The Heat said all the right words Monday, two days after another loss to a supposedly overmatched opponent, but the numbers being produced by the defending back-to-back NBA champions seven games into the season tell a different story.
The statistics suggest the Heat isn’t playing with maximum effort right now. Consider:
• Miami is ranked last in the NBA in offensive rebounding (6.6) and defensive rebounding (26.6).
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In addition to the averages, the Heat is ranked last in rebounding percentage (45.4), which is the percentage of available rebounds a team secures during a game.
• And then there are the other “effort” statistics, which measure hustle.Miami is last in the NBA in second-chance points (7.7) and fast-break points (8.3).
LeBron James was angry and aggravated after Monday’s practice, which included tough words by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. James said there was no excuse for the Heat’s 4-3 record and did not soften his message for reporters when asked to pinpoint the team’s shortcomings.
“We’re playing like [expletive] defensively right now,” said James, who returned to his four-letter description of the Heat’s defense one more time for emphasis.
The Heat’s surprising 111-110 loss to the Celtics on Saturday offered the latest example. Boston’s young players enjoyed wide-open lanes to the basket and easily earned open jumpers against the Heat’s sluggish defenders.
“You have to constantly stay on top of it regardless of who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve done, what you’re doing and we have to work at it,” Spoelstra said of the Heat’s defensive effort. “We’re not playing to our capability, so you have to stay on top of it.”
On Tuesday, the Heat plays the Milwaukee Bucks, whom Miami defeated 4-0 in the first round of the 2013 playoffs. The upcoming schedule theoretically offers the Heat a chance to iron out some problems, but Dwyane Wade said games against the Eastern Conference’s lower-tier teams might be more difficult than expected.
“It’s a good stretch in the sense that any time you have another game, you have an opportunity to right the wrong, but the Clippers aren’t coming in and Brooklyn’s not coming in, the Bulls aren’t coming in, so you have to fight against just waiting for the big game … that’s what this next stretch is going to be about,” Wade said. “It’s going to be about respecting the teams that we play, respecting the individuals and giving them our best on a nightly basis.”
Wade acknowledged that the team doesn’t “want to get too far behind” the Pacers in the Eastern Conference standings, considering how well Indiana has started the season. The Pacers are 8-0 after beating Memphis on Monday night..
“They’re the best team in the Eastern Conference right now, but for us, we want to play the style that we can play,” Wade said. “We don’t want to be a fourth or fifth seed, obviously. We would love to be in a position for a first seed, but they’re playing very well right now and they were a very good team before and they’re even better now.”
Spoelstra and the NBA have joined in the global relief effort for the Philippines, which suffered catastrophic loss of life and infrastructure from Typhoon Haiyan. The NBA and NBA Player’s Association are donating $250,000 to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, and Spoelstra is participating in a public-service announcement for the organization.
“This is the absolute least I can do,” Spoelstra said. “You feel helpless. You want to be able to do more, but at least bringing more light and more recognition to it possibly can help.
“They’re going to need our help. The help is really going to be needed now.”
Spoelstra, whose mother is from the Philippines, has visited the country four out of the past five summers to promote basketball, education and health. The Heat coach is a recognizable figure there, and basketball is a popular sport in the country.
“It’s absolutely horrible and tragic what is going on over there, and it is dear to my heart,” Spoelstra said. “I have family over there, and we’re just trying to send our thoughts, our prayers, our recognition, anything we can do to help the people of the Philippines. They need it.”
Spoelstra said his extended family, which lives in Manila, is safe following the storm.