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Mailbag: Are injuries holding the Miami Heat back?

The weekly Miami Herald Heat mailbag is here to answer your questions.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang). You can also email me at

Steven, Coral Gables: Are the Heat’s injury issues being overlooked? How can anybody expect Miami to win when so many players are missing time?

Anthony Chiang: That’s a fair observation. Injury issues have really hurt the Heat again this season. Entering Friday, nine different Heat players had already combined to miss 65 games due to injury or personal reasons. Starting point guard Goran Dragic has missed eight games, starting power forward James Johnson missed the first 15 games of the season and starting shooting guard Dion Waiters has yet to play as he ha’s missed the first 20 games of the season.

That’s a lot to overcome for a roster that relies on its depth rather than one individual superstar to win games. Injuries aren’t an excuse for the Heat’s slow start, it’s merely an explanation.

@Daniel22223333: How much have rules changes, favoring offense, impacted the Heat’s poor start/game plan?

Anthony: I think that story line is overblown. Yes, a lot of the rule changes (freedom of movement, especially) favor the offense. But it’s not like offenses are having a lot more success than they have in recent seasons. Entering Thursday, NBA teams were averaging 108.4 points per 100 possessions this season compared to 107.7 points per 100 possessions last season. The difference is minimal.

Instead, I think it’s the faster pace that’s impacting the Heat and teams around the league. The number of possessions NBA teams per 48 minutes are up from 98.1 last season to 101.3 this season, and it’s not allowing Miami to set up its half-court defense as much as it would like. By the way, the Heat’s turnover issues aren’t helping either. But that’s a conversation for another mailbag.

To the Heat’s credit, it is trying to play at a faster pace and adapt to this new NBA. Miami is playing at the 10th-fastest pace in the league, averaging 102.5 possessions per 48 minutes. That’s a big difference from last season, when the Heat finished with the fourth-slowest pace at 96.2 possessions per 48 minutes. So the effort has been there to speed things up, but it just hasn’t resulted in wins yet. And the Heat has struggled against the ultra-fast teams this season, with a 1-6 record against those ranked ahead of it in pace.

It’s not just the Heat. It’s the entire NBA that’s trying to adjust to this more up-tempo style.

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