93 vs. Minnesota (regulation estimate)
91 vs. Miami
90 vs Golden State
91 vs. Cleveland
97 vs. Detroit (a one-game running experiment)
Silas took over before the Detroit game, and Charlotte did run like crazy in that one, while constantly throwing the ball away and almost keeling over from fatigue in the fourth quarter. Since then, they're back close to where they were before. Charlotte sits at 93 for the year, with 95 being the league median.
Charlotte played 8 games at 95 possessions or more in regulation in the 19 outings prior to Larry Brown stepping down. That's only happened once under Silas, in that first game after reportedly practicing with a 14-second shot clock.
Tonight's win at Chicago was slow again. Yet, I heard a studio announcer talking about the new style Charlotte is playing. After an 84-83 final!