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Miami's string theory

One of man’s basic instincts has always been to ask, “why?” We’re a naturally curious species with a propensity to want to figure things out. One of science’s underlying questions is based upon the premise that we do not know what the world is made of. Similarly, the way this Miami Heat team is constructed, it had me wondering what exactly makes them so tough to beat -- and the answer is deep-rooted somewhere in their defensive philosophy.

Science’s struggle to pin-point the particles that make up Earth’s most precious elements has led some to the String Theory, an ideology that suggests that all of the different fundamental particles of the Standard Model are really just different manifestations of one basic object: a string. While I doubt this theory is what the Miami Heat been referring to, but the phrase “on a string” has been used to describe their defense from inside the locker room.

A couple months ago, Dwyane Wade said, "It's all guys moving together. Our principles are protecting the paint. If the ball skips over the top, and I have to close out on the 3-point shooter, then that opens up the drive because I have to close and chase him off the 3-point line. So 'being on a string' as in, the bottom man -- the next man -- has to come over to be in his position. It's not about one person. It's about all five doing their jobs. If the bottom man comes over, that means he's leaving his man. So now the opposite man has to sink down on that man."

If you watched any part of Game One of the NBA Finals, you caught a glimpse of what Dwyane Wade meant. Miami isn’t playing under the principles that have made the Celtics one of the NBA’s most memorable defensive units, nor under the principles that helped the Bulls become the top-rated defense this season. This is a defense that plays under the premise that no one guy is accountable for the guy who shares a similar position, but rather accountable for stopping the opposing team’s offense as a whole.

We’re naturally inclined to focus on the individual aspects of the defensive end of the floor. Dwyane Wade must shut down Jason Terry. LeBron James must shut down DeShawn Stevenson. Chris Bosh must shut down Dirk Nowitzki. These autonomous dogmas have been thrown out of the conjectural window and been replaced by a collective cohesiveness on the defensive end that has set the Miami Heat apart from the rest of the NBA.

An article I recently read explained that string theory can be formulated in terms of an action principle, which describes how strings move through space and time. The number of dimensions is not fixed by any consistency criterion, but by a flat spacetime solution.

This, I believe, can also double to describe why Miami’s defensive unit is so unique. Their defensive unit is definitely an action principle. Look at the way they move on the court as a unit. It’s very rare that more than one guy is standing, and often times, no one on the Heat’s defense is stationary. Also, Miami consistently throws multi-dimensional players on the floor. The more positions one can guard, the easier it is for the defense as a unit to move away from the natural tendency for individuals to focus on other individuals.

Miami’s defense was good on opening night, because it was an athletic group of guys who were able to recover for each other when needed. Now, those recoveries are inherent in their defensive philosophy, making them primed for the aesthetic when defending their goal. The way that guys move from one side of the floor to the other, collapse on penetrators and close out on shooters is, at times, beautiful to watch. It’s a chaotic ballet of switches and hard double teams. All it needs is a title.

-P. Barnett
P.S. As a reminder, checkout the livest sports talk show around, "The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show" as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan! Download our podcasts if you missed the live show as well!


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