Miami Heat Stat Monkey Brief: Heat/Wizards (1/6/13)

The Heat lost their third in five games on Friday, and the rebounding issue was the main lowlight.

The Heat lost their third game in the last five against the Bulls on Friday. This continues the streak of games the Heat do not win in regulation to five games. This game highlighted one of the biggest issues Miami has faced this year: rebounding. The Heat hauled in only 55.8 percent of defensive rebounds and just 12.1 percent of available offensive rebounds.

The Rebounding Problem

As Heat coach Eric Spoelstra pointed out in the post game press conference, with the exception of Ray Allen, these are very similar rotations to those used last year in Miami’s playoff run that ultimately ended in a championship. By comparing some of last year’s playoff stats to regular season stats this year, we might be able to find some insight as to why the Heat are having rebounding problems.

In the 2012 playoffs, Miami had a 26.1 percent offensive rebounding percentage and a 74.4 percent defensive rebounding percentage. This year’s numbers so far are 21.0 percent offensive rebounding percentage and 72.7 percent defensive rebounding percentage, so there are real differences in the performance of almost the exact same personnel. The most striking drop-off is on the offensive glass, where the Heat were above league average in last year’s playoffs but are ahead of only the Boston Celtics this year.

Looking at individual offensive rebounding percentages, we can see which players are most responsible for the decreased rebounding. In the playoffs, the most effective offensive rebounder for the Heat was Ronny Turiaf, who currently plays for the Clippers. While this is certainly a factor, Turiaf played in about half of Miami’s playoff games last year, and only around 10 minutes per game in those. This is hardly enough to explain a drop to the bottom of the league in this aspect of the game.

The bigger issue is that Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, and LeBron James, who were three of the next four best offensive rebounders during last year’s playoffs, have all performed worse this year.

The biggest decrease is for Haslem, who had a 10.2 percent offensive rebounding percentage during the playoffs, but only 6.8 percent this year. Joel Anthony is the only man among the leading offensive rebounders in the playoffs who has kept up his level of production, but his minutes have dropped off significantly this year.

Unlike the Celtics, Miami’s rebounding issues, which are mostly on the offensive end, are not the result of a conscious decision to go after offensive rebounds. This issue is a mix of lineup changes like the exit of Turiaf and the diminished role of Anthony, as well as a decline in performance on the offensive boards from Bosh, Haslem, and James.

Keys to the Game

Tonight the Heat take on the Wizards. This matchup would seem like a sure thing as the Wizards are the worst team in the NBA by our nERD team rankings, but the Heat have already lost to this team once this year. A number of factors would have to fall in favor of the Wizards for them to pull off this upset, but it has happened before.

Depressing Washington Offense - The Wizards offense is the worst in the league, with an offensive efficiency of 95.6 points per 100 possessions. This is almost 5 full points less than the next worse offense in the league, the Pacers. They also rank last in effective field goal percentage. Shots will have to start falling like they haven’t all year if the Wizards hope to win.

Nene – The artist formerly known as Nene Hilario has been the one bright spot in the Wizards season so far. By our nERD ratings, he is head and shoulders above the rest of his squad. His nERD score is a respectable 5.9, while the second best on his team is Martell Webster’s 0.2. Look for him to have a big role tonight.

Rebounds – Washington is a decent defensive rebounding team. They have a 10th ranked 73.7 percent defensive rebounding rate. In case you haven’t heard, the Heat are pretty bad at offensive rebounding, so the Wizards could easily gain an advantage on the defensive glass.