Against Milwaukee on Sunday, the Heat role players shot the ball like, well, the Heat role players from last season. Take LeBron James and Chris Bosh out of the equation and the Heat shot 25.7 percent for the game, and were just 2-of-9 from three.
That stood out because it had not been the case for the six games prior — which is why the Heat have looked good without Dwyane Wade.
It is not that the Heat are better or more dangerous without Wade — Erik Spoelstra put it well calling that discussion the “theater of the absurd” — but they have a newfound depth that allows better floor spacing and had been better at shooting (until Sunday). Rather than two guys who are best at slashing, they roll out a lineup that has a combination James Jones, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and Mike Miller. Their roster is filled with better shooters this season, something James often lacked in Cleveland.
That is why they started 6-0 without him. Look at this quote from Philadelphia coach Doug Collins, via ESPN’s Heat Index.
“They are a different team without Dwyane,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said. “They space the floor a little bit more and they use the 3-ball a little bit more.”
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst explains the lineup situation while Wade is out well.
Instead of having two slashers who like to create their own shot but aren’t great shooters, the Heat now generally have multiple shooting specialists on the court next to James and Bosh. It is never easy to defend James or Wade when they are on the attack, but it is challenging to have them attack at the same time. But shooters have to be guarded or you’ll often pay the price…
Wade’s latest injury has coincided with the return of Mike Miller from his own injury, which has allowed Spoelstra to play Miller, Shane Battier and James Jones all at once.
When Wade returns that lineup will have to shift. But look for Spoelstra to go to this shooter-heavy lineup for stretches when Wade and LeBron rest. It works.
The Heat are not better without Wade — their pressure and up-tempo attack had then with the most efficient offense in the NBA before Wade went down. Having Wade, Bosh and James brings a diversity to their attack that is very difficult to defend.
But what they have found with him out is another, different way to score. Which is going to make them better come this spring.