Last week after the Chicago Bulls beat the Miami Heat 96-89 by crushing them on the backboards – solid, textbook rebounding. Miami’s talented power forward Chris Bosh was quoted afterwards as saying they lost because the Bulls “are bigger” than we [Heat] are.
It was an interesting observation.
The Miami Heat are favored to win the NBA championship this year again. Perhaps injury is the only thing than can stop them on their quest for a 2nd title. The Heat, many agree, have been the team to beat for three years now. I picked them last year when they won and the year before when they lost, surprisingly, to the Dallas Mavericks.
Last year, when they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, it was no surprise. The Thunder is a finesse, jumping, shooting team that does not make the Heat pay for their lack of size, lack of talent in the post, and weakness on the backboards. As expected, the Heat smoked the Thunder.
I also believed that if last year’s Los Angeles Lakers had played the Heat in the finals it might have been trouble for the Miami boys. The Lakers were not more talented than the Heat by a long shot, but they had two big guys – Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol – who presented trouble for the Heat in the post by rebounding and clogging up the lane.
This year, the same Heat weaknesses – size and strength in the post – remain. They have two of the most highly-skilled all around players in the league in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. They have solid point guard play and they defend very well. Shane Battier, Mike Miller, and Ray Allen add a shooting dimension that is always present, keeping opponents on their toes. But because of their weakness, rebounding remains a problem, as does size though, they work hard on the boards.
Miami is currently 29th in the league in rebounding. Their leading rebounder right now is LeBron James and he is averaging just 8.5 rebounds per game. It is rare that anyone on their team gets 10 rebounds. If any player does, it is King James. That’s not a good thing.
In their loss to the Bulls (without Derrick Rose), they were outrebounded 48-28, including 19-4 on offensive rebounds. If you think I am just talking bad about the Heat, check this out. Just two nights ago they lost to the Indiana Pacers 87-77. They were out-rebounded 55-36. Indiana crashed the boards with their big guys and kept the Heat pinned all night unable to get out on the break. Offensive rebounds were decisive for Indiana [22-7.] This is not a game changer but I am sure it will be an ongoing concern for the Heat as the season continues. By the way, who was the leading rebounder for the Heat in the loss to the Pacers? King James with 10.
If you think teams don’t know Miami is weak on the boards, check what Paul George of Indiana said after the game:
“That was a big emphasis tonight…Miami is a team that, for as good as they are, they struggle with rebounding. We knew that coming in. We knew that we had to get the boards. And we’re bigger. We’re a big team.”
This is important. Miami likes to exploit teams with their overwhelming speed on the break. But if you can’t get the rebound, the break doesn’t occur. You are forced to come down and execute.
For Miami fans, this should be concern but they are still the favorite to win it all by far if you ask me. They have the experience and confidence to go now with their talent. They are relaxed in big games. Besides, this hasn’t stopped them from winning most of their games this year. However, when you are the defending champion, the challengers will look for any weakness to exploit to try to knock you off your throne. The Heat should be aware that the cat is out the bag and hit the boards harder.
Brian Gilmore is a writer and poet; he can be followed on Twitter @bumpyjonasdc