What has changed with the Miami Heat?

As we approach the half way mark of the season,

Miami have seemed to have found their groove after a very shaky start to the season.

Through the first 20 games,

Heat were 7-13 and looking like a lottery team.

Fans were outraged at what looked like a lack of effort, disconnect between players and coaching staff and a total lack of direction.

The ProTanking brigade were out in full force, fans urging the franchise to make a concious effort to lose games, something a lot of us heat fans were not use to hearing and to be frank, quite disgusted in.

Tanking has never been something Pat Riley and the Heat organization have aimed to do. You don’t get the reputation of being one of the best ran franchises in the league in doing so. Although, the idea of potentially adding a Zion Williamson or a RJ Barrett would have been pretty tempting.

It took Tyler Johnson’s comments to straighten the crowd out.

“It’s f–king dumb,” he told Shandel Richardson of The Athletic. “If you really think that as a fan, I don’t think you’re a true fan.”

He’s right huh!

So, what has changed that now makes us not only one of the hottest teams in the east, but in the league at the moment?

Players returning from injury and hitting some nice form has definitely helped the team play better basketball.

The return of James Johnson and also Hassan Whiteside after a brief break has put some life into the team defensively.

Over the last 12 games, we’ve gone 9-3. Our only loses were a tight one to the Lakers, a blowout loss to Utah and a 15 point loss to the magic at home, one we should never have lost.

Throughout those 9 wins, we’ve looked like a completely different team. Coach Spo has got the team running a zone in defence, putting teams under pressure with our electric and unselfish defence.

Usually a 2-3 zone tempts teams to let the 3 ball fly, wiith players like Hassan and Bam patrolling the paint, it makes it very hard for players to drive the ball and score at the hoop, forcing the outside shots.

Over our 5 game winstreak our opponents combined have been held to 58-190 from the 3pt line, that is incredibly impressive considering a few weeks back the defensive mantra of the Miami Heat seemed to be missing. It’s all thanks to the zone and the players completely buying in on the idea.

Once again Coach Spo has adapted to his team, made changes to his game plan and rotation on the run and it has paid dividends as the team has been firing on all cylinders mowing down eastern opponents sitting higher in the standings.

With elite defensive players like Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, James Johnson and Hassan Whiteside, the game is always won on the defensive end for us and without those players, there is no way our defensive structure would be as strong as it is.

So what does the rest of the season hold for us?

Without trying to get ahead of ourselves, Playoffs is definitely the aim. I believe if we can make a move or two heading into the trade deadline to add some punch on the offensive end, we can really have a crack at moving through the first round.

Having players like Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem around the team, and one of the best coaching staffs and front offices in the league, we know the team will be coming prepared and will be mentally ready to go with whatever situation comes their way.

During the off-season I wrote a piece asking for improvement and wanting to know our direction. I don’t think Miami’s approach has ever changed, ALWAYS give 100% and let the FO make moves to improve the team.

Although we have missed out on bringing in elite talent, I have no doubt Pat Riley will not stop until he gets his “Whale” and that’s why I am proud to be a heat supporter, we always know what we’re going to get and that’s an organisation that doesn’t quit.

A team that will never give up!

Shaun Stewart