Miami Heat Stat Monkey Brief: Heat/Hornets (12/8/12)

Miami would seem to have the advantage, but they'll need to slow down Ryan Anderson and his hot shooting.

Time to Panic?

As is usually the case answer to the above question, no. However, the Miami’s weak performance as of late – barely winning games against Cleveland, San Antonio’s bench, and losing their first back to back games against Washington and the Knicks – has shown us some real flaws with the way this Heat squad has performed so far. They’ve dropped all the way to seventh in our nERD team rankings, but are still the second ranked team in the Eastern Conference.

As has been the case all year, the offense is humming along with a third ranked offensive efficiency of 111.1, but the 24th ranked defensive efficiency is holding them back. Others have made the case that Miami’s defense will improve once they start putting forth more effort in the playoffs, but last year they were fourth most efficient team defensively in the regular season. Miami can still repeat, but they will have to make defensive adjustments.

Goodbye Rashard Lewis

In what Heat fans can only hope is a permanent decision, Rashard Lewis, who had started the past couple games in the absence of Shane Battier, received a DNP-Coaches Decision in Miami’s loss to the Knicks. Instead, they started a lineup of Chalmers, Wade, James, Haslem, and Bosh. Last year, this lineup was their best defensively of any group that played at least 35 minutes together per with a defensive efficiency of 0.91. Shane Battier also got some playing time in this game, and presumably he too will resume playing big minutes for Miami. Committing to using lineups featuring these two players will help the Heat correct their defensive struggles.

Insert Pelicans Joke

Hornets fans, who people tell me actually exist, were thrilled when Anthony Davis was drafted first overall in this year’s draft by the franchise. A franchise centerpiece for a new era and the clear frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year award, Davis was going to make the Hornets fun to watch and defensively impenetrable. Sadly, due to injuries, The Brow has hardly played this year and the Hornets are the worst defensive team in the league.

Three-Point Shootout

The biggest bright spot of the season so far has been Ryan Anderson. He is launching up close to 8 threes a game and making a sizzling 43.5% of them. This has launched his true shooting percentage (which gives appropriate weights to threes and free throws) up to 60.6%. The Heat, of course, give up more threes than just about anyone in the league, so Anderson could really go off in this game.

While one player on the Hornets might go off, everyone on the Heat might feel like Ryan Anderson after this game. New Orleans has allowed a 42.1% of threes to go in against them this year. The Heat as a whole have shot 41.1% from beyond the arc this year. If you’re a fan of contested shots and perimeter defense, do not watch this game. If you like it when players do their various I-Just-Made-A-Three dances and gestures, this is the game for you. While on paper the Heat should win easily, that has hardly been a guarantee with this Heat squad lately.