The most gratifying part of the Heat’s win Thursday night in Minnesota wasn’t hard for Chris Bosh to put his finger on.
It was how the Heat played defense, holding the Timberwolves to a season-low 35.3 shooting percentage from the field.
“That’s our style of basketball,” Bosh said. “No matter what happens, we want to hold teams to a low percentage. We want to hold them to hopefully a low amount of points, too. I thought we could have done a little better, but it’s still a good start. It’s within the first two weeks, and I think we’re headed in the right direction right now [defensively].”
Entering its sixth game of the season Friday against the Pacers, the Heat has made significant strides defensively.
It ranks third in opposing field-goal percentage (40.3), third in fast-break points allowed (8.8 per game), fourth in blocks (4.8) and three-point percentage defense (28.0), fifth in scoring defense (93.4 points per game) and seventh in overall defensive efficiency (95.4), according to the formula ESPN uses.
Last year, Miami ranked 19th in defensive efficiency (103.8) and in opposing field-goal percentage (45.4), 20th in three-point percentage defense (35.3), 18th in blocks (4.5), seventh in scoring defense (97.3) and sixth in fast-break points allowed (11.4).
Of course, if you asked center Hassan Whiteside before the season, he saw this defensive improvement coming.
“I think we’re a good defensive team,” Whiteside said before the Heat opened the season against the Hornets on Oct. 28. “Once we just get things rolling we’re going to be a top five defensive team in the league. We’ve got a lot of guys that can come off the bench and bring energy, and we’ve just got a lot of size. Lou [Luol Deng] is a great defender. We have a lot of size going in the interior. I just feel like we’ve kind of got everything, especially in the half court.”
Dwyane Wade acknowledged on the eve of the season opener Miami’s potential “to be a very good halfcourt defensive team.” But he said the key for Miami long term was also being “an even better transition defensive team.”
“What teams will do on us especially with Hassan in the lineup, they’re going to try to run,” he said. “They don’t want to face the halfcourt defense as much.”
So far, the Heat has done a good job with that. And it has helped them on the offensive end. Miami’s made a jump from 22nd in the league in offensive efficiency a year ago (101.5) to eighth (102.5) because its getting more stops, getting rebounds and running down at times with Wade or Goran Dragic.
“Offensively, we’re going to continue to get better — you can see what’s working for us,” Bosh said after Thursday’s win. “As long as we’re playing off misses, it will be good.”
GEORGE IS BACK
Even though they’ve been playoff rivals, Bosh said was happy to see Pacers forward Paul George back this season. The two wished each other well last season during their recoveries.
Bosh missed the second half of the season with blood clots in his lung. George broke his leg playing in a scrimmage with Team USA last summer and returned for five games at the end of last season.
“For him to just get back out there for the city of Indiana, for his teammates to see him back out there, it’s great,” Bosh said. “He encouraged me quite a bit. When he went down I reached out to him and vice-versa. It’s easier for me because he was out for a whole entire year. In a situation like that you’re not sure if you’re going to bounce back. But so far he’s done an incredible job. He’s back to being himself.”
The Heat will kick off the first of seven consecutive home games Sunday by debuting its new “Home Strong” uniforms — created in honor of the armed forces and Veterans Day. Miami will also wear the uniforms Tuesday against the Lakers and Thursday against the Jazz.
The “Home Strong” jerseys feature stylized stencil numbers and letters to mimic military aesthetics, stars on the right shoulder to honor the five branches of the armed services and 13 stripes on the left shoulder as well as a custom block nameplate on the back.
“I like them … because it’s not the typical fatigues,” Bosh said of the jerseys. “They usually come with some fatigue. It’s like, ‘OK great, we’ll be the upteenth team to have fatigue jerseys.’ But ours are really cool.”
▪ A team spokesman said Friday there was no further update on Heat guard Gerald Green, who was hospitalized Wednesday in Miami. The Heat said Thursday that Green was doing better but didn’t offer any other details.