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Friday afternoon update: Alarming trend continues for Heat; Fins candidate takes other job

Erik Spoelstra said late this afternoon that LeBron James is feeling better after experiencing back spasms earlier in the week and will play tonight. Greg Oden also is available. Dwyane Wade is, too.

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Concerns about the Heat’s March Malaise – now six losses in its past nine games entering Friday night – shouldn’t be overstated. But as ESPN’s Doug Collins noted, if there’s one troubling sign, it’s the dramatic drop in the Heat’s defensive numbers.

Miami has never been this poor statistically in the Big Three era. Six of its past nine opponents have shot between 49.3 and 51.4 percent, which is disturbing.

The Heat can overcome ranking last in the league in rebounding, as it was last season and again this season, when it’s disruptive and stout defensively. But it can’t consistently overcome that under these circumstances. Consider:

### The last Heat team to allow more points per game than this one was the 2007-08 group, which finished 15-67 and permitted 100 points per game. This Heat team is relinquishing 98.7, good for seventh in the league but much worse than Indiana (92.2) and worse than the first three seasons of the Big Three era (94.6, 92.5, 95.0).

### More telling is field-goal percentage against. The Heat was second, fifth and sixth the past three seasons, finishing between 43.4 and 44 percent every year. This season? Miami is 18th at 45.7, with lottery-bound Orlando, Cleveland and Boston all stingier. Only twice in the past 14 seasons has Miami finished out of the top 10 in that category.

### The Heat gives up the highest shooting percentage both in the paint and on corner threes, according to NBA.com.

### SynergySports.com, which analyzes every play, said two Heat players have been “excellent” defensively in terms of points allowed on possessions that end against them: Chris Andersen and Norris Cole. The Big Three and a few others are ranked good or very good.

Ray Allen, Michael Beasley and Rashard Lewis grade out “average” defensively, and Udonis Haslem and Toney Douglas are given “poor” marks. Shane Battier is rated “good,” but Synergy notes that players he’s guarding are shooting 41.4 percent against him, up from 37.5 last season.

TNT’s Steve Kerr said off air, earlier this season, that the Heat’s defense at times “has been jarring to watch because this is Pat Riley’s creation. Defense is in their DNA. Defense is so much about effort. It’s not schemes. You watch and say, ‘Jesus, how does he get that open?’

“Too many open shots. That’s effort. One thing that’s important in how they play defense is blitzing pick and rolls, causing havoc. To play that style, three or four years in a row, and exert that kind of energy is almost impossible. It’s not like Indiana, where they are bludgeoning you.” Kerr said Allen “is weak defensively” and James “turns it on and off defensively.”

Off the air, NBA TV’s Isiah Thomas said at times this season, the Heat has been “a step slow. I see late reactions. There is a fatigue factor that can’t be ignored. It’s a mental fatigue.” But he expects the defensive sharpness “to come back.”

The Heat is assuming/hoping that once the playoffs arrive, its defense will return to the level of last postseason, when it held opponents to 90.7 points and 43.6 shooting.

Couple other quick notes:

### Former Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik took a studio job with ESPN on Thursday instead of accepting an offer to join friend and former colleague Dennis Hickey in the Dolphins’ front office. This was a lifestyle decision, not a slight against the Dolphins.

### The Marlins better hope that what we’re seeing this spring from three of their four new starting infielders isn’t a harbinger: first baseman Garrett Jones (.146), second baseman Rafael Furcal (3 for 18, injured hamstring) and third baseman Casey McGehee (.209)… The Marlins, who lowered every ticket price, have sold more than 20,000 tickets to their March 31 opener against Colorado. Season ticket sales are approaching 5000. They sold 12,000 season tickets in year one in the new ballpark, 5000 last season. 

Comments

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Roger Podacter

Mike Miller's return to Miami:

http://instagram.com/p/l0tMKBEMho/

Roger Podacter

Jared Odrick on Sanchez' release:

http://i.imgur.com/JZSOAoR.jpg

Usawit

Drop in D is all effort related. Heat are bored and not up to going all out in meaningless games. Xtra effort is not worth #1 seed. Personally, I would be resting Lebron and Bosh a little more, so they to can be fresh.

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