Will the Heat run more next season?

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The Heat Index’s Tom Haberstroh has an interesting article up today wondering whether we’ll see the Miami Heat get out in transition more next season:

Over the weekend, Pat Riley lent us a peek into his offseason game plan. Would Erik Spoelstra and the Heat make it a priority to speed things up next season?

“That’s going to be up to Erik and I think he will try to generate more of a running game next year than we had this year,” Riley said. “We do want to get some quick players.”

Generating a running game seems pretty simple, right? Acquire some super athletic players, tell them to fly all over the court, cause some turnovers, and fast breaks will become the norm. Boom, you have a running game!

If only it were that easy.

When we imagined the Heat in their embryonic stages, we saw fireworks. Not just because of the pyrotechnics at the preseason celebration, but because they featured James and Wade, two guys who terrify opponents in the open court. They’re fast. They’re strong. They’re relentless.

But in reality, the Heat were more like lightning bugs last season, buzzing around slowly and electrifying the stage only once in a while. The Heat posted the 21st slowest pace factor in the NBA in 2010-11, averaging 93.2 possessions per 48 minutes…

…Of course, you don’t want to start taking shots early in the shot clock just for the sake of it. But on the other hand, you also don’t want to force shots with time running out, which is what the Heat resorted to doing all too often last season. With that kind of offensive firepower, the Heat should be able to find a happy medium.

There’s another way to generate shots earlier in the shot clock: jump out in transition. Thanks to the forces of James and Wade, the Heat were the best transition team in the league, if we’re measuring by the barometer of points per play. Synergy Sports tells us that the Heat scored 122.3 points per 100 transition plays last season, which led the NBA.

No other team came close.

But here’s the thing: Despite being nearly unstoppable in transition, the Heat didn’t get out in transition all that much.

Haberstroh goes on to talk about how the Heat didn’t cause many of the turnovers that would allow them to get easy transition opportunities: despite finishing 5th in defensive efficiency during the regular season, the Heat ranked 26th in opponent turnover rate. The Heat’s defensive system isn’t built around gambling, but they could use more players who can force opponents into making mistakes, especially at the point guard spot:

Teams primarily get their steals from their point guards. By drafting point guard Norris Cole in the first round in this year’s draft, the Heat are banking on athleticism at the 1, rather than stacking up on experience like they did with Arroyo and Bibby. As a senior last year for Cleveland State, Cole led the Horizon League in steals and won the conference’s defensive player of the year award. For perspective, Cole averaged 2.2 steals per game last season and Bibby tallied at least two steals in a game just six times in his 42-game stint in a Heat uniform.

If the Heat can bring back Mario Chalmers, who was one of the top turnover-inducing guards last season, they should have a much more athletic and potent defensive attack at the point guard position. More turnovers mean more transition opportunities. And more transition opportunities means a higher-octane Heat squad.

Despite not having Mike Miller effective or Udonis Haslem active for most of last season, the fact that the Heat didn’t get out in transition much, and the fact that James, Wade, and Bosh still don’t seem to have achieved perfect offensive synergy yet, the Heat still finished 3rd in the league in offensive efficiency in 2010-11, won the Eastern Conference Championship, and could have won the NBA Finals if their best player didn’t melt down in the fourth quarter of Game 2 and the entirety of Game 4.

If the Heat can play a little bit faster and a bit cleaner offensively and look like the juggernaut everyone expected them to look like last season, they could find themselves right back in The Finals next year — the question, of course, is whether they’ll be able to seal the deal when they get there.

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving: “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

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The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.

However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.

Which is what Kyrie Irving was getting at in this post-loss quote from Friday night, via Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.

“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.

Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.

Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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