Spoelstra says Heat missed Dwyane Wade’s defense

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There were some out on the airwaves — mostly people who like to hear themselves talk — who were trying to sell a “the Heat are better without Dwyane Wade” line because the Heat went 8-1 with him out of the lineup and LeBron James’ numbers went through the roof.

Not true, says Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. (Or, really anyone who gets the game.) But it wasn’t the offensive end where they missed him, the coach told Tom Haberstroh of ESPN’s Heat Index.

 How much we missed him defensively. He really makes our defense that much more dynamic — to be able to have him frontline the defense, impact the ball, create some havoc on the perimeter, but also on the backline of the defense, protecting everything like a free safety. He’s essential to what we’re trying to do.

This season the Heat have switched their offense to a system they call “pace and space” where the idea is to up the tempo, create mismatches, throw the other team off balance, and take advantage of the fact the Heat have two of the best open court finishers in the game.

But you run from your defense. You create the chaos needed for the Heat’s system to work from the defensive end. And there they need Wade, Spoelstra understands.

In the playoffs opponents will try to grind this system down, to slow the Heat, but if they get just a few easy transition baskets because of it a game they become hard to beat because their defense is so sound. And those easy buckets, creating the turnover and finishing them in the open court, are things Wade does as well as anyobody in the game.