Reddit Q&A #1 – Examining the End of Game 2


This page can now be found at http://analyzetheoffense.blogspot.com/2012/01/reddit-q-1-examining-end-of-game-2.html

A member of reddit’s /r/nba posed a few questions and I felt the questions deserved a thorough response. Below is the question by gatorphan84:

I have a request, or question at least. It looked to me like in both games 2 and 3 [of the 2011 NBA Finals], the Heat stopped attacking the basket towards the end of the game when Dallas started to make their comeback.

To me it just looks like they start playing crappy offense, but I’m guessing that perhaps the Mavs defense might have something to do with it? What do you think is the case? If it is the Mavs defense: 1.) Why don’t they play like that more often, and 2.) why can’t the Heat seem to adjust, and 3.) what could they do to adjust to it? If it is the Heat’s offense, why do they start taking jumpshots and stop attacking the rim when it is clearly their best strategy?

To answer your underlying question, I believe the late game difficulties the Heat face are a combination of ineffective defense and stagnant, simplistic offense. I’m going to focus on game 2 since I believe it better demonstrates the issues.

Game 2

Time Score Action
6:30 88-73 Dwyane Wade misses 24-foot three point shot
5:50 88-75 Mario Chalmers misses 25-foot three point shot
5:28 88-77 Lebron James misses layup
4:54 88-79 Chris Bosh misses 21-foot jump shot
4:09 88-81 Lebron James draws shooting foul
3:27 90-84 Lebron James misses 16-foot jumper
2:20 90-88 Udonis Haslem misses 15-foot jumper
1:31 90-88 Lebron James misses 26-foot three point shot
1:05 90-88 Lebron James misses 25-foot three point shot
:36 90-90 Dwyane Wade misses 24-foot three point shot
:24 93-93 Mario Chalmers makes 24-foot three point shot
:01 93-95 Dwyane Wade misses 28-foot three point shot

This is the stretch that our questioner is likely pointing to. In the last 6:30 of the game, the Mavericks outscored the Heat 22-5. Within that span, the 5 points came from Lebron James’ 2 foul shots and Mario Chalmers’ late 3pt shot. The shots total 1 make out of 11 FG attempts. Other than Lebron James’ 2 layup attempts, the next closest shot was from 15-ft and 7 of Miami’s final 12 shots (including Lebron’s shooting foul) were 3pt shot attempts.

This information alone paints a picture of pretty poor shot selection but let’s look at the clips to see whether our initial reaction holds true.

Based on the lack of movement by the offense and the timing of the shot, it seems as though the Heat are comfortable at this point with simply running the clock. Wade has an open 3pt shot and takes it. Terry did a decent job closing out at the last second but overall he had a fairly open look. The Heat are also up by 15 with roughly 6:45 left when they pass mid-court so their strategy to run the clock isn’t really a bad one.

Once again the movement is minimal and they’re still trying to run the clock. Chalmers is given an open look but seems to take enough time to allow Terry to close out. Just like the last play, it’s difficult to determine just how much Terry bothered that shot but either way Chalmers ends up missing it.

This time we see a lot more movement and less concentration on simply running the clock. The Dallas 4-0 run likely got their attention a bit. When Lebron drives in for the layup Chandler swipes at the ball. It’s unclear whether Lebron lost hold of the ball or if he simply missed the layup but overall he had a great path to the basket.

We have the same play run in the next possession, this time the low double screens come a little late and in bad positioning, this allows Marion to move up top to avoid the screens. Lebron recognizes Marion cheated the screens so he flares out to the wing to receive the pass. Since Lebron didn’t get the positioning he did last time, he looks to Bosh but Chandler and Kidd are waiting and break up the play. This leaves the Heat only 5 seconds left on the shot clock to get a shot.

The out of bounds play they run is defended well by the Mavericks and Chalmers drives and kicks to Bosh. Once again we see Terry do a decent job at closing out on Bosh resulting in a miss.

The Heat are still focused on running some clock and this time run a high pick and roll for Lebron. Lebron gets a good path to the basket and collects the foul. He ends up making his two free throws ending a Dallas 8-0 run.

Here we see essentially the same play but this time Chalmers comes up to fake the screen and receive the pass. Terry does a good job denying the pass option and the Heat have spent too much time trying to force it so Lebron attempts to drive to the basket. Marion does a good job of staying with Lebron on the drive forcing him to attempt a fade away jumper that misses.

Wade tries a pick and roll with Bosh but the Mavericks are able to defend it well. The Heat decide to try an isolation for Bosh but he loses the ball out of bounds. The Mavericks deserve some credit for defending the pick and roll and Chandler did a good job closing off the middle forcing Bosh to try baseline but Bosh also seems to have simply just lost the ball.

This time we have Haslem and Wade in the pick and roll. When Wade tries to penetrate he’s met by 3 defenders. Wade then appears to bobble the ball and pass to Haslem who then immediately shoots. He shot the ball with about 10 seconds left on the clock so the Heat appear to have given less emphasis to running the clock compared to previous possessions which makes sense since they now only have a 2 point lead. Haslem’s shot was probably a little rushed since Nowitzki and Marion were both within range to contest the shot.

This clip shows us 3 consecutive possessions by the Heat. First, the Heat try some Lebron pick and rolls with no success. Chalmers tries to set a pick for Lebron with about 7 seconds left on the shot clock and Terry temporarily switches and hedges high to prevent Lebron from having an open lane to the basket. When Marion recovers to Lebron, Marion is able to poke the ball away and does an excellent job of contesting Lebron’s 3pt shot without fouling.

After the offensive rebound by the Heat, they go to Bosh at the high post and run Lebron on the pinch post. Marion is able to slip under Bosh to prevent the easy drive and Kidd denies Wade curling off the corner. Lebron retreats back to the wing to receive the ball and passes to Chalmers. Chalmers drives to the basket but has nowhere to go so he kicks it back to Haslem who immediately looks to pass to Lebron. Lebron receives a pick by Haslem and attempts another 3pt shot with Nowitzki and Marion there to contest.

Haslem gets the offensive rebound but is stripped by Terry. He then has to pass the ball back to the perimeter but the Mavericks retrieve it.

The Mavericks defended this series of possessions very well and really seemed to take the Heat’s offensive system out of the game here.

This possession begins out of a timeout and the game is now tied. Terry is defending Lebron on the way up the court because he’s quick enough to bother Lebron far from the basket. The result is the Heat don’t get into their set until about 16 seconds are left in the shot clock. The play begins with a pick and roll for Lebron by Bosh. The Mavericks trap Lebron off the pick and roll causing him to back up and forcing Wade, who was curling around the perimeter to come toward Lebron to relieve the defensive pressure. Nobody else is trying to get open and Wade seems to rush the shot slightly, attempting a well-contested 3pt shot.

The last possession saw the Mavericks take their first lead in the second half. Down 90-93, the Heat run cross cuts for Miller and Chalmers. Terry gets caught paying too much attention to Wade and leaves his man wide open for the cross court pass. The play was beautifully designed to open up a 3pt shot right out of bounds but it was also very poorly defended by Terry.

The final Heat possession is simply Wade heaving a 28-foot shot at the buzzer that misses.

So let’s summarize what we saw. Jason Terry, for the most part, did an excellent job on the defensive end closing out on shooters and generally making it difficult for the Heat. Shawn Marion did a good job of contesting Lebron’s shots and preventing easy drives. The Heat’s offense appeared unimaginative with too much attention paid on letting the clock run and not enough attention to good shot selection. The offense descended into mostly pick and rolls that were defended well. The one field goal made was from an out of bounds play rather than the result of freelance offense.

Returning to your questions, I’ll see if I can provide an answer.

To me it just looks like they start playing crappy offense, but I’m guessing that perhaps the Mavs defense might have something to do with it?

The Heat’s offense became too simplistic. They went away from plays heavily involved in their double high post offense and instead  relied too much on simple pick and rolls. The result is the simplistic offense relieved some of the defensive pressure off of the Mavericks because the Heat became tentative when their first options were taken away from them. Without a designed play, the level of confidence in their offense and predictable options is removed. Credit the Mavericks for defending the Heat well, but also give the Heat credit for making it a little easier for them.

 If it is the Mavs defense: 1.) Why don’t they play like that more often

As I previously stated it’s the Mavericks defense in part and I don’t think they play great defense more often because the Heat don’t give them the opportunity as often. In the first 3 quarters the Heat tend to run their double high post offense fairly smoothly, when they felt the pressure being relieved when up by 15 points in Game 2, they took their foot off the gas, became a little less particular with their offense, and by the time they realized it they had already dug themselves too big a hole.

 2.) why can’t the Heat seem to adjust

That is a very good question. I think partially it’s because big players want to make big plays. I can’t say for sure but the way they play seems to suggest to me that Wade, Lebron, and Bosh all want to take hold of the game individually and make the dagger basket.

 3.) what could they do to adjust to it?

Run their offense. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “let the offense come to you”, this is what they mean. They need to stick to their game plan and have confidence in the system that Spoelstra has mapped out for them. They need to not rely on pick and roll basketball or at the very least mix in a few more double high post plays to give them some easier baskets.

If it is the Heat’s offense, why do they start taking jumpshots and stop attacking the rim when it is clearly their best strategy?

I think it was a combination of trying to run the clock out and relying too much on their ability to beat the defense. We saw the Mavericks’ ability to make it tough to drive to the basket and when you combine good defense with a shorter window for your offense (running the clock) it usually results in poor shot selection.

I used Game 2 and focused on their offense because I felt it would be easier to demonstrate the issues the Heat had. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to give the same amount of treatment to the Heat defense down the stretch but suffice it to say it was bad.

Hopefully this answered your question.

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