MIAMI – Even Erik Spoelstra, a coach who would much rather win a game in the 90s than the 120s, was impressed with the Heat’s effort this week.
In fact, Spoelstra referenced one of the golden eras of offense after his team’s 149-141 double overtime victory over Denver on Monday, a time when the Nuggets routinely would average in the 120-130 per game.
“You look at the score and it looks like Miami Heat-Denver Nuggets circa late ’80s,” he said.
That game established a Heat franchise mark for points scored (having an extra 10 minutes helped). But it was the snapshot game for an improved offense that is playing at a level in the last month unlike any team in franchise history.
The Heat enter Friday’s game at Oklahoma City (8 p.m.) averaging 115.1 points since the All-Star break (14 games), third most in the league behind the Nuggets and the Clippers during that stretch. Prior to the break, Miami was 28th with a 100.5 average.
For the season, the Heat are averaging 103.3 points. The franchise record is 104.9 in 1991-92.
“We can score,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There’s a lot of teams that can score. If you had more teams that could actually embrace team basketball, you could put up big numbers. It’s sometimes harder to score when you have a definitive number-one, number-two option. They’re going to get the majority of touches and the usage rate and defense can load up on that at times. The more weapons you have, the more diversity you have, the better.”
The Heat have a league high nine players in double figures (including injured guard Dion Waiters) led by Goran Dragic’s 17.6 points per game. Spoelstra concedes four overtime games (one double OT) in the last month have helped – Miami has scored 62 points in the extra sessions. But even without the OTs Miami’s average since the break still is 11 points better than it was the first four months of the season.
“Guys are just feeding off each other,” Kelly Olynyk said. “Guys are really enjoying when other people are playing well and it’s kind of like a contagious thing out there. You can see the ball is really moving. It doesn’t get stuck a lot. Guys aren’t forcing anything. Guys are turning down good shots for great shots. And we’re getting out on the break more. “
A big reason for the increased scoring is Miami is picking up the pace, something they had hoped to do from the jump but for different reasons were forced to slow things down.
The Heat still aren’t the Showtime Lakers, but since the break, Miami’s pace of 99.59 possessions per 48 minutes is 17th in the league. The Heat had 96.99 possessions per game prior to the break, which was 28th.
“We’re playing faster, especially those pitch-aheads,” Dragic said. “We try to push the tempo a little bit. We feel comfortable with that. We tried to play a little bit faster at the beginning of the season but we had a lot of turnovers. So hopefully now everything comes tougher really nice.”
And the Heat are taking better care of the ball despite playing more of an up-tempo game. Miami is averaging 11.7 turnovers in its last 14 games, more the three fewer per game entering the All-Star break.
The Heat had eight turnovers against the Knicks, equaling their second fewest of the season, and just 11 in 58 minutes against the Suns on Monday.
“That’s been a big turn, since we started to get healthy again and find a little bit more continuity,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve taken care of the ball much better in the second half of the season. And then, for us, that took time to find some continuity.
“Guys get comfortable, and understand how we’re generating looks and how to feel comfortable with the offensive package. So guy are still aggressive, if anything, we’re more aggressive right now. But we understand our spacing and understand where the looks are coming from.”
Josh Richardson, James Johnson and Wayne Ellington each had just one turnover while playing more than 40 minutes against the Suns.
And Olynyk had a turnover free game against the Knicks while scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
“Seeing how tough it is (to defend) when teams get up the floor real quick, I think we’ve kind of picked up our pace a little,” Olynyk said. “We used to play a little bit slower. I think that’s helping us as well.”