Miami Heat: Bench production is key to success

miami-heatWhen the game was on the line and plays had to be made, an unexpected player from the Miami Heat stepped up and took control of the game.

The Heat defeated the Houston Rockets 113-104 on Sunday and that unexpected player who took control of the game was Ray Allen. He scored a season-high 25 points and 14 of them came in the fourth quarter. He led a 15-2 run in the fourth to put the game out of reach for the Rockets.

Allen, in the Heat’s last two games including Sunday against the Rockets, has scored double figures in the fourth quarter. This has probably been the worst season of Allen’s career, but if Allen can continue to provide a reliable scoring option off the bench there won’t be so much pressure on LeBron James to score 30 points a night.

James continues to struggle in the fourth quarter. Against the Rockets, he only scored 2 points in the final period. James had no rhythm in the fourth and seemed more passive than he was in the previous three quarters. Luckily for James, his teammates stepped up because more people would have been inclined to talk about his struggles if the Heat lost. However, Dwyane Wade continues to play great basketball as well. On Sunday he had another stellar game, finishing with 24 points and 7 assists. Hopefully after this game the Heat will start to play more consistent basketball.

There was also a little shakeup in the starting lineup. Greg Oden started in place of Shane Battier against the Rockets on Sunday. Oden played the first six minutes of each half, but didn’t have any type of impact on the game. He went scoreless from the field, grabbed six rebounds, and had four fouls. Erik Spoelstra most likely put Oden in the starting lineup to prevent Chris Bosh from getting in foul trouble against Dwight Howard. As far as Oden having any meaningful impact on the team in the future, I don’t see it.

Other than James getting his fourth quarter rhythm back, another key factor for the Heat to get back to their winning ways is their bench production. When the bench plays well, the Heat usually win like they did against the Rockets. With that being said, I like Battier coming off the bench rather than in the starting lineup. He gives the bench a certain toughness along with Chris Anderson and the defensive intensity picks up when Battier is on the court. Battier also provides another three point shooter alongside Allen which helps for better spacing on the court and provides driving lanes for guards like Norris Cole.

The Heat’s next two games are back-to-back road games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics, two games in which the Heat should win so now let’s see if the Heat can turn things around and start a winning streak.