Thursday, March 28, 2013

Where's the Beef in South Beach?

The Miami Heat's 27-game winning streak came to a crashing halt against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night. Despite missing All Star center Joakim Noah, the Bulls exploited their size advantage to physically dominate the Heat on their way to a 101-97 win.

In fact, the level of physical play last night caused a rare outburst from LeBron during post-game interviews. King James complained that Chicago's hard fouls weren't "basketball plays" and should've been flagrant fouls.

Whether James has a point is another story. The fact here is that Chicago manhandled Miami. Carlos Boozer grabbed 17 rebounds, while Miami hauled in just 31 total boards. The Bulls proved that strong play on the glass and punishing defense are the keys to beating the defending champs.

Take Indiana, which has followed the same basic strategy as Chicago. This season, the Heat have suffered two double-digit losses at the hands of the Pacers. In Indiana's 87-77 win on Jan. 8, the Pacers pulled down 55 rebounds compared to just 36 for Miami. In two wins over LeBron & Co., Chicago has out rebounded Miami by an average of 16 RPG. It's hardly coincidence that the Pacers and Bulls, who rank 1st and 3rd respectively in points against this season, push Miami to their limit.

Of course, it's no surprise that strong rebounding teams have taken advantage of the Heat's small front court. Miami's has just one weakness, but it's a glaring one. You know there's trouble in paradise when Chris "the Birdman" Anderson is getting major minutes in Miami's rotation. 

The numbers bare the truth about Miami's woes. Miami pulls down just 38.4 rebounds per game, dead last in the NBA. Their -2.2 rebounding margin ranks a paltry 22nd in the league. Second chance points? Forget it. Miami grabs just 8.3 offensive boards per game or 3.5 less than Chicago and Indiana.

This past offseason, instead of adding a banger to do the dirty work down-low, Miami signed Rashard Lewis, who contributes a meager 3.8 PPG. Great decision, Mr. Riley. Udonis Haslem is often in the starting lineup, but even he is merely a space-filler. Also indicative of the missing beef, Chris Bosh, a face up shooter, is Miami's starting center!

Even with these weaknesses, it's hard to criticize a team that has lost just once since the Super Bowl. Miami is clearly the NBA's best team, but there's no denying their vulnerability against strong rebounding, defensive-minded teams.

Play SnapCall Sports throughout the NBA playoffs to see if the King can persevere for his second ring. Expect some rebounding questions!

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