I wanted to review two things about Dwyane Wade’s 4th-quarter explosion: 1) What was Boston’s defensive strategy on Wade when he hit four consecutive three-point shots early in the 4th quarter? 2) How well did they execute that strategy?
Let’s take a look, one at a time:
Three-pointer #1 (11:08):
This is fairly standard screen/roll defense, if a bit more aggressive.
The screener’s man (Big Baby) jumps out to cut off Wade as Tony Allen fights through the Udonis Haslem screen. That does enough to prevent Wade from turning the corner on the first screen/roll.
Notice, though, that Boston is prepared for Wade to drive right if he chooses to do so. Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo are at the edge of the paint, far from Quentin Richardson and Mario Chalmers on the right side:
Both Chalmers and Richardson are open for a quick catch-and-shoot three if Wade makes the pass.
This defensive alignment is more concerned with Wade’s penetration than with the threat of Wade—or anyone else—shooting a three.
In any case, Wade resets he and Haslem run the screen/roll to Wade’s left. Big Baby jumps out again to cut off the penetration before rushing back to find Haslem on the roll. Tony Allen recovers, but the screen has given Wade a bit more space this time:
Still, TA contests the shot well.
Also in TA’s defense: He might be more concerned about the Wade drive on the second screen/roll, because Sheed is the only defender behind TA on the left side of the floor. You could also argue Davis should have tried to push Wade a step further from the basket by lingering there for an extra beat, but that’s dangerous, too, because Wade is such a good passer and Haslem is open in the lane as it is.
My verdict: Tip your cap. I have no problems with the D here.
Three-pointer #2 (10:36):
Wade comes off a baseline screen and works a two-man game with Joel Anthony on the left side. Anthony initially sets a screen to Wade’s right. Anthony’s guy (Rasheed Wallace) is getting ready to jump out once Wade decides what to do, while TA is doing a nice job being physical with Anthony and positioning himself to fight over the pick:
But then Anthony changes things up and sets a screen to Wade’s left. This appears to catch TA by surprise, because the screen hits him flush. It’s clear right away that TA is in trouble. But while Glen Davis leapt out at Wade, Sheed stays back near the foul line, leaving us here as Wade rises to shoot:
The initial reaction is to blame Sheed. And, after watching this play a dozen times, it’s obvious Sheed could and should have done more. Sheed doesn’t even get a hand up to contest the shot after Wade picks up his dribble and goes into his shooting motion. That’s inexcusable.
I can understand lurking a few feet from Wade while he’s dribbling. You’re Rasheed Wallace, you’re 35, and if you run at Wade too aggressively, he’s just going to burn you. And Wade hit only 30 percent of his threes this season; you shouldn’t defend him as if were Kyle Korver, because Wade is more dangerous when he gets into the paint on the bounce.
But once he picks up that dribble? Get your ass out there and get your hands up.
The verdict: Coulda done better.
Three-pointer #3 (9:12):
Eh. This is a crazy possession with an air ball, a loose ball that gets tapped around, a possible traveling violation by Joel Anthony (I think he’s OK, though)—a crazy sequence that ends with Wade sneaking out to the three-point line as the ball arrives there.
It’s hard to fault Boston here. You could argue that by this point in Wade’s supernova performance, someone should have been a foot away from Wade at all times. And I get that. But that’s asking a lot; a player’s first instinct will be to get the ball, and the C’s saw a chance to get the ball and went for it.
If there’s a breakdown here, it happens early in the possession, before the Heat get across half court. This trip turns “crazy” because Wade is able to break down the C’s defense immediately, forcing multiple defenders to collapse on him before he kicks to Haslem for the air ball.
And why is Wade able to do this so easily? Because the C’s fail to pick him up early. The possession starts when Wade rebounds a Sheed three-pointer. Here’s a still as Wade brings the ball up the court:
Boston has all five guys back, but there’s a problem. Look at Rondo pointing at half court. Mario Chalmers is ahead of Rondo in transition, and he’s signaling for Ray Allen to pick him up in the left side.
The problem: Rondo doesn’t realize until he crosses half court that he’s going to be responsible for guarding Wade. When he realizes this, he curves his path over to Wade on the left side, but Wade and Anthony have already seen their advantage and set up a fast-moving screen/roll in delayed transition. The screen is to Wade’s left—the “wrong way” as far as Rondo’s momentum is concerned:
Rondo’s in trouble, Big Baby (guarding the screener) hasn’t had time to get his feet set and prepare to defend Wade, and the play breaks down from there.
The verdict: Some bad luck, for sure, but as my Dad (and every Dad, I think) always says, you make your own luck.
Three-pointer #4 (6:11):
Because ABC was at this moment more interested in showing replays of Dwyane Wade’s mom than actual game footage, we barely catch a glimpse of Wade’s fourth three-pointer. From what we can see, it happens right off an inbounds pass and with Ray Allen right in Wade’s face:
There’s no screen/roll here, so there was no easy way for the C’s to send an extra defender at Wade; that theoretical second defender would have had to run on his own from the baseline all the way out to the three-point line. They started doing this later in the quarter, but not here.
The verdict: I’m fine with Wade shooting this shot anytime, even after he’s just drained three straight bombs. This is a classic heat check three, the kind everyone hammers LeBron and Kobe for taking. For a 30 percent three-point shooter such as Wade, this is a 20 percent sort of shot.
You live with it.
In the final analysis, only one of these three-pointers—the second—was the result of an obvious defensive mistake. The C’s should not re-design their defensive strategy to counter Wade’s three-point shooting—and the team is smart enough to realize this.
They had success in Games 1-3 over-playing the screen/roll in a way that was designed to limit Wade’s penetration and force him to give up the ball. Stick with that, and the C’s will take Game 5 in Boston.