Anybody who owns a television, radio, or has access to the Internet has heard of the Miami Heat. We have stamped nicknames upon them such as “the big 3”, “the Hollywood Heat”, or “the super friends”. We have immortalized their highlights and famous quotes such as “takin’ my talents to South Beach” and the infamous “not 1, not 2, not 3” championship speech. But do we truly understand how they function, what makes them tick, and most importantly, how they can be beaten? The basketball team has become more than a 1990’s-esque dynamic duo, a one man show, or a stacked super star experiment. Team president Pat Riley and underrated Coach Erik Spoelstra have transformed the Heat into a complex organism. The ball club is a riddle that is not easily cracked, but like any sports team, the Heat can be defeated.
The backbone to Miami’s success is the masterful orchestration of offense led by none other than LeBron James. James has become a point-forward, meaning that though he is not the smallest or quickest player on the court, he is the one who facilitates the offense. Of course, Miami can also rely on shooting guard, Dwayne Wade, who compliments James by utilizing his athleticism, durability, and finesse in order to provide a second scoring threat for opposing teams. Yet, while Wade uses quick flashes to the basket to rack up points, LeBron prefers to strong arm his way into the paint via raw athleticism. King James’ basket driving attack is the most unstoppable offensive onslaught in the NBA, but what makes him especially dangerous is his keen court vision, as well as a passing ability that draws comparison to NFL quarterbacks. This is why the Heat organization has surrounded James by outside shooting specialists. High post whiz Chris Bosh, as well as legendary 3-point shooters Ray Allen, Mike Miller, and Shane Battier provide an offensive safety valve on the outside in case LeBron runs into any trouble when attacking the basket. This forces the defense to spread out, taking away their ability to crowd the inside, and thus minimizing Miami’s weakness of lacking size and strength. LeBron’s ability to collapse the defense and feed outside shooters has given aged and battered veterans a resurgence in their careers, as they could not remain so stationary on any other NBA team.
So how do you compete with a near perfect basketball team? There are three methods in particular that would prove highly effective against the 2012 Champions. First, opponents must force the Heat into playing a physical basketball game, one where less physical Miami players such as Wade and Bosh are constantly concerned for their health. Second, opposing organizations must build around quick, athletic, durable, and extremely tall players. A particular fusion of size and speed is crucial in order to keep up with Miami, while still exploiting their lack of height. This allows quick and long armed defenders to rotate in time to place pressure on outside shooters such as Ray Allen, and also uses athletic centers to make James think twice before taking the ball inside against towering defenders. Finally, teams must combat Miami by mentally attacking their engine, LeBron James, and bringing him out of his element. The San Antonio Spurs’ head coach Greg Popovich (who has been referred to as the LeBron James of coaches) accomplished this by leaving James open as he brought the ball up the floor. This lack of outside defenders goaded James into taking lower percentage shots rather than using his unparalleled athleticism to take the ball inside for one of his unstoppable attacks on the basket.
This is the formula for defeating the Miami Heat. There is no such thing as an unbeatable basketball team. All it takes is careful planning, a brilliant coach, a blend of size and speed, expendable enforcers, near perfect execution, and maybe a Miami injury or two. In other words, it takes the perfect storm. Which reminds me, what’s the weather like in San Antonio this time of year?