People aren't panicking about the 4-3 Miami Heat's uneven start to the season, but LeBron James is aware that his team hasn't played up to par. After their practice on Monday, he was direct in diagnosing the problem to reporters, via Michael Wallace of ESPN:
"It's simple," James said as the Heat prepared for Tuesday's home game against the Milwaukee Bucks. "These first seven games, we're playing like s--- defensively. It's that simple. We're not a sugarcoat team. We came in and got right down to it. We're terrible on defense, and we've got to change that."
When fully engaged and communicating, Miami is elite on the defensive end. There is no team better at disrupting opposing offenses on the perimeter or jumping in passing lanes. Early on, though, the Heat's defensive effort and focus have been inconsistent. They've scored at a better rate than any other team, but have consistently allowed other teams to hang in there with them. With the caveat that it's extremely early, Miami is 27th in the league in defensive efficiency, per Basketball-Reference.
Against the Boston Celtics on Saturday, the Heat's subpar defense came back to bite them in the form of a 111-110 loss. Many late mistakes, including a brain fart by Dwyane Wade at the free throw line, gave the Celtics' Jeff Green an opportunity to win it on a last second shot. They wouldn't have even been in that position, though, if they hadn't given up 35 points in the second quarter.
Miami opened its Tuesday practice with some "harsh words" from head coach Erik Spoelstra, according to Wallace's report. While he's absolutely aware that his team also started slowly on defense last year and turned it up as the season went along, it's understandable that Spoelstra would want to see fewer defensive lapses as the Heat try to build some momentum.