Coach: Three Adjustments for Miami HEAT
Miami’s Three Adjustments
Like many who watched Miami’s stunningly poor offensive performance over the last two games, and particularly the final three quarters of their Thursday night effort, I could not understand how a team that still possesses two of the league’s best players struggled so mightily. Their problems extend well beyond the absence of Chris Bosh, and the ability to adjust and overcome his loss is imperative for any team with championship aspirations.
It is easy to point to the lack of strong perimeter shooting from the HEAT and say that they just missed shots. But that ignores the underlying issues of the types of shots they are taking, which have a lot to do with the lack of pressure they are putting on their opponents.
The most critical thing missing from Miami’s halfcourt attack is an attacking presence at the rim. Bosh would help in this regard, both by pulling his defender out of the lane and by being a threat himself. Without Bosh, however, there are certainly a number of changes that the HEAT could implement in the halfcourt to maximize the talent they do have on the floor.
Utilize more shuffle and flex cuts
With Indiana’s size and the lack of a big who is able to consistently hit shots, Miami finds itself getting non-threatening paint touches. They attack half-heartedly off the bounce, without really committing to get to the rim at all costs. This mentality makes them easy to guard, and turns them into a jump shooting team.
However, if penetration off the bounce is unsuccessful, creating penetration via shuffle cuts and flex cuts might be the better answer. Shuffle cuts are backscreens that bring players from the high wing, opposite the ball, all the way to low block on the ball side. It is a slashing motion across the floor, and very difficult to guard even when you know it is coming. Flex cuts, as most know, involve baseline screens that bring a player from the weakside to the strongside area.
Miami might be better off running through a continuity set that involves a lot of shuffle and flex cut action in order to create penetration.
Turn the second corner off of ball screens
If you are going to utilize ball screens, all ball-handlers must commit to using the ball screen fully. A great rule of thumb is to explode off the ball screen for two penetrating dribbles before deciding what to do. Right now, many of the HEAT float off the ball screen, expecting it to be some kind of magic elixir that allows them to get wherever they want.
Coach Erik Spoelstra may want to tell his players to attack looking to turn the second corner. The first corner happens immediately after the level of the screen, when a hedge doesn’t prevent the handler from penetrating. The second corner happens when a hedger does a good initial job preventing initial penetration. The handler must continue to attack, because eventually he should be able to turn and penetrate (the second corner). Commit to doing that and not floating, and watch results happen.
Send 4 (yes, four) to the offensive glass
When you are missing shots, it should become natural to attack the offensive glass. However, Miami has only done this in spurts throughout the series. Their best bet is to employ a system similar to the one the Chicago Bulls used effectively throughout the year, and maybe even take it one step further.
Miami should send four players to the front of the rim on nearly every shot. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, whoever the big is, and the more athletic (not necessarily taller) remaining player (often Mario Chalmers) should all have hands at or around the cylinder whenever the ball caroms. Let the final player be defensive balance. This style of play also encourages a faster pace, which plays much more into Miami’s hands than it does into Indiana’s.
The HEAT need to do something to get back into a position of control in this series, where they should be even without Chris Bosh. How well they put real pressure on the Pacers’ defense will tell the tale of the remainder of this Eastern Conference Semifinal.
Inversion of O in OKC
While the Oklahoma City Thunder have performed well these playoffs and appear to be headed toward a date with the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, things have not always worked perfectly. In fact, the Thunder would be well-advised to start practicing a few wrinkles in their normal attack for a likely scorefest against the Spurs.
NBA Playbook’s smart guy Brett Koremenos has pointed to their lack of flow on the offensive end, which largely occurs because of their brilliant one-on-one offensive ability. One wrinkle the Thunder may want to consider using more often is inverting their offense regularly. Usually, when coaches talk about inverting offense, they mean to post up the guards. While that isn’t a bad idea in OKC’s case, I think a different application might be really hard to guard.
In a handful of possessions this season, we have seen either Russell Westbrook or James Harden be the ball screener for Kevin Durant. This type of inversion is really difficult to guard: Durant comes off the screen, and the normal hedge takes up none of his field of vision, and physically cannot overpower him. The screener (Westbrook or Harden) quickly repositions and now you have a help & recovery nightmare.
By using these kinds of actions more often, Oklahoma City adds variety to their attack patterns, which can make up for their lack of flow. The Boston Celtics already do this a little bit with Paul Pierce as the handler while Rajon Rondo sets screens, and they have found success going to that well when a basket is needed. In much the same way, the Thunder may want to consider increasing their use of this tactic as the playoffs wear on.
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Each week, HOOPSWORLD NBA analyst Anthony Macri will open his notebook and offer an assortment of observations on games, players and teams from throughout the league. Macri is a consultant to the ASEAN Basketball League, offering strategic analysis on basketball and business development, league operations and marketing. Previously, Macri served as a player development consultant for the Pro Training Center and Coach David Thorpe and as a coach at the IMG Basketball Academy and two nationally ranked high school programs. The Coach’s Notebook is a weekly feature on HOOPSWORLD.