Led by Hassan Whiteside, Heat’s interior defense has been elite to start season

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

MIAMI — It’s clear that the Heat’s defense is a strength this season.

Miami ranks eighth out of 30 teams in defensive rating entering Sunday’s home game against the Pacers, allowing 102.4 points per 100 possessions. One of the biggest reasons for the Heat’s success on this end of the court is their interior defense.

Miami is limiting opponents to an NBA-best 53.9 percent shooting from within six feet of the basket. Teams are shooting 5.9 percent worse than their normal shooting percentage from within this range against the Heat.

As one would expect, center Hassan Whiteside is playing a big role in Miami’s success in this area. Players are shooting 13.4 percent worse than their normal shooting percentage from within six feet of the basket when defended by Whiteside.

While the Heat’s offense continues to struggle with its consistency, it looks like Miami will be able to rely on its defense this season.

“Just in terms of the competitiveness, that has to be a staple for this team,” coach Erik Spoelstra said after Friday’s win over the Wizards. “We probably won’t be one of those teams that’s scoring 130, 140 when you look at the scores at night, but we can be a team that can make it very tough on you defensively. We can be physical.”

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