Post-game Reactions

After the mid-point of the 3rd quarter of Game 1, Dwyane Wade scored just 6 points on 2-of-7 shooting with 3 turnovers. Before that, Wade had scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

So what changed? For one, Tony Allen took over Wade responsibility from Ray Allen. And as that happened, the C’s went away from a screen/roll defense that failed over and over to contain D-Wade early in the game.

Here’s what that unsuccessful defense looked like on an early side screen/roll, one of Miami’s favorite plays for Wade:

Wade missed the lay-in, but I’m sure the C’s don’t want him getting that sort of shot.

So what exactly did the C’s try here? Let’s look at a still shot:

Michael Beasley hasn’t set his screen yet, but KG has already left Beasley in order to cut off Wade’s right-handed drive. The idea, I think, is to either force Wade down the sideline toward Ray Allen or make him take a very wide turn along the three-point arc if he chooses to drive right.

You can see the problem. Wade’s got a big gap between KG and Beasley/Ray, and nobody in the league is better at shooting that gap. If you’re going to play this sort of defense, you better have someone in the middle of the floor waiting to cut Wade off.

Nobody is there. Perk comes over to help at the last minute, but  a slow-ish big with no vertical leap accomplishes little by meeting an airborne and fast-moving Wade at the block/charge circle.

Here’s another possession from the 1st quarter in which Wade blows up this defense:

A still from the key moment:

Again: Joel Anthony is still in the process of setting his screen for Wade, but Anthony’s man (Sheed) has moved away from Anthony and into the middle of the floor to deal with a possible Wade drive down the middle. Tony Allen has shifted his stance so as to cut off Wade’s right hand. The idea, again, is to have a defender ready in either direction.

This strategy, with these particular players in this position on the floor, cannot work. The 2010 version of Rasheed Wallace is helpless here. Asking him to back-pedal to the foul line and cut off Wade is asking the impossible. Wade is going to blow by him, and the only way to protect the rim after he does so is to have someone ready in the paint. KG lunges at Wade near the block/charge circle, but he’s too close to the basket and way too late to stop Wade.

This is too easy.

Can you stomach one more?

Again: A total failure. This time, it’s Perk in the impossible position of trying to stop Wade in the open floor. And again, we see that the C’s have no second level defender waiting once Wade beats Perk:

It looks in this shot like KG is waiting for Wade in the paint, but that’s not really the case. Beasley has cut from the right side of the floor to the left, and KG, after running along with Beasley, tries to shift his momentum back toward the middle of the floor to contain Wade. Too late.

So how did the C’s change things up in the 2nd half? Here’s one possession from late in the 3rd in which the C’s force the ball out of D-Wade’s hands:

Here’s a still from the first of two Wade screen/rolls on this possession:

Between TA, KG and Glen Davis (under the rim), the C’s have the middle of the court covered; there’s no huge gap between TA and KG for Wade to shoot through.

And once Wade dribbles around the screen, two things happen: 1) He’s met by KG, easily the most mobile of the C’s big man defenders, and not Sheed or Perk. Of course, the C’s won’t have KG tonight; 2) TA spins back under the screen to close the gap and runs over to double Wade.

Miami resets and calls a second Beasley/Wade screen/roll. The C’s respond by doing this:

Beasley slips the screen and the C’s happily let him go in order to double Wade. This is an especially good decision because the shot clock is running down, and whoever receives Wade’s pass will have to act pretty quickly to get a shot off; the Heat won’t have a ton of time to swing the ball and take advantage of the C’s defensive rotations.

Here’s another successful stop from late in the 3rd in which the C’s counter Wade with a higher degree of aggression than we saw in the 1st half:

Well, there’s nothing subtle about that. As Tony Allen fights over the Anthony screen, Anthony’s guy (Big Baby) just sprints out at Wade like a defensive tackle running free to a quarterback in the back field.

Except there is one subtle thing. Check out where KG is standing as Big Baby bum-rushes Wade:

That’s KG guarding nobody on the left edge of the paint—exactly where Wade is going to end up if he squeezes through the space between TA and Baby.

KG is standing where Perk and Sheed were on those defensive sets from the first half that didn’t work, except that here, KG is the third defender charged with stopping Wade. In those earlier plays, the big guy waiting at the foul line was the guy guarding the screener—basically, the second guy paying attention to Wade.

To recap: The C’s started the game in a semi-standard screen/roll defense in which the screener’s man sagged down to cut off penetration in one direction while Wade’s guy jumped the screen on the other side. By the end of the 3rd quarter, we see the C’s trapping, sending the screener’s guy flying at Wade and assigning a third defender to be ready at the top of the paint as the last line of defense.

In my half of the Q-and-A with Hot Hot Hoops (the TrueHoop Miami blog), I questioned whether the C’s were being honest when they talked about letting Wade “get his” and containing everyone else. The Heat have so few scoring options among “everyone else” that I wondered whether it might be better to focus the defense (at least some of the time) on stopping Wade and gambling that the four guys on the floor weren’t good enough to make Boston pay.

What happened in the 2nd half was something better. The C’s indeed geared their defense more toward stopping Wade but rotated so precisely and played the passing lanes so well that Wade’s supporting cast either didn’t receive Wade’s passes cleanly or saw openings closed off before they could do anything.

I leave you with this play from about the 1:30 mark of the 3rd quarter. You’ll notice four Boston defenders collapse on Wade in the paint. And you’ll notice Wade still can’t get a pass off.

This was 2008 level defense, and when the C’s play it, they can beat anyone in any given game.

But can they play it four times in any given series?

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Zach Lowe

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  • Sami

    The optimistic fan in me says yes we can… the realist says we’ll have to wait and see. go C’s!

  • Conall Mac Michael

    Is it just me or did Kg’s lateral movement look ridiculously laboured in that was clip. Really makes me worry. Great article though. Hope they can collect the win tonight, would be big without Kg.

  • Jason

    I thought KG looked very spry in Game 1, very encouraging actually. And if he labors that quickly, then the rest between Games 1 and 3 will be valuable, no?

    Anyway, Pierce and Ray should be better. Rondo’s healthier. Perk can’t be worse. C’s should still win.

    Btw, put me firmly in the camp that says TA locking down Wade is MUCH MUCH MUCH more valuable than whatever offense Ray adds over TA. Ray’s great, but in all honesty, if TA and Daniels spent all game JUST hounding Wade and Ray got zero minutes (or only minutes when Wade was resting) I would consider that a winning strategy. Sorry to hurt Ray’s ego, but that’s the truth. Stop Wade and there simply is no hope for Miami in this series. If that meant Ray had to get only 10 minutes a game, so be it.

  • Jay P

    Absolutely no question about it, they can.

    The only question to me is can they do it on both ends of the floor.

    This C’s team has had a habit of letting offensive struggles get to them on the defensive end. They struggle shooting, and they start hanging their head, they lose the aggressiveness on D, and start getting complacent. And then the problems compound, no you’re not scoring, and you’re not getting stops. Put that together, and you’re losing games.

    Game 1 wasn’t great because they played incredible. It was great because they didn’t let the struggle effect them on D. They missed shots, and got right back and got stops. They let the defense create offense, and create momentum for them.

    This is what won the championship in 08, and it’s the only thing that will get them there again.

    I can live with offensive lulls, but the defensive intensity needs to be there every time, every possession, no exceptions.

  • Cptn Bubbles

    Great job Zach. You are really kicking it up for the playoffs. Well done.

    I agree with Jason. We gotta have the D. D > O so TA should get monster minutes.

    But TA should be forbidden from shooting jumpers. Only allow him to cut & slash on Offense. TA MUST finish the defensive possession by BLOCKING OUT Wade. TA turns to watch shots instead of putting a body on Wade after shots. Come on TA & finish the D off right.

    Without KG, we are going to need everyone to block out & a ridiculous effort from Rondo to rebound. Rajon is capable of 10+ boards. We really need him jumping down to snag boards. If Ray plays some time on Wade then Ray also needs to put a body on Dwayne after the shot. Make Wade shoot jumpers & block him out after the shots. He is going to hit some jumpers, maybe a lot, but you gotta have an iron resolve & keep forcing him to make the jumper. It’s extremely hard for a jump shooter to be hot for the entire game (especially late when the legs go). Also, giving Wade deep 2 jumpers keeps the rest of his teammates out of the game on the offensive end…no rhythm no chemistry. Put it all on the back of DWade.

  • Ray Leighton

    Great job as always, Zach. I like both the film and stills.

    If we look at TA and Ray’s self/opponent production for the season, they are both around +2. Obviously Ray scores more points etc. and TA gives up fewer points on defense. And both played a lot of their respective times with both the first and second units. So who gets the minutes really should be situational. Right now, shutting DWade down has to continue to be the priority, so more minutes for TA.

    But when we get KG back…. I don’t think that O’Neal is such a threat that we have to have a big center out there — I really think that one of our best units has been small-ball: move KG to center, Paul to the 4, and play TA, Ray and Rondo together — it gives us a very harassing defense as well as the opportunity to score more points in transition. That’s all good so long as the other team cannot punish us with a big.

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