The pandemonium has settled. Miami Heat forward LeBron James now has a glitzy 219-diamond ring on his finger that serves to ward off any potential naysayers. In years past, sports “pundits” took his successes as anomalies and his failures as proof. But now, when James has good games or bad games, no one seems to mind. He no longer penetrates the sports news cycle.
Bear in mind, this all can change if the Heat’s season concludes with a loss.
What has consumed local and national sports conversations now is the Miami Heat’s apparent lack of defense. In a traditional sense, effective defense mandates size from the players. A height advantage would give a team the edge.
Last year, the Heat obliterated that paradigm. Without an active player taller than 6 foot 11-inches (extremely tall in “real life,” fairly tall in basketball standards), the Heat trudged along as a “small” team, size-wise.
The Heat’s ability baffled basketball traditionalists, as Miami outscored their opponents by an average of six points per game. In the end, their defensive fortitude put them in position to claim the World Championship last season.
This season, the Heat are allowing five more points a game, on average. However, they still remain on top, as they average five more points than their opposition.
This Heat team has been criticized for its lack of defense and its shift from the archetype that was responsible for a championship. Their exemplar for winning now centers upon scoring more than their opponents. This strategy is more malleable than focused defense, and it has shown.
The Heat have lost and nearly lost against teams from the dredges of the league’s standings (Wizards, Bucks, Cavaliers, etc.) both due to a lack of focus and a lack of offensive production.
While their up-and-down performance could potentially be a root for concern, it should not be. Very often, the regular season is a poor indicator of performance in the postseason.
In the 2010-11 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Heat summarily defeated the Boston Celtics 4-1. The regular season told a different story, as the Celtics beat the Heat three times in four chances.
When playoff time comes around, teams (especially ones as powerful as Miami) flip a figurative “switch” — a more concerted effort towards victory. The regular season is little more than an extended preseason, as what happens during the regular season is rarely indicative of anything more. As well, most of the teams that make it to the post season were projected to get there.
Even though the Heat have looked shaky at various points throughout the season — and undoubtedly will have ups and downs for the rest of the season — there is little reason for worry. The core of this team has matured together, and they have proved that they can win on a large scale.
If this team loses in an early season matchup to the Washington Wizards, it holds no bearing on the rest of the season and post season. In a similar fashion, if the Heat blow out competitive teams, it may or may not carry over at a later point in the season. As well, the Heat will mold their game plan to procure a winning formula. They will experiment with their threepoint shooting and their defensive strategy during this “extended preseason.”
Until the post season, the Heat are no more than an experiment in progress — an artwork, almost. Each stroke of the brush doesn’t amount to much. The aggregate of the strokes is the important aspect.
Preston Michelson is a senior at Palmer Trinity School where he is the public address announcer for all varsity sporting events. Contact him on Twitter at @PrestonMich or by email at michelsonpr@ gmail.com