How To Beat The Miami Heat

February 25, 2012

LeBron James Doing Work In The Post

As the Miami Heat have steamrolled through the NBA this season, there are very few weaknesses an opponent can exploit. In fact, one of the only recipes for success against them is to make a high volume of three pointers. That sounds good on paper, but certainly not a strategy an opposing coach can rely on.

But separate the noise from the raw data, and a pattern slowly begins to emerge. There is a key to beating the Miami Heat. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with how their opponent prepares. In this case, the old adage holds true: The only team that can beat the Miami Heat is the Miami Heat.

Much has been made of LeBron James’ improved post up game this year, yet it’s astonishing that his efficiency numbers are almost identical to last season.

LEBRON’S POST UP GAME:

SEASONPPPFG%RANK (Percentile)
2010-20111.05250.5%87th
2011-20121.05250.7%90th

PPP = Points Per Possession, measuring offensive efficiency. Stats provided by Synergy Sports

The biggest difference is in the number of possessions he has posted up. Last season, he posted up 8.7% of the time, while this year, he has nearly doubled that to 16%. The result?

LeBron James has been enjoying one of the most statistically dominating seasons the NBA has ever seen.

Dwyane Wade Posting Up Jason Kidd

And as LeBron goes, so does the rest of his team. Out of all their possessions, the Heat post up 11.3% of the time, 7th highest in the league, making them the 2nd most efficient team from the pivot at .903 PPP. By shooting less threes and getting better position near the basket, the Heat have been an offensive juggernaut, leading the league in overall offense.

In their losses, however, their post game almost vanishes, removing a vital cog in the Heat Offensive Machine. And it’s not only their shooting percentage and efficiency that go down – it’s the number of times they post up. In 5 of their 7 losses, they’ve posted up significantly less than their average.

TEAMPOST UP %PPPFG%
Atlanta5%.425%
Golden State9.6%.7536.4%
LA Clippers14.2%.528.6%
Denver11.3%.6712.5%
Milwaukee8.7%1.3383.3%
Milwaukee8.8%.4425%
Orlando8.4%.6350%
Season Averages:11.3%.90345.1%

There is no game plan to stop the Heat from posting up, since that is the beauty of the play. Erik Spoelstra can always call a play at any time that gets the player of his choice to the spot of his choice. However, during the flow of these losses, the Heat appear to forget one of their main strengths, giving their opponents a fighting chance.

Chris Bosh In His Favorite Spot

What’s even more astonishing is how few hard double teams the Heat face when they do post up. If LeBron posts up, doubling off of Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh would almost be conceding the score. But given their cold blooded efficiency from the low block, it boggles the mind why opposing coaches wouldn’t at least try to disrupt the flow of their offense a little bit more.

While teams can prepare by shooting more in practice, with hopes of hitting a high volume of three’s, it is clear that that strategy is merely an illusion. Until a coach can figure out a way to stop Coach Spoelstra from calling out a post play more than 11.3% of the time, the Heat look unbeatable.

Written By: Coach Nick

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About the Author ()

Coach Nick is the founder of BballBreakdown and a former high school varsity basketball coach. Follow Coach Nick on Twitter, @BballSource.

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  1. Weekly Roundup Feb 25th « 3pt Academy | February 25, 2012
  1. John Edwards says:

    pretty much agree, well done

    • bballbreakdown says:

      Thanks! Stay tuned for our breakdown of the Knicks Heat game, with video clips to back up our article!

  2. Randy_rd55 says:

    i really disagree that the Miami heat can guard the 3 point line look at their premiter defenders wade, lebron, chalmers, battier, cole

    • bballbreakdown says:

      They’re probably the best perimeter defensive team in the league – so I agree with you – getting open shots against them is really hard!

  3. Randy_rd55 says:

    im sorry i meany can’t

  4. Rajan Patel says:

     Rick Carlisle exploited Miami’s over aggressive D in the Finals.  
    How did he do it?

  5. DuceAlexander says:

    You could say that the only way to beat them is if they beat themselves, but it’s also difficult to throw them out of their offensive flow even if you decide to throw doubles at them left and right.  Their bench isn’t the best in the league, so the big 3 know they have to lead the way almost every night to be successful.  My thing is, their defense (which was put on display against the Knicks) is nearly FLAWLESS.  Yeah they give up threes from time to time, but who doesn’t??  Of course they aren’t strong on the glass, but if you try to grab offensive rebounds against them, one of the two (LeBron or Dwyane) will leak out for one of those full/halfcourt finishes.  So pretty much, you pick your poison on each possession.  Know what you as a player in the nba can do, and play WITHIN YOURSELF.  I’ve been a heat fan for years, and took scrutiny from my friends for being such.  But now that we have a title contending team again, I even try to find ways to helping them improve even if my voice falls upon deaf ears.

    Long story short, they look unbeatable.  OKC in the west could give them a run for their money, but, in 7 games I doubt they’d be able to stand toe to toe with Miami.  So, Miami wins the championship this year 6 games outta 7 against a very much improved OKC team!

  6. Wowohno says:

    run a zone?

    • BrianSchiffeR says:

      Zone has a weakness too, and the more you use it the lesser it will be effective. 

  7. Weihan Chu says:

    How depressing =(

  8. Estephenclark says:

    You beat the Heat by not turning the ball over and giving them easy transition baskets, not giving up dunks and layups by any means (89-90 Pistons and 07), and making Lebron and Wade run through a lot of picks on defense to wear them down instead of attacking them one on one or letting them run free. I’m not sure who has the talent and coaching to do it though.

    • bballbreakdown says:

      Good point, something the Bulls will be able to do better than anyone else, but short of an injury, the Heat are still prohibitive favorites to win it all…

  9. Shawn23019an says:

    funny this was the same argument last year until they lost, then the excuses came. lets call them unbeatable after they actually manage a title

    • Dodgson says:

       Their offensive efficiency is much better this year as they have learned to mesh.  I would still always take the field in todays NBA vs any team, but I would say if you had to pick one team it should be the Heat.  And I wouldn’t call making the NBA finals a failure exactly, if Spoelstra had monitored Lebron’s minutes at all during the regular season I think they would have won the finals.  I’m glad they didn’t because I like the Mavs!

  10. Frankiej928 says:

    this was the same argument used last year before they got beat. lets call them unbeatable when they actually win something

    • bballbreakdown says:

      Last year was very different offensively for the Heat. They are shooting considerably less three point shots, posting up more, and that has been all the difference…

  11. Vuchkko says:

    Sorry, coach Nick, but you are egregiously misleading. You suggest to have a strategy for “How To Beat The Miami Heat,” but we are only to read that you do not have one. Making a high volume of three pointers is your preferred strategy, yet you note that “it is clear that that strategy is merely an illusion.” You also claim that “until a coach can figure out a way to stop Coach Spoelstra from calling out a post play more than 11.3% of the time,” the Heat are unbeatable … … and you note that the “beauty” of the post-up play is that it is unstoppable and that “Spoelstra can always call a play at any time that gets the player of his choice to the spot of his choice.”

    Contradictions, contradictions… If you really do not have a strategy for beating the Heat, why claim and advertise to have one. There seems to be more value in a simple comment of one of the posters, “run a zone?”, than in what you’ve written.

    I’ve been following your youtube channel for quite a while now. Lots of interesting stuff over there. This is the first time I visited your website, after you mentioned to have written an analysis of how the Heat could be beaten, and I’m sorry to say that I’m very disappointed. I hope you’ll improve!!!

    • bballbreakdown says:

      Thanks for the comment. The Heat are having a great year, and no one has had sustainable success stopping them. The one thing we identified in their losses is the lower amount of post ups. That is a fact, and I’m not sure what is that misleading about it. No one else online has identified this statistic. We could have mentioned that playing a zone could limit the number of post ups called, and for that, we apologize.
      So the bottom line is, if you want to beat the Heat, you need to stop them from posting up more than 11.3% of the time, and the point is that Spoelstra simply needs to call for a post up that many times. We didn’t say it would be easy to stop the Heat, or even practical. It is simply what the stats tell us. Love the conversation, looking forward to more!
      Coach Nick

      • Vuchkko says:

        Thanks for engaging. What I found misleading is the claim that you’ve identified a new strategy for beating the Heat. Noting that one needs to stop them from posting up more than 11.3% of the time, all the while recognizing that if they so please the Heat can post up as many times as they want, is not such a strategy. You are right that that is an interesting fact, but it is not a strategy because the Heat are in full control of how many post-up plays they’re gonna play. What you’re kind of saying is that the way to beat the heat is to hope that for whatever reason Spoelstra’s just not gonna run many post-ups.

        Why they would on occasion forgo such an apparently successful strategy is interesting. Perhaps they wanna make sure to diversify their offense in case (1) of a future injury to one of their key post-up guys, or (2) in case they run into a team that executes really good double-team defense in the playoffs (or a mix of both). It would also be interesting to compare their post-up performance in high pressure situations (as in the Finals, last year) and non-pressure situations (league this year). Much was said about their star players, and key post-up guys, choking when push came to shove last year. For this reason, their post-up game may just not be there when they need it most, which is another reason to diversify offense.

  12. Mike says:

    Another thing that the Heat do is turn turnovers into points better than any other team in the league, which is exactly why the Thunder have no chance against the Heat in the Finals (thunder turn it over more than any other team) but it is also why the Heat should be scared of the Bulls (4th least turnovers per game).

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