In the first handful of games of Miami Heat basketball, one thing is apparent. They’re a 36-minute team.
The fourth quarter of NBA games can be as meaningless as a formality, or a dire final stretch. For the Heat, it’s the latter.
For a team lacking synergy, one of the hardest things to do is finish games. Same goes for the Heat, who are starting two guys who weren’t on the roster last year, a second-year player, and Hassan Whiteside.
Through five fourth quarters, the Heat have amassed a minus-23.6 net rating, the fourth-worst such figure in the league, per NBA.com/Stats.
Though their defense hasn’t been stellar, it’s been passable; it’s been on offense where the Heat are coming up short.
In their 60 fourth quarter minutes, the Heat have averaged a measly 81.1 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com/Stats. (20.4 points per fourth quarter.)
The spigot that is Miami’s offense starts to trickle in the final stretch. Transition run-outs turn from “gimmies” into fumbled dribbles; and screens are reduced to formalities, like a signature after a convenience store purchase.
In the final stretch, things tighten up, and most teams are reduced to their half-court offense. For Miami, that means 0.853 points per possession, per Synergy Sports.
Even beyond the obvious, points come even harder when Miami’s defense can’t stop the opposing team from scoring.
After a made basket, on average, the Heat’s following possessions have resulted in 0.91 points per possession—ahead of only Philadelphia and Phoenix in that category—per inpredictable.com. Meaning, when a team like the Toronto Raptors has a late-game shot-taker (and maker), like DeMar DeRozan, the Heat are doubly doomed.
The Heat get hit and can’t hit back.
Right now, the Heat’s most played fourth quarter lineup features: Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow, and Hassan Whiteside. Their offensive rating is 93.2 points per 100 possessions, and their defensive rating is a leaky 110.6 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com/Stats.
The Heat’s late-game shortcomings could be as run-of-the-mill as lack of playing time together, or it could be worse—it could be a personnel problem. Regardless, the NBA season is long and telling, but mostly long; and NBA teams are hardly static. Heat mob boss, Pat Riley, is hardly ever a helpless onlooker.