We saw in Game 1 that Dwyane Wade torched the Celtics on screen/roll until Boston in the 3rd quarter began defending him more aggressively by trapping and/or sending a third defender over to his side of the floor. They forced Wade to give up the ball, and when he did, one of three things happened: 1) The C’s deflected Wade’s pass, disrupting the play; 2) Another Heat player missed; 3) The C’s rotated back quickly enough to prevent the Heat player who received Wade’s pass from shooting.
The C’s came out in Game 2 and did the smart thing: They stuck with what worked in Game 1. They sent two or three defenders at Wade, switched and trapped on screen/rolls and dared anyone else to beat them.
Here’s my favorite example:
What you miss off-screen at the start of this play is Udonis Haslem setting a screen for Wade as Wade cuts up the left side of the floor. But what you can see is Glen Davis leaving Haslem as Udonis sets that screen and jumping right onto Wade:
This isn’t a temporary switch designed to hold the fort until Ray recovers. Davis spends the rest of the possession guarding Wade.
Another thing to notice from this shot: The C’s defense is already in solid rotation position should Wade pass to Haslem. Check out Pierce on the right side of the floor. He’s already next to Jermaine O’Neal, which allows Perk (in the paint) to get ready to rotate out to Haslem on the left wing if necessary.
The key is this: Once Wade pulls the ball back out, Davis stays on him and Rondo leaves his man (Carlos Arroyo) to double Wade:
This is borderline disrespectful to the other four Heat. It’s like intentionally walking Albert Pujols to get to Matt Holliday, only if Holliday kept grounding into double plays with the bases loaded. And the Heat don’t exactly make themselves hard to defend here, with Haslem and O’Neal standing right next to each other near the foul line.
Here’s another example from the middle of the 2nd quarter. Keep your eye on Perk under the rim.
We see Wade again using a baseline screen to cut up the wing and receive the ball at the three-point line. As soon as Wade gets around the O’Neal screen, Perk knows what’s coming. By the time Wade makes the catch, Perk is already pointing at O’Neal, instructing someone on the weak side of the court to take him:
Why is Perk leaving Jermaine for someone else to guard? Because Perk knows his job is to be the third defender on Wade’s side of the court. Check the left elbow, and you’ll see Haslem (guarded by Baby) about to set a screen for Wade. The C’s, as we’ve come to expect, have three guys guarding a two man screen/roll.
Except Haslem does something unexpected: He slips the screen (i.e. cuts to the baseline before really setting his pick), surprising Davis and temporarily compromising Boston’s defense. Perk has to sprint over to Haslem in the left corner, leaving the C’s defense looking like this:
This is a temporary moment of weakness. This is the moment Miami (or any team, really, but especially Miami) must take advantage of against a defense over-loading to one side. That white blur of speed near the left elbow is Big Baby. He knows Haslem has slipped the screen, and that he’s got some ground to cover. He’s running in Haslem’s direction, perhaps because either he hadn’t expected Perk to run out all the way to Udonis; or b) He expected Perk to rotate back onto O’Neal, who is under the rim enjoying a mismatch against Tony Allen.
Davis realizes he’s got to get to O’Neal and turns in that direction.
But for a second, the C’s are compromised. Quentin Richardson is open at the top of the arc because his guy (Pierce) is sagging down to help out TA. Allen’s guy (Arroy0) is wide-open on the right wing.
Check out the photo again, though. Haslem doesn’t quite have a clear passing late to Arroyo or Q-Rich, does he? He could try a really difficult pass into O’Neal, but that’s a tough test of Haslem’s accuracy and touch—and Baby is sprinting over there anyway.
So he takes a dribble and passes back out to Wade. And that’s all Boston needs to get set to start the process over again.
It’s simple: Boston overloads on Wade, and Miami can’t make ‘em pay.
Here’s another example from the early part of the 3rd quarter that shows the importance of getting into the passing lanes and getting deflections when you overload on Wade and force him to pass:
The Heat get lucky here because of the bounce the deflection takes, but that shouldn’t take away from the larger point: If you’re going to double Wade and force him to pass the ball, by definition someone on the Heat is going to be open—at least briefly. Anything you can do to disrupt the initial pass is a good thing.
The C’s have been getting a ton of deflections so far in this series, and that has helped prevent easy shots and is partly responsible for the fact that Miami—usually a low-turnover team—has coughed the ball up more often so far in the post-season than any team other than Charlotte.
One more example, this one from the 1st quarter, just to show you how little respect the C’s are giving Michael Beasley:
This is a straight screen/roll for Wade, with Beas as the screener. Beasley’s man (Baby) switches onto Wade and he stays there even after Ray Allen recovers from the screen. Watch the clip: Big Baby doesn’t run back at Beasley until Wade actually releases the pass to Beasley.
In the meantime? The C’s don’t rotate anyone over to Beasley. They are, at least on this possession, totally unconcerned with him:
And, really, no one on the Heat other than Wade has given the C’s any reason to be concerned—so far.
I’d be surprised if the C’s adjusted this strategy at all for Game 3. It’s worked beautifully for the last 6 quarters; why change anything?