A statistical postmortem of the Miami Heat’s 13-game win streak

One last look at the Miami Heat’s incredible 13-game win streak by the numbers.

In a span of merely three weeks, the Miami Heat went from 11-30 to two games out of 8th place in the Eastern Conference. The team’s 13-game win streak is arguably the best story to come out of the NBA season thus far. At the very least, the unlikeliest.  Unfortunately, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

Miami’s 117-109 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night was demoralizing. The Heat looked drained, it being the last game of a four-game road trip. Without Dion Waiters — still nursing a bum ankle, but expected back on Monday night — they stood little chance. (How far we’ve come that Waiters has gone from liability to a borderline necessity.)

So now, we take a look back at the streak. Consider it a postmortem on the greatness that was. A breakdown of the most interesting stats we could find.

Waiters Island is getting crowded

Where else could we start off but on Waiters Island. Although he was only able to suit up for the first 11 games of the streak before turning his ankle late against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Waiters’ play drew national attention. Miami was able to squeak out a couple of wins without him, but his absence was clearly felt.

In the 11 games he played, Waiters was spectacular. He averaged 20.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.8 assists, on 49 percent shooting, and 49 percent from three. Waiters led Miami in plus-minus, with a plus-9.1. (No one else on the team was over a plus-7.3.)

In fact, that mark was so impressive that it put him at 11th in the NBA for plus-minus between January 17th and February 7th — the day the streak started and the night he got hurt.

Oh, and who could forget… he also displayed a clutch gene (I hate myself for writing that) that most didn’t know he had. Waiters hit a fairly memorable shot against a half-decent opponent on January 23rd.

He did it again two nights later.

Thus, Waiters Island is now nearly to capacity. There is still some room though, if you’d like to join us. As Zach Lowe wrote last week, we are an inclusive community.

The Heat were on fire (sorry!) from three

For the span of Miami’s streak, the team was on fire from beyond-the-arc. They ranked 1st-overall in the NBA in three-point shooting at 42 percent. To convert a better rate from three than the Golden State Warriors for over 15 percent of the season is outright crazy.

If you look at just the players who attempted more than one three-pointer, the team’s barrage from deep was led by Goran Dragic at 53.8 percent. Followed by Waiters, who was at an even 50 percent, and Okaro White (!!!), who shot 47 percent. In all, the Heat had five guys shoot over 40 percent from three during the streak, and a sixth — in Rodney McGruder — at 39.5 percent.

We can’t forget about Willie Reed, either. Reed made every three-pointer he attempted for the summation of the run.

He went 1-for-1. Fire emoji.

A surprising leader in net-rating

If I were to ask you right now: Who led Miami in net-rating over the 13 games prior to the loss against Philly, you’d probably want to know what the heck net-rating is. In response, I would tell you that it’s an advanced metric that measures point differential per 100 possessions. (Yes, defense is taken into account.)

Then, you’d start guessing. Most likely with Dragic or Waiters.

You’d be wrong in either case.

If not those two, then it certainly had to have been Hassan Whiteside.

Nope.

Ah, then it must have been either of the Johnson’s. Tyler or James. Doesn’t matter which.

Wrong again. Ready to give up?

It was Willie freaking Reed. No, seriously. Him.

Reed led the Heat with a 16.0 net-rating for the duration of the win streak. Second was Wayne Ellington at 14.7, trailed by Waiters with a 14.4. Dragic was a healthy 9.8, J. Johnson a 9.7.

The two lowest net-ratings (among players who participated in more than two games) were Whiteside’s and T. Johnson’s — 8.9 and 4.0 respectively.

(It’s just a little concerning that Whiteside was so greatly outplayed by his backup during the Heat’s best run of the season. We can chalk it up to sample size, I guess. Yeah, we’ll just go with that.)

Miami’s bench was among the NBA’s best

Do you guys remember how incredible the Big Three era was in Miami? I mean, of course you do. Being the center of the basketball world and making four-straight Finals was an amazing experience. What you may have forgotten — or made yourself forget — is just how miserable the Heat’s bench play was back then.

Norris Cole was young and prone to mistakes. Mike Miller always had some sort of injury. Shane Battier and Ray Allen were on their last legs. Although each of those guys had their moments of absolute brilliance, their overall play was poor.

(I’m not even going to mention Dexter Pittman, Greg Oden, or Eddy Curry. I refuse to go there.)

In three of the four Big Three years, the Heat ranked 24th or lower in bench scoring. In 2010-11, they were dead-last, at 21.9 points per game. (They did improve to 17th in 2013-14.)

These days, now that Miami has been (in a sense) freed from paying three players max salaries, they’ve had the money to build a respectable bench. On the season, the Heat’s reserves are 11th in scoring, with 37.6 points per game.

However, they took that to an even higher plane during the win streak.

Between January 17th and February 10th, Miami’s bench scored 40.0 points per game, good for sixth-best in the NBA.  They were ninth in field goal percentage at 45.1 percent, and 1st in net-rating at 9.8.

What makes those numbers even more impressive is when you factor in the team’s injuries. Josh Richardson hasn’t played in weeks, forcing McGruder into a starting role. Neither has Justise Winslow. T. Johnson missed a few games in there, as well.

Just goes to show how effective guys like Reed and J. Johnson have been. Which brings us to our final point.

James Johnson was the spark plug off the Heat’s bench

J. Johnson was signed to a one-year deal by the Heat this past offseason without much ballyhoo.

And who could blame the general media for ignoring the news? After all, he had been nothing more than a career journeyman before arriving in Miami. A guy with a lot of talent to be sure, but without the want to be anything more than a role player. (He basically said as much himself).

So to watch him have this career resurgence with the Heat has been nothing short of stunning. J. Johnson is setting career-highs in multiple categories, all while being the team’s most versatile defender and leader of the second unit.

During Miami’s run of excellence, he took his game up another notch, too. J. Johnson averaged 13.9 points per game during the streak, to go along with 5.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists. He shot 48 percent from the floor, and a solid 73 percent from the foul line.

On top of that, he also blocked 1.3 shots and had 1.3 steals a night. His defensive-rating was 6th-best in the NBA among players coming off the bench who played at least eight games. Just dominant overall play from J. Johnson, on both sides of the ball.

The Heat don’t rip off 13 wins in a row without him, you can be sure of that.

So of Heat owner Micky Arison, and team president Pat Riley, I ask just one thing: Pay the man and keep him in Miami this summer.

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