Miami is 8-2 in March. The Heat has posted the league’s 15th-best offensive rating, (which is an improvement because they’ve been among the NBA’s worst offensive teams for most of the season), top defensive rating and third-best net rating during this 10-game stretch
“We’re playing as good as a group together as we’ve played since I got back here,” Dwyane Wade said. “It’s fun playing basketball with these guys this way. One thing you know, obviously with the Miami Heat, we’re going to fight, we’re going to scrap, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to be in games because of that. But now we’re executing the game plan. Everyone is playing with a lot of confidence. Even in the moments where a team goes on a run on us, we feel confident we can stop the bleeding and we can figure it out.”
Across the board, the Heat’s numbers have been better. Miami, which has played at the second-slowest pace in the league over the past 10 games, is averaging just 12.9 turnovers in March (average 14.8 for the season). The Heat is also shooting 46.8 percent from the field (team is shooting 45.2 percent for the season) and 38.7 percent from three-point range (team is shooting 35.7 percent for the season).
On defense, though, is where the Heat has really controlled games. Mixing in its zone defense with its man-to-man look, Miami has held opponents to 41.8 percent shooting over the past 10 games, which is an improvement from the 44.3 percent teams shoot against the Heat for the season.
The Heat’s individual numbers are also telling over this 10-game span. Eight players are averaging double-digit points, Goran Dragic (14.7), Justise Winslow (14.6), Wade (14.1), Josh Richardson (12.7), Kelly Olynyk (12.4), Bam Adebayo (11.4), James Johnson (11) and Dion Waiters (10.5). And center Hassan Whiteside is contributing 9.8 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
The Heat’s only losses this month have come against the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, Toronto and Milwaukee. “It is for today,” coach Erik Spoelstra said when asked if the Heat is finding a next level to its game. “This is going to be a daily grind. I don’t think you ever arrive in this league. You just want to keep on competing and putting it all out there. Certain guys are getting more confident and comfortable. I’m all for that.”
Miami usually plays its best basketball of the season in March, and it’s happening again. The Heat is now 112-59 in March during Spoelstra’s 11 seasons as head coach, and 27-15 in March and 93-100 in the regular season in all other months since the start of 2016-17.
“We know how important this time of the year is,” Wade said. “We definitely know how important these games are. It feels good to win this way and to play the way that we’re playing, where it doesn’t matter who’s leading as long as we’re doing it together. It’s a great environment around here right now. Even the games we lost, we’ve lost to Toronto, Milwaukee and Houston. Very good teams, where we had an opportunity in those games. We’re playing good basketball.”
Dragic continued his ultra-efficient shooting, with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 shooting on threes in 22 minutes off the bench against the Spurs. He scored 20 in the first half and was limited to two points over the final two quarters.