The Miami Heat are the NBA's reigning champions and got even stronger during the offseason after the additions of Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen. They can be beat during the 2012-2013 seasonâ"dethroned, evenâ"but only if teams follow these steps.Â
Ranking from mental preparation to strategies on both sides of the court, these tips can help the other elite teams in The Association put together a game plan capable of leaving Erik Spoelstra scratching his head on the sidelines.Â
Remember though, this is a general guide. It's hard to diagram plans involving the actual Xs and Os without knowing which teams we're dealing with. This is tailored towards a generic NBA team with enough talent to slow LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.Â
Go into the Game with Confidence
You have to try to be confident against LeBron James.
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As obvious as it may be, going into a game with confidence is still absolutely vital to the winning cause. It's not very easy to go home victorious when you enter the arena without that winner's mentality.Â
It's important to approach a game with the Miami Heat just as you would prepare for a game with any other team. They may have won the most recent title and gotten stronger, boasting three superstars and an increasingly deep roster, but they're not unbeatable.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh form a talented trio that can wear down a team both physically and mentally.
Teams must fortify their mental defenses before leaving the locker room of the American Airlines Arenas. It's the only way that they won't get torn down too quickly. Â
Prevent Miami from Posting Up
Letting the Heat post up is dangerous.
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Whether by fronting or some other method, it's imperative to stop the Miami Heat from running the offense through the post-up game. If a team has to stick a bigger player in front of any Heat star trying to body up on the blocks, then that's exactly what it should do.Â
The strategy shouldn't be too unfamiliar to the Heat. After all, fronting is exactly what they did to stop Carmelo Anthony from going on too many scoring tears during the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last year.Â
Sometimes, Erik Spoelstra even makes this job a little too easy for opponents. Despite the dominance that ensues when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh go to work in the post, Spo often forgets to run that type of offense.Â
Posting up is one of the Heat's biggest strengths on offense though, underutilized as it may be. All three of the aforementioned players are effective with their backs to the basket. Plus, it's virtually impossible to double-team one of them once he has the ball down low without the risk of leaving a superstar or sharpshooter wide open.Â
However, coaches must try to throw an extra defender at one of the members of the "Big Three" in the post, even at risk of any easy basket. The chance that it disrupts the flow of the post game and forces Spoelstra to devise some other less-effective tactic is worth risking an easy bucket.Â
Force LeBron James to Pass
The more this happens, the better for Miami's opponents.
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What LeBron James can do with the ball in his hands is far more dangerous than what he can do without the rock.Â
The league's reigning MVP and Finals MVP is the best passing forward in all of basketball, but his teammates are less effective at putting the ball in the hoop than he is. Plus, James dominates possessions to such an extent that his teammates often find themselves lacking rhythm when it is time for them to shoot.
If James is allowed to catch fire, he's going to incinerate any defense with his variety of skills.Â
The easiest way to prevent that from becoming a reality instead of a hypothetical is to force the ball out of his hands.Â
Option A: Capitalize on a Size Advantage
As good as Chris Bosh is, he's not a true center.
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The Miami Heat are going to use a smaller lineup quite often, thanks primarily to the lack of elite true centers. Don't be surprised if you see Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Shane Battier, LeBron James and Chris Bosh out on the court at the same time even more often during the 2012-13 season.Â
Last year, that five-man unit was used in 16 games and outscored opponents while on the hardwood in 12 of those occasions. That lineup posted 1.09 points per possession on offense and allowed just 0.98 per possession during the regular season, both better marks than the team produced as a whole (statsÂ via 82games.com).
However, it's possible to take advantage of this lineup if and only if a team possesses the frontcourt talent to do so. Size can win the matchup, but only when accompanied by skill.Â
Conversely, the Oklahoma City Thunder shouldn't try to force the issue by overusing Kendrick Perkins. As you may have noticed in the slide title, this is only one option.Â
Option B: Don't Be Tempted to Go Big If You Shouldn't
Mario Chalmers can help lead a small-ball attack.
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Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder should forget about the Miami Heat's lack of size and take advantage of their small-ball capabilities.Â
It's far better to match up with the Heat's smaller lineup than to get run to death by the relentless pace and transition offense that will surely be employed by Erik Spoelstra's squad.Â
If a team doesn't have one of the NBA's best true centers, then it should use multiple-guard sets and attempt to keep up in the inevitable sprint from baseline to baseline.Â
Playing the Heat's style of basketball isn't necessarily a bad thing if a team has the personnel to match up.Â
Don't Stop Attacking
This is a pleasant sight for fans of teams playing Miami.
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Regardless of the five men thrown out on the court against the defending champions, the team must constantly attack LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Â
From the first tip until the final buzzer, teams should be doing everything in their power to drive in at the superstars and create enough contact that the officials can't help but blow their whistles. Sure, some offensive fouls might result from the process, but they'll be a necessary sacrifice if a player of LeBron's caliber is sent to the bench for some extra and unneeded rest.Â
The more LeBron and Wade complain to the refs, the better things should be going for Miami's opposition. Even though the superstars are great at avoiding illegal plays and possibly getting some nice treatment from the zebras, it's possible for them to foul out.Â
This should go without saying, but the more time LeBron, Wade and Bosh spend on the bench, the better the situation becomes for the team playing Miami. If fouls are one way to achieve this goal, then they should be doing everything possible to draw fouls.Â
Be Prepared for Traps
Look out when the Heat use multiple All-Defensive players to set traps.
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Finally, teams must know that the Miami Heat are going to attempt to trap the ball-handler throughout the game.Â
Whether a player is dribbling on the perimeter or receives a pass in the corner, he's going to be met by both his defender and another member of the Heat. The team as a whole is eager to provide suffocating pressure and force a turnover or bad shot.Â
Recognizing which man is doing the trapping and then making the right pass is absolutely vital. It's possible to take advantage of Miami's aggressive defense if the ball is swung around to the open man. It's not easy, but it is possible.Â
Rajon Rondo proved that during large portions of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals. Watching his performance should be mandatory homework for any team hoping to challenge the Heat next season.Â
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