Miami Heat’s mid-season transformation by the numbers

Feb 4, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Wayne Ellington (left) and Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson (right) celebrate near center court during the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat have now registered 10 consecutive wins following a tumultuous first half of the season. Their level of play during this recent stretch has been of the highest quality.

Pulling off a 10 game winning streak at any point of the season is an impressive feat. It’s even more impressive when just two weeks earlier, the team in question possessed the third worst record in the NBA at 11-30.

There were injuries, trade rumours,  spotty individual form and a real uncertain outlook beyond the current season.

Therefore the resilience the Miami Heat have shown over the past two weeks has been nothing short of first class. To completely resuscitate their season in such a small space of time speaks volumes about the players, coaching staff and organisation alike.

The historical significance of this run cannot be downplayed:

The staple diet for the Heat has always been their defence. In the first 41 games, the Heat were allowing 102.8 points per game (PPG). Over the past 10 games, this number has dropped to 98.1 PPG, ranking them third in the league during this period.

Furthermore, their defensive rating climbed up the rankings, from 12th in the league at 105.0 per game to first in the league, allowing just 98.6 points per 100 possessions.

As impressive as these numbers are, it’s been on the offensive end where the Heat have put the league on notice.

Jan 28, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Wayne Ellington (2) shoots over Detroit Pistons forward Reggie Bullock (25) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Two-Week Transformation

It’s been quite amazing to witness the improvement of the Heat in such a short space of time. From an overall team perspective, here’s a comparison of their offence over the first half of the season and their current 10 game winning streak.

Points per game

First 41 games: 98.3 (Ranked 29th)

Last 10 games: 109.2 (11th)

Field goal percentage

First 41: 43.9 (25th)

Last 10: 49.3 (3rd)

Three-point percentage

First 41: 33.8 (28th)

Last 10: 42.8 (1st)

Offensive Rating (Points per 100 possessions)

First 41: 100.6 (29th)

Last 10: 110.0 (9th)

On the surface, these are obviously outstanding improvements. Despite injuries to key players such as Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, the Heat appear to have found a rotation that has clicked. Now with 51 games under their belt as a team, knowing each others strengths and weaknesses appears to be coming to the fore.

Furthermore, the opposition the Heat have faced during this stretch has included some high quality opposition. They have defeated the league-leading  Golden State Warriors, the Houston Rockets, and also managed an impressive road victory against the Chicago Bulls. The confidence gained from each win has been palpable, and has given the Heat the belief they are good enough to compete with any team in the league.

Jan 28, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) celebrates during the second half against the Detroit Pistons at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 116-103. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

While the Heat have excelled as a team, the returns of some of their key players during this time have been exceptional.

Below are something of the notable statistical improvements.

Goran Dragic

First 41 games: 19 points per game (PPG), 45.4 field goal percentage (FG%), 39.7 three-point percentage (3P%), 102.6 offensive rating (ORTG), 108.7 defensive rating (DRTG)

Last 10 games: 22.6 PPG, 54.2 FG%, 54.1 3P%, 112.1 ORTG, 102.6 DRTG

Dion Waiters

First 41: 12.8 PPG, 13.6 field goal attempts per game (FGA), 36.7 FG%, 30.8 3P%, 98.6 ORTG, 103.6 DRTG

Last 10: 21.5 PPG, 16.2 FGA, 51.2 FG%, 53.7 3P%, 115.4 ORTG, 99.2 DRTG

Wayne Ellington

First 41: 10.8PPG, 40.9 FG%, 32.1 3P%, 104.4 ORTG, 112.7 DRTG

Last 10: 11.9 PPG, 42.7 FG%, 38.1 3P%, 106.5 ORTG, 92.8 DRTG

As can be seen, the Heat’s perimeter shooting has gone through the roof during this winning streak. Dragic and Waiters, in particular, have propelled the Heat to becoming the number one three-point shooting team over the past two and a half weeks.

Aside from his latest game in which produced 30 points and 20 rebounds, center Hassan Whiteside has not impacted the box score in the overall dominant manner in which we are accustomed.

Here’s how Whiteside’s numbers compare before and during this streak:

First 41: 17.5 PPG, 14.3 RPG, 13.3 FGA, 102.6 ORTG, 106.3 DRTG, 33.8 MPG

Last 10: 14.3 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 11.1 FGA, 110.3DRTG, 100.0 DRTG, 29.4 MPG

Furthermore, Whiteside’s touches per game have dropped from 45.8 to 42.3. In contrast, Dragic’s touches have risen from 84.3 to 90.0, Waiters 50.4 to 61.8, Ellington 28.6 to 34.9 and forward James Johnson from 52.3 to 61.0.

These numbers have been evident in the Heat’s recent play. Their ball movement has been more perimeter orientated, with the touches and passes of the team’s key perimeter players receiving a noticeable boost.

Feb 4, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters (11) drives to the basket as Philadelphia 76ers forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) defends during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Keeping The Momentum

With 31 games remaining and a playoff spot beckoning, the remainder of the Heat’s season has suddenly become enthralling. At 21-30, the Heat have a genuine chance to bring themselves up to the 500 mark as a team. Considering the amount of change in the roster and the injuries they’ve had to overcome, this’ll be no mean feat.

In pushing for a playoff spot, it’ll be imperative that the Heat cash in their upcoming games. Their next five games are against teams below the 500 mark. Following the all-star break though, things start to pick up a bit. Seven of their first 10 games after the break are against teams with a winning record, including back-to-back games against the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Furthermore, 17 of the final 31 games will be on the road.

For the time being, trade rumours have been put to the as the Heat continue their best form of the season in the surge toward playoff contention. But with team president Pat Riley’s rich history of pulling off blockbuster deals, anything is possible.

The February 23 trade deadline is fast approaching, and the Heat have a number of key personnel out of contracts this coming summer.

Whether or not Riley wishes to play this one out and let the team continue to flourish is anyone’s guess. But he can be content in the knowledge that the Heat’s culture of excellence and commitment to winning has again come to the forefront following a disastrous first half of the season.

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