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Guarding Wade in Game 2: Sticking With What Works

 

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?

  • Perry

    If history has taught us anything we know road wins in the playoffs are hard to come by.

    Zach is right about sticking with what works. Those reoccurring plot lines for first round series don’t have to follow the previous two years if they maintain a tight weak side rotation and limit the Heat to one shot.

    However, we know home cooking is on tap. So we can’t expect another 38% shooting performance. It won’t be easy keeping Wade’s numbers from extending past reasonable. Just ask the Lakers about Durant. Sooner or later an eruption is likely to happen and the floodgates may ensue for his teammates. So the Celts better be ready to counterpunch otherwise they could find themselves in the same hole Cleveland dug for themselves last night.

    Tonight presents an opportunity for the Celts to make a louder statement off games one and two. As an added bonus Kevin, who has played grand total of 61 game minutes in 12 days, will relish his roe of villain much to the chagrin of the Heat faithful. You just can feel Pierce is ready to bust out after a pair of quite offensive nights too.

    So let’s see if they can make this a short series. The Bulls managed to hang on last night, so you never know. That series could extend well into next week. The Celts could find themselves with some extra down time before hitting the ‘Q’. They’ll only talk about the situation at hand, but I guarantee you one eye is on that rear view mirror.

  • Jay P

    I don’t think anyone expects a repeat of Game 2. The Heat will shoot better, Oneal and Beasley will start hitting their good looks (and they’ve had enough of them) but I don’t think the Celtics should change anything, even if that happens.

    They just need to keep up the intensity on defense, control the glass, and keep making that extra pass. If they do that, this game will certainly be closer than Game 2, for the simple fact that I expect the Heat to shoot much better on their court, but the Celtics will win.

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  • Jason

    It is virtuous to learn from your mistakes, but what is wiser is to learn from the mistakes of others first.

    That is to say, the Cavs and Lakers both blew HUGE opportunities last night in Game 3s. They could have absolutely locked down their series and also set themselves up better for their next series, but they didn’t seize the opportunity.

    Please Celtics, learn. Do not ease up tonight. Come out with maximum intensity and focus. Show your fans you meant it when you kept saying you could flip the switch when you wanted to. Put the Heat away. Put the NBA on notice that you are completely back. No letdowns. Get it done like both #1 seeds couldn’t.

  • Jason

    Btw, the second example where Haslem has the ball on the left baseline, TA’s fronting Jermaine and Arroyo is WIDE OPEN on the weak side works against the Heat, but won’t against others. Yes, Jermaine has mismatch, BUT, if he set a very simple back screen, TA would have no chance to defend Arroyo on a skip pass. EASY three pointer (for Carlos or Q if Pierce rotates). Thing is, Jermaine is majorly selfish. Would it occur to him to make a team play like that? Absolutely not. He wants his so he’ll fight for position and call for the ball. And in just a split second, the D has recovered. This is why this guy has never been a winner.

    Against the Cavs, this will absolutely not work. If it’s Varejao down low, he will absolutely set that screen and it will be Parker or Jameson or Williams on that weak side. The Cavs will make that pass and those guys will knock down those shots.

    This is basically why I wrote in an earlier thread that I’m waiting for the Cavs series before I can believe the 2008 D is back. This defense, this play will fail against the Cavs, which occasionally is fine, no D is perfect. But if it happens a time or two, will the Cs fold? Will they get frustrated and start slacking and basically let the Cavs do whatever they want? Or will they stay determined and keep up their effort and their rotations and make every possession as difficult as they can? That’s the test that will definitively answer whether the C’s D is really back.

  • DeVelaine

    Why change anything? Because we can’t believe that the other Heat players aren’t going to be hitting open shots.

  • DRJ1

    In the first 2 examples, the Heat fail to make the right pass… for whatever reasons… but guys were wide open in both. In the last case… well, Beas just missed his shot. It was actually a pretty hole in the Cs’ D. But maybe they’re just ok with giving Beas that shot.

  • Perry

    @Jason

    I doubt the Celts of today can replicate their ‘D’ of yesterday, but there is a noticeable up tick.

    To your point on O’Neal, there was a day when he could afford to be selfish, but they are now few and far between.

    The Cavs weak side scares me too. Lebron is going to test those rotations, and will find a way to seek out that one Cavalier who has the hot hand.

    The good news is Mike Brown has opted for the lumbering front line instead of using the more athletic combination of Hickson. Moon and Varejao. If you remember the game where Shaq hurt his thumb, it was Hickson and Varejao. and D. West who clawed Cleveland back in the game. I’d be very happy if Brown sticks with Shaq and ‘Z’ because Perk and Sheed are capable of neutralizing them, and Kevin will get the best of Jameision on most nights. Davis must match Varejao’s energy, but first things first.

    @DRJ

    No question Miami missed some wide open shots. They shot a decent percentage from 3 during the regualr season, so I expect more of them to go down at home. Arroyo is maybe one guy you can cheat off, but Beasely must be accounted for. As you know, any defensive scheme can break down with that extra pass. Only Miami is guilty of what Cleveland does at times by playing 1 on 5.

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  • Cptn Bubbles

    IF Wade is going to beat us make him carry the full load. Make him shoot all deep jumpers & block him out constantly. It is hard to jump up there and dunk the ball off of an offensive board when somebody is banging into your body & forcing you to take a roundabout path to even get to the rebound. It only takes a few seconds of obstacles for the rebound to be secured. Our guys are really bad at shot watching. The ball goes up & they turn to stone watching to see if the ball is going in. Wade shoots the ball (or his teammate shoots the ball) and he IMMEDIATELY starts to sprint for the basket/rebound. If you look at replays nobody is putting a body on him to keep him out of the lane after the shot goes up. You cannot expect our bigs to block out their man AND KEEP DWAYNE WADE OFF THE GLASS AT THE SAME TIME. TA & Ray have got to stop turning their backs to watch the shot & instead put a body on Wade till the rebound is secured. Keeping Wade out of the lane is step 1. Keeping Wade out of the lane on rebounds is step 2=the finishing step. Turning around to watch Wade’s shot & giving him a free run into the lane right by you is playing stupid basketball.

    If the Heat can win by shooting over 50% on deeper jump shots then I can live with that, but we don’t want to see a lot of easy shots or offensive rebounds. If they take the deeper shots then the rebound is going to be long so Rondo, TA, Paul, Ray need to jump down & snag it instead of bolting up the floor assuming someone else will get it. I like seeing Glen & Shelden in the game because they bring energy & the Cs make more attempts to attack the paint when they are in there.

  • Chris O

    @Jason – The problem with you Oneal backscreen theory is I don’t think Haslem can get that ball to Arroyo…especially with a skip pass…yes the Cavs may take advantage but this is not a clear open pass and would take skills like LeBron has, I doubt many other players can or would make that pass.

    @DRJ1 – I think it has less to do with Miami failing to make the pass and more with many times the pass just wasn’t really there or really didn’t put the offense in a better position. Just because a guy looks open doesn’t mean there is the right angle to make the pass, or that the player with the ball is currently able or has the skill. Watching Rondo should teach this as he makes many passes few if any other players can make…

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