A strength in numbers? Here’s why Heat believe their balanced offensive attack is a key to their success

Miami Heat’s Tyler Johnson (8), James Johnson, second from left, Kelly Olynyk (9) and Josh Richardson (0) talk on the court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, March 10, 2018, in Miami. The Heat won 129-102. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Heat believe there’s a strength in numbers.

Not the number of points scored, but the number of players who are a threat to score. Miami’s balanced offensive attack features a league-high nine players averaging double-digit points this season (including injured guard Dion Waiters).

One night it’s James Johnson with 30 points, another night it’s Kelly Olynyk with 22 or Josh Richardson with 30. Nine different players have finished games this season as the Heat’s leading scorer.

“It’s tough because they cannot focus on only one guy,” said Heat point guard Goran Dragic, who leads Miami with 17.7 points per game. “They need to focus on a lot — three, four or five guys. We understand that this is a team sport and not every night is going to be the same guy. You can see, on the road trip I had big games and at home K.O. had big games. Who’s it going to be tonight? You never know and that’s the beauty of this. The opposing team needs to prepare for everybody, so that’s good.”

After Friday’s six-point loss to the Thunder, the Heat (39-34) will take their unpredictable offense into Sunday’s important road game against the Pacers (42-31). With seventh-seeded Miami three games behind fifth-seeded Indiana as they battle for playoff positioning, the contest will have plenty of stakes attached to it with the regular season winding down.

Like Miami, Indiana also uses a “starless” approach that features six players averaging double-digit points. But Victor Oladipo has emerged as the Pacers’ best player, as he’s averaging a career-high 23.2 points and earned his first All-Star game appearance in his first year with Indiana.

“This is happening around the league,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There is the top tier of the league and the level that they’re playing at. But there’s a lot of other teams in our bucket, what Indiana has done, Portland we saw, and some other teams, the strength of the team is in the unity and playing together as a team, bringing something better out of each other.

“And that’s what you’re seeing right now with Indiana. You can tell that they’re playing for each other, competing at a high level. Like I said, so is our group, and it shapes up as a very competitive game.”

This isn’t the way Heat teams were constructed in the past. Whether it was Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James or Chris Bosh, Miami has usually built around a star or multiple stars.

But after missing out on top free agents Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward over the past two offseasons, the Heat decided to take a different approach.

“There’s a lot of different ways to build teams and I think [Heat president Pat Riley] and [owner Micky Arison] have proved that over the years,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve done it a lot of different ways. Then the landscape changed, so we built this team differently. You have to have the right kind of guys, it always ends up being about personnel and talent. The right kind of guys that fit your culture, we think we have that kind of group.

“And if you tell them that they’re less than, you can imagine the kind of chip on their shoulders that just appear out of nowhere, and mountain-sized chips, and that also is the kind of characteristic of the type of guys we like, as well.”

It’s an approach the Heat believe can work, even in the playoffs.

“You have to be locked in on everybody,” guard Tyler Johnson said. “There’s some teams that you play against and you know who’s going to get the ball and you know usually where they’re going to get the ball. You have an idea of who’s going to take the majority of the shots. But for us, aside from certain guys, literally anybody can end up taking 15, 16 shots and burying like 10 of them.”

That strength in numbers is something the Heat will try to continue to use to their advantage.

“We have a lot of versatility. But we feel like there’s strength in numbers,” Wayne Ellington said. “Take away one thing, we’ve got something else for you. Everybody’s got to be ready to contribute.”

[Five takeaways: Heat defense keeps game close, but not enough in loss to Thunder]

[Dwyane Wade returns to Miami Heat’s active roster vs. Thunder]

[Spoelstra: ‘I’m a big fan of the two-way contract.’ Here’s where the Heat stand with their two-way contract players]

[Mailbag: What is the ideal first-round playoff matchup for the Miami Heat?]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]