Coming into today’s game the Miami Heat were ranked 29th in offense in the NBA. Early in the season, you expect to see anomalies in the numbers, even when it concerns the defending champs. Judging from tonight’s results, this may not be an anomaly.
The Miami Heat managed to score only 76 points against the New York Knicks who came into the game ranked 21st on defense. New York had an 11 point lead early in the third, when Dwayne Wade was forced out of the game after picking up his 4th foul. Employee #3 came back into the game 4 minutes later, and the Knicks were up by 18 at that point. However even with their primary scorer back in the game, Miami’s offense went cold. The Heat shot 6 of 17, turned the ball over 4 times, and were outscored 23-12 in the 9 minutes before Wade exited with his 5th foul.
With O’Neal out, the main load of the offense falls on Wade. But an NBA offense needs more than one scorer, and Miami is having a hard time finding a second fiddle. Until tonight Antoine Walker was filling that role, but he’s been inconsistent his entire career. For example against the Knicks, ‘Toine shot 1 for 9 and only contributed 3 points to Miami’s total. After Walker, Miami’s offense has relied on Udonis Haslem, Gary Payton, and Alonzo Mourning. Haslem isn’t a natural scorer (read: can’t hit a jumper), while Payton and Mourning’s best decades are behind them. The Heat will hope to get some lift from Jason Williams, but White Chocolate appeared to have lost a step tonight. It could be that he’s hasn’t fully recovered from his injury, that he hasn’t been able to get into game shape, or that point guards lose their effectiveness after the age of 30 (Williams turns 32 tonight). I vote for all of the above.
It goes without saying that the Shaq-less Heat will have trouble scoring for the next 4-6 weeks. However it may be the case that even with Shaq, Miami might not be able to light up the scoreboard. Consider that Shaq was in the lineup for 4 Heat games, and the Heat only managed a offensive efficiency (points/100possessions) above the league average once. The Heat had Shaq in the lineup for their mortifying loss on opening day, where they only managed 66 points against the Bulls. O’Neal was also there when the Heat eked out 72 points against the Rockets.
While it’s a given that Miami’s offense will improve with O’Neal back on the court, at what level they’ll be is another story. The Heat have decided to “stand Pat” this offseason, and O’Neal’s injury has exposed a chink in Miami’s armor. If the over-30 crew of Walker, Williams, Posey, Payton, and Mourning start to show signs of their age, even O’Neal’s return might not be enough to resurrect the Heat’s offense.
Efficiency of Miami’s games (100*pts/possessions).
2006/10/31 CHI: 117.1 MIA: 73.4 2006/11/03 NJN: 92.5 MIA: 99.7 2006/11/05 MIA: 112.9 PHI: 120.6 2006/11/07 SEA: 96.3 MIA: 98.6 2006/11/10 MIA: 116.6 NJN: 106.8 2006/11/12 HOU: 109.2 MIA: 86.0 2006/11/14 DEN: 113.5 MIA: 111.2 2006/11/17 NYK: 115.1 MIA: 84.5