Much has been made of the Heat seemingly forgetting how to play defense in its first few games this season.
With the addition of offensive-minded shooters Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, the theory goes, Miami has weakened itself on defense — something the Heat has taken pride in for so long.
But, lost in that, is how pretty Miami’s offense has looked.
“The ball is popping, it’s moving,” coach Erik Spoelstra said before the Heat thrashed the visiting Nets 103-73 on Wednesday night to improve to 4-1. Brooklyn scored the fewest points against the Heat this season.
“The ego-less part of it is one of our bigger strides right now. Guys are using their strengths, their gifts, to create opportunities to force the trigger and the ball just moves to the open man. The challenge now is not getting bored with simplicity. A lot of those plays are simple.”
Yes, the Heat is playing a special, unselfish brand of basketball when it comes up the court. Yes, Miami’s Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are going to get theirs.
And they aren’t the only ones.
Just look at what the Heat did in the first three quarters Wednesday against the Nets: Every player who hit the floor had scored with James and Wade in double figures.
Shane Battier, who finds himself more open as the game goes on, hit a trio of threes. Allen was dropping mid-range jumpers. Mario Chalmers was open as well and scored eight points. Chris Bosh struggled putting the ball in the basket, but it wasn’t for trying. Bosh went into halftime with eight shots taken — just one made.
The Heat went into the break with a nine-point lead and led by 23 going into the fourth.
Miami has averaged 110 points in its first five games.
“We don’t want to predetermine or prescript the game,” Spoelstra said. “We know what our mindset is: We want to attack the rim, play with pace and spacing that’s necessary for us.
“But we’re a veteran, mature team that understands the big picture of what we’re playing for. We’re not playing for statistics, guys to get their own. Rather, they understand the ball moves. Some nights, guys will be the beneficiary of that and they will score big. Some nights they won’t.”
Said James: “No one cares about scoring. When you have the ball, you may have a good shot, but the guy next to you may have a better one. We’re all just looking for the best shot possible.”
A big part of the reason Miami’s offense has looked so good in its four wins this season has been the flow coming from its position-less offensive system. Thanks to the versatility of James, Wade and Bosh, Miami is able to work things around and put themselves in perfect position.
James is the catalyst in this system as his up and down the court is giving teams fits.
“It puts your team in a bind,” Brooklyn coach Avery Johnson said before Wednesday’s game.
“LeBron is more of a point forward and it spreads the floor when you bring in guys like Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis in the game. It opens the court up. They pass and cut and are fast.”
Spoelstra has stressed he isn’t worried about Miami’s defensive deficiencies early on.
Miami may have given up 99 points to a tired Phoenix team on Monday, but a lot of that was blamed on the pace of the game. The Heat had a double-digit lead for much of the night and Phoenix picked up some garbage points.
Spoelstra, who has said the Heat hasn’t “forgotten who we are,” was happy the Suns were held to 39.4 percent shooting -— the first opponent Miami held under the 40 percent mark. On Wednesday, the Nets shot 37.5 percent from the field.
Miami came into the night 29th in the league as opponents had averaged 106.5 points per night. On the flip side, the Heat led the league in scoring. Spoelstra smiled when he said the biggest thing was the Heat continue to outpace its opponent.
“If we get to our identity offensively where we’re attacking the paint, the rim and the free throw line as we’re capable of,” Spoelstra said, “you control tempo. It’s tougher for team to run out on you. We can do a better job on defense. We did that [Monday] and we need to keep that going.”