The NBA playoffs this year feel different.
Normally, the annual excitement and energy from NBA fans everywhere during this time of year trumps almost anything else going on in the world. The question of which team will win in the NBA Finals is usually a daily debated topic.
Only this year, most seem to feel that there is only one answer to that question.
With many of the NBA's star players having been plagued with injuries (Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, etc.), the majority of fans seem to think that the normal competition for the Miami Heat just isn't there anymore.
It is easy to see why as well. The superstar trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh was widely considered the favorite to win this year's NBA Finals, even before most of the injuries spread through the league. With the injuries to the Thunder, Celtics, Bulls, Lakers and Pacers, it looks like a cake-walk for Miami.
The Heat's talent doesn't stop with the Big 3, either. The Heat added the NBA's all-time leader in three-pointers made this past offseason in Ray Allen, and he along with players like Shane Battier, Chris Anderson, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole make Miami a complete team with an abundance of chemistry.
On paper, the Heat look unbeatable. However, every team has its weak points, and in order to beat a team like Miami, an opposing team would have to capitalize on certain key points in order to have a legitimate shot at defeating the defending champions.
This is perhaps Miami's greatest weakness, and something it struggles with on a consistent basis. In games that the Miami Heat have lost this year, their opponents out-rebounded them by an average of five rebounds per game, and it is an issue that MVP LeBron James is fully aware of.
"We don't have a dominant rebounder," James said earlier this year to SB Nation. "Collectively, we've got to try to help rebound with one another. Right now, we don't have the size, the athleticism to go up there and dominate a rebounding game. We're trying to collectively do it together, try not to give them second-chance points."
The ticket in staying with the Heat is to attack the glass constantly on both offense and defense. The opposing teams left in the playoffs (Spurs, Grizzlies and Pacers) all have dominant big men that have a nose for the ball in the rebounding department.
Attack Bosh in the post
In relation to Miami's rebounding woes, taking a look at the Heat's primary post player Chris Bosh adds plenty of insight. Bosh, a 6-foot-11 forward/center, has a great face-up game and is surprisingly quick for a post player. What he lacks however, is strength, and he often has been labeled as "soft."
Post players with tremendous strength and power like Zach Randolph, Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson or Tyson Chandler are most successful against Miami when they use their strength to their advantage to rebound and score effectively.
In several of the Miami Heat's losses, Bosh had some of his worst games of the season. In a loss against Al Jefferson and the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City earlier this year, Bosh managed only one rebound. Jefferson finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Give Wade room
While superstar Dwyane Wade shot 51 percent from the floor this year, which is staggering for a guard, he shot only 32 percent on jump shots. Wade is extremely quick, and defending him too tightly will give him an easy chance to slash to the basket. If Wade is guarded loosely, and his defender steps up to contest the jumper, then he will have a hard time finding a rhythm.
Depending on the game, physical play can get opposing players into foul trouble early, but for the most part, a physical style of play has shown to fluster some of Miami's players. With rim-protectors like Hibbert, Gasol and Randolph still in the playoffs, Miami's players will think twice before attacking the paint. If an inside presence is established, and post players are physically making statements to slashing players, the shot attempts will often be altered.
Hit the three's
Since the three-point line was introduced to the NBA in 1979, it has evolved into an equalizer in the game today. Three-point shooters spread the floor and make defenses pay for sending double-teams to star players. With Miami, it is no different; Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers are considered among the best three-point shooters in the league. They spread the floor for James, Wade and Bosh, and give the Heat great balance.
Good as they may be from beyond the arc, defending three-pointers is also a big weakness of Miami's. In the games that the Heat have lost this year, the opposing team knocked down on average 9.9 three-pointers a game on 42 percent shooting. In the three losses against the Knicks alone, the Heat have allowed New York to make an average of 17 three-pointers a game on a jaw-dropping 48 percent shooting.
The three-point shot is tough for any team to hit consistently and shouldn't be relied on too heavily. But if it is going in, then the Heat will have a difficult time keeping up.
Because of Miami's quality talents and abilities, one of these key points alone might not be quite enough to give an opposing team a big enough edge to the Heat. However if each key point is successfully capitalized on, then it is a sure recipe for defeating the defending champions.
For NBA updates/coverage, you can follow Mitch Kunzler on Twitter at: @MitchKunzler
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