Post-game Reactions

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; ┬áthat 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.

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Zach Lowe

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  • Greg

    Can you analyze the five straight free-throw misses (three for R. Allen and two for KG) and determine the probability of this series of events? It smells like point shaving to me, especially if you throw in a missed layup. Either that, or the ice “cold hand”…

  • @Greg. I hope you’re not seriously suggesting Ray Allen missed those shots on purpose.

    In any case, see the post right before this one for some of the math on the missed FTs.

  • Jason

    Rondo also missed a gimme layup earlier in the game. Two Rondo layups + an open Pierce 3 + two KG FTs + 3 Ray FTs = 12 points.

    Not to mention all the lazy hot potato they played in the first Q, plus the crazy Wade and Q shooting, plus no bench contribution. It was a perfect storm for the Heat and they still barely won. Have no fear Cs fans.

    Also, as we’ve seen with this team, they’ve shown a propensity to think they’ll win just by showing up. If they swept the Heat, I shudder to think how the Cs might interpret that as newfound superiority and not show up for the Cavs.

    Remember the 2008 Hawks series? It sort of became a learning experience that despite the early coronation, they would still have to earn it with full effort. Ultimately, the took it to Detroit at the Palace and they came back huge against the Fakers in LA.

    Perhaps this one loss is a good humbling experience. No taking quarters off. Lazy passes, missing layups and FTs is going to be very costly, etc. Now they can come back with a new determination and then take it on to the Cavs.

  • Perry


    Your points are a bit more sound than the conspiracy theories floated around.

    It’s one game. They’re up 3-1 and will close the Heat out tomorrow.

    The greater question is how do they play Lebron if they can’t match his scoring output? Wade was good enough to take one game. Can Lebron take two? Do you play him straight up or mix up the coverage with traps and some zone?

  • DRJ1

    @Greg– Following up a previous post — there were millions of $ to be earned, by the league and the Celtics, by having a 5th game in Boston. And if you look at some of those missed FTs…. they brick pretty hard. I don’t KNOW anything to enable any hard conclusions… but I do know that money is an extremely powerful motivator of human behavior. The more money, the more powerful the influence.

    It gets a little clearer if you turn things around and think about it again. With so much easy money laying there to be picked up, is it reasonable that the Celtics, as a business, would leave it all on the table just so that they could have the playground pleasure of a sweep?

    Bottom line… what you say is possible. We have no proof. But it does explain the otherwise-inexplicable.

  • I don’t believe Ray Allen’s contract gets him any additional money if a first-round series goes 5 games instead of 4.

  • DRJ1

    @Zach– Doubt it. But do you believe that there was a LOT of money at stake? And that it would all have disappeared if the Cs had won?

    The scary thought is that the same issues now apply to Game 5. But nah…… enough already.

  • Jason

    @DRJ1 C’mon. Time to give it up. You say there rewards are huge. Maybe. But to who? The league and the team. But who’s assuming the risk? The players first, then the team and league next. So, the primary actors (the players) are in an all risk, no reward situation. Just by economics, they would never participate. Then you start calling into question the character of people like Ray Allen. On top of that, you are saying whatever piece he might get of whatever piece the Cs get is going to mean anything to him. The guy’s already earned $100+ million. He’s going to endanger his entire reputation and career for what amount of money?

    Add to that, the risk of letting a team back into it. What chances are you giving yourself to now blow the series? Is that marginal chance of not even getting to the next round (where even more money is coming in, four more games on national TV, two at home at a minimum) worth the risk?

    Point is, you are going WAY overboard on this. You should really stop; you’re really discrediting yourself.

  • DRJ1

    @Jason– First, I’m not pointing to any specific conspiracy. I am pointing out a confluence of events and motivations. Second, all this “risk” talk of yours means that you are imagining HOW this kind of thing happens… but you can’t. We can’t. We can only point and say… ‘Gee, that’s funny. There were MILLIONS of dollars at stake, and they ended up losing through a highly unusual series of events. Smells funny.’

    You really cannot argue against this by bringing up specific issues… because there are none to argue against. Any specific point you make (like “risk”, or Ray’s part in it, etc.) IS “going overboard”, to use your phrase… because we know nothing about the specifics.

    Bottom line: This smells like something rotten in Denmark. And that can’t be reasonably argued.

    But hey… I don’t actually care. I rather think they’d be foolish to let all that money get flushed down the toilet.

  • Jason

    What an insane response.

    I can’t argue against your claim using specifics? What am I supposed to use then, generalities?

    Because something unlikely happened, using nothing more than “because I want to believe it” non-logic, something is fishy.

    And also, don’t bother trying to prove to me the non-existence of something because you can’t do it, so I must be on to something.

    My head is spinning. Are you sure you’re not a defense lawyer instead of doctor?

    And btw it would HAVE to be a conspiracy. Ray’s not making any money on his unilaterally.

    You have heard of the Black Sox, right? You know how complicated that was, how many moving pieces there were? Plus how difficult it was to keep secret and when it came out how devastating it was to all involved? You really think, at this point in time, the NBA, the networks, the Cs org and/or the Cs players would even conceive of never mind dare to take that risk? Is this really the tree you want to keep barking up, honestly?

    We watch sports because of the “you never know” factor. I remember Billups missing a few playoff FTs last year I think. Was he smelling funny? No. It happens. Seriously, give it up.

  • DRJ1

    @Jason– You need to give this some more thought. Don’t think you got what I’m saying.

    Not that it’s important or anything… well, it is… but not to me.

  • DeVelaine

    My only counter point to all of this “bricking on purpose” theory… Ray Allen attempted to miss a free throw on purpose I think last year. He missed so poorly, that he didn’t even hit the rim, and that’s a violation in that case. And the look on his face after the first one looped around the rim and out was one of “WTF? How did that not go down?”

  • Perry

    Come on guys. Didn’t you know Ray works undercover for Wynn Resorts?

  • Jeff

    @Perry: I think the Celts play LeBron pretty much as they have been playing Wade. both have to be walled out of the lane by help, both can be allowed (normally) to shoot 3’s or long 2’s with only regular hand-up pressure (Don’t foul, but minimize Rashee (no d)’s involvement, please).
    LeBron is a threat to take more than 1 or even 2 games because he has a real basketball team playing with him; he’s a better facilitator playing with better finishers.

  • Perry


    I’m with you. On those nights when he decides to play above the free throw line I would play him straight up. Protect the paint by sagging defenders. Never trap or double him and please do not allow a path on the baseline.

    They’ve had success in the past keeping his numbers reasonable when he controlled the ball, so I would let him dribble east to west and if possible limit his dribble-penetration. All of the above is easier said than done.

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  • RBD

    This conspiracy theory is the most half-baked thing I’ve ever read. Utterly ridiculous nonsense.

  • rav

    On a different topic:

    Yeah, anthony got the ball of before his foot touched the ground again. in any case, it looks like he was tripped by a Boston player (which caused the stumbling).

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  • shannon

    that is my favorite player right there bout to add this video on youtube