On Thursday, February 27 the Miami Heat dispatched of the New York Knicks for the second time in this month. New York hung tough in the first half of the game but once the third quarter started the crew led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh took over to close out the night. Their surge during the second quarter continued the story line that one of the Heat's most debilitating weapons is the way they consistently pressure teams during the second half of the game. Looking deeper into the games played in the last 28 days shows a very interesting trend.
With their win against the Knicks, Miami improved to a 9-1 win-loss record for the month. During that stretch they are averaging 104.8 points while allowing their opponents to only score 94.8. Media members repeatedly harken upon their ability to “turn on the switch” when games get close in the second half. In studying the numbers that the Heat have put up this month, that may not be the whole story.
First, we looked at the third quarter, which is often the starting point of the conversation. Coming out of halftime teams make adjustments that allow them to exploit what their opponents are showing them. In February the Heat were able to outscore their opponents in the third corner in just four of the games played. The Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, Detroit Pistons and Knicks were able to outscore Miami in the 12 minutes that follow the mid-game break. Of those four teams the only group that was able to take home the victory were the Jazz. The Phoenix Suns drew at 28 points each when they played Miami on February 11, but they were not able to hold on for the ”W.”
That brings the review to an overall assessment of their second half play in comparison to their opponents. The Miami Heat consistently outscore the other teams during the second half of the game while it seems that they also turn up their defensive play during the final 24 minutes. For example, in their three most recent games against the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder they have outscored their opponents 155-105. During those three games the Heat's defensive pressure was turned up to another level as they held those groups to a shooting percentage of 37.3, 35.8 and 37.8 respectively; much of which was done during the second half of the game when the victory was already within their grasp.
The Miami Heat aren't in the top spot of the Eastern Conference but they are playing as if they are determined to enter the playoffs with home court advantage. While their play during the second halves of games may not be as dominant as once believed, they are still making the right adjusts to slow down majority of the teams standing in front of them.