The Miami Heat were one Jimmy Butler pull-up three-pointer away from possibly defeating the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
After a long off-season, Miami’s 2022-2023 season is finally underway. The Heat opened the season with a four-game homestand, but only managed to win one of these games. What has been the cause for such a drastic drop-off?
Miami finished the 2021-2022 regular season with a 53-29 record which was good for first place in the Eastern Conference. Additionally, the Heat held one of the best home records in the league when they went 29-12 at FTX Arena.
Erik Spoelstra and the Heat started the season with back-to-back losses before finally defeating the Toronto Raptors 112-109. The 0-2 start to the season was surprising, seeing as this is the first time in Spoelstra’s 15-year coaching career that Miami has failed to win one of the first two contests.
The Heat is now 11 games into the new season but has already lost a fourth of the home games they did last year. The national media has taken notice of Miami’s drop-off and dialogue has emerged regarding the Heat’s regression.
Alex Toledo of WSVN believes Miami’s height has played a role in the team’s struggles early on this season.
“I think the Heat’s struggles to start off the season started with a lack of defensive execution,” he proclaimed following Miami’s third win of the season. “They are maybe the smallest team in the league and have suffered from a rebounding perspective.”
This is a sentiment shared by the many members of “Heat Nation.” It has been more apparent this season following the loss of starting power forward, P.J. Tucker, who signed with the Philadelphia 76ers in free agency. Tucker averaged 5.5 rebounds per game last season and Spoelstra has decided to replace his spot in the starting five with Caleb Martin who only averaged 3.8 rebounds last season.
Another factor that could be credited to Miami’s struggles can be the injuries to two rotational players to start the season. Both Victor Oladipo and Ömer Yurtseven have started their seasons on the sideline due to lingering knee and ankle injuries.
Oladipo was expected to take on a larger role this season after last year’s Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro was promoted to the starting five. The 30-year-old guard was slated to lead the second unit, but has yet to see the floor and is not expected to any time soon.
“I don’t think he’s anywhere close, sad to say,” NBA Insider Brian Windhorst said on ESPN. “They haven’t put a timetable on it, but I was kind of led to believe that it ain’t happening in the near future.”
Miami will also be looking forward to the return of second-year big man, Yurtseven, who was expected to see an increase in minutes with Tucker’s departure. The Turkish center showed signs of improvement during the preseason but suffered an unfortunate ankle injury just before the season opener against the Chicago Bulls. The seven-footer will surely help Miami in the rebounding department as he did last season averaging 5.2 rebounds per game in limited minutes.
Spoelstra and the Heat will hope to look past the slow start and protect their home court when they host the Portland Trail Blazers tonight at 8:30. Miami will have Butler back in the lineup after sitting out of Friday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers with a hip injury. The game will be broadcast in South Florida on Bally Sports Florida.