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LeBron James and the Heat were disappointments a year ago, even though they made the NBA Finals.
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StatsCube: Heat still searching for right combination

Posted Dec 2 2011 12:33PM

To get ready for the 2011-12 season, StatsCube breaks down the critical numbers for all 30 teams.

From start to finish, the Miami Heat were the most fascinating statistical study in the league. Short on cap space after signing their three All-Stars, the Heat surrounded them with a bunch of flawed role players. All season long, coach Erik Spoelstra searched for the right combinations of point guards and centers to complement Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.


In The Finals, it wasn't the role players that kept the Heat from winning their second championship, but rather the lackluster play of James. That they fell short of a championship continues to make the Heat a fascinating study, both on the court and in the numbers.

2010-11 Basics
Pace: 93.2 (21)
OffRtg: 109.3 (3)
DefRtg: 100.7 (5)
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

The Heat were the only team to finish in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They had the third best record in the league, but ranked No. 1 in efficiency differential, outscoring their opponents by 8.5 points per 100 possessions.

Largest efficiency differential, 2010-11
Team OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg
Miami 109.3 3 100.7 5 +8.5
Chicago 105.5 12 97.4 1 +8.1
San Antonio 109.4 2 102.8 11 +6.6
L.A. Lakers 107.9 7 101.3 6 +6.6
Orlando 105.7 10 99.1 3 +6.6

The Heat's point differential was better than their record because they won a lot of blowouts (they were 21-3 in games decided by 15 points or more) and lost a lot of close games (they were 6-14 in games decided by five points or less).

Late-game struggles

Thanks to a lot of free throws (58 attempts per 100 possessions), the Heat had the second-most efficient offense in "clutch" time (last five minutes of fourth quarter or overtime with a score differential of five points or less). But they were famously 1-for-18 from the field in the last 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime with a tie game or with a deficit of 1-3 points.

The one field goal they made was an easy fast-break dunk from James that tied a game in Memphis on Nov. 20, and Rudy Gay won that game for the Grizzlies with a buzzer-beater a few seconds later.

Lowest FG%, last 10 seconds of fourth quarter or overtime, with score tied or down 1-3 points
Team 2009-10 2010-11 Diff.
Cleveland +7.3 -9.6 -16.9
Utah +4.8 -2.4 -7.2
Atlanta +4.9 -1.4 -6.4
Phoenix +5.8 -0.4 -6.2
Charlotte +1.3 -4.0 -5.3

It's obviously a small sample size, but 1-for-18 is still 1-for-18. The Heat were much better in late-game situations in the postseason, especially in the Boston and Chicago series. They were 1-for-4 in the last 10 seconds with a tie game or when down 1-3, but the one bucket was a dunk by Dwyane Wade in Game 4 of The Finals, and it only cut the Dallas lead to one. Mike Miller missed a three to tie at the buzzer.

Are James and Wade compatible?

There's no denying the talent and skill of James and Wade. But since "The Decision," there have been plenty of questions about their on-court compatibility. Both seemingly need to have the ball in their hands to be most effective. As evidence, Wade and James ranked first and second in usage rate (percentage of a team's possessions used when on the floor) respectively in the 2009-10 season.

Last season, James ranked fourth and Wade ranked fifth in usage rate. And when they played together, they shared the ball pretty evenly. In those 2,242 minutes with both of them on the floor, James had a usage rate of 26.3 percent, and Wade had a usage rate of 26.0 percent.

The Heat were very efficient, scoring 113 points per 100 possessions, when both stars were on the floor. And each shot better and scored more efficiently when they were together.

James and Wade shooting
Player MIN FGM FGA FG% eFG% TS% Usage Rate ASTRatio
James w/ Wade 2242 499 952 52.4% 55.5% 60.8% 26.3% 22.8
James w/o Wade 821 259 533 48.6% 51.7% 56.8% 37.0% 17.9
Wade w/ James 2242 511 1015 50.3% 52.5% 58.6% 26.0% 15.0
Wade w/o James 581 181 369 49.1% 51.6% 56.8% 37.8% 16.3
eFG% = Effective field goal percentage = (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA
TS% = True shooting percentage = Points / (2*(FGA + (0.44*FTA)))
Usage Rate = Percentage of teams possessions a player used while on the floor
ASTRatio = Assists per 100 possessions used

The usage rate of both players went up dramatically when the other was on the bench. But interestingly, Wade's assist ratio went up, while James' assist ratio went down. The Heat became a much more LeBron-centered offense when Wade was resting.

James is one of the best passers in the league, but he and Wade aren't exactly John Stockton and Karl Malone in terms of chemistry. They assisted each other on only 215 of their 1,010 field goals (21 percent) when they were on the floor together. Around the league, five pairs of teammates combined for more assists to each other.

True, the Heat offense isn't built on ball movement. Erik Spoelstra knows the strength of his team offensively is its stars' ability to get to the rim. Wade and James ranked third and fourth in the league respectively (behind only Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard) in field goals in the restricted area. And of the 299 players who logged at least 750 minutes last season, there were only three non-point guards who were assisted on less than 37 percent of their field goals. Two of them were James and Wade.

Lowest percent of assisted field goals among non-point guards
Jordan Crawford 42 1027 192 500 38.4% 54 28.1%
LeBron James 79 3063 758 1485 51.0% 245 32.3%
Dwyane Wade 76 2823 692 1384 50.0% 254 36.7%
Kobe Bryant 82 2778 740 1639 45.1% 278 37.6%
Brandon Roy 47 1310 209 523 40.0% 81 38.8%
Minimum 750 minutes played
Miami's elusive lineup

The lineup of James, Wade, Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller, which doesn't include a point guard or center, could be the Heat's best. But we didn't get to see much of it last season. Thanks to injuries to Miller and Haslem, the two didn't play together until Game 1 of the conference finals (unless you count preseason).

That lineup played just 36 minutes together in eight postseason games, outscoring its opponents 69-50 in that time. But it could never be seen again, because Miller is a candidate to be waived via the amnesty clause.


Record: 14-7
Pace: 88.6 (13)
OffRtg: 104.0 (4)
DefRtg: 100.3 (3)

Despite the Heat's flawed role players, none of their 22 most-used lineups were outscored over the course of the regular season, a remarkable feat. Of the 22, 21 had a positive plus-minus, and the 22nd was even in 56 minutes.

But in the postseason, the Heat were put in several holes by their first starting lineup of Mike Bibby, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a unit that played just 48 minutes together in the regular season. The starters got outscored in 11 of the 15 quarters they played together in the postseason before Erik Spoelstra benched Ilgauskas in Game 4 of the conference semifinals.

In the conference semis and finals, the Heat owned the late-game moments, shooting 24-for-41 from the field and 6-for-9 from 3-point range in clutch time in the two series. James was responsible for almost half their clutch time points in those rounds, shooting 13-for-22 from the field and 5-for-8 from 3-point range.

But in The Finals, the Heat went cold in the clutch, shooting 7-for-25 from the field and 3-for-13 from 3-point range. Wade was responsible for 13 of the Heat's 24 clutch-time points, shooting 5-for-9 from the field. But James didn't score a single point in Finals clutch time, shooting 0-for-7 from the field, with five of those attempts coming from beyond the arc.

James appeared to be passive in the fourth quarter of The Finals, and the numbers bear that out. In the first three quarters of the six games, James attempted 35 of his 69 shots (51 percent) from the paint and attempted 17 free throws. In the six fourth quarters, he attempted just six of his 21 shots (29 percent) from the paint and just three free throws.

For the series, James averaged just 3.3 free throws per game after averaging 9.1 per game through the first three rounds.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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