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Thinking About the Heat

 

The Heat are the story of the 2010 NBA season. We haven’t seen three guys this good on the same team in their absolute prime years since the mid-1980s—if we even saw it then.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the Heat. What sort of pick-and-rolls will they run? Will Erik Spoelstra give crunch time minutes to what, on paper, appears to be Miami’s best line-up: James-Wade-Bosh-Haslem-Miller? Will the Heat accelerate the re-definition of positions in the NBA? What are their weaknesses? In what ways are they going to be even better than we expect?

And most of all: How can the Celtics go about beating them four times in seven games, if it comes to that?

There are a million ways to think about these questions. That’s what makes the Heat exciting—we don’t know yet what we are going to see.

One thought among the many that keep popping into my head: Will the C’s have a hard time forcing turnovers against Miami?

The C’s shot through the Eastern Conference playoffs in large part because they played insanely good defense—significantly better than the defense they played in the regular season, which was top-5 quality in its own right. Among the things that changed in May and June: The Celtics began forcing a ton of turnovers against teams that didn’t typically cough the ball up at a high rate.

Some numbers:

The Heat in the regular season averaged 13.2 turnovers per game and turned the ball over on 12.8 percent of their possessions. Both of those numbers were better than the league average.

In five playoff games against Boston, the Heat turned the ball over 17.8 times per game—the equivalent of a turnover on 17.3 percent of their possessions.*

The Cavaliers in the regular season averaged 13.9 turnovers per game and turned the ball over on 13.4 percent of their possessions. Both of those stats are around the league average.

In six playoff games against Boston, the Cavs committed 16 turnovers per game—the equivalent of a turnover on 17.5 percent of their possessions.

The Magic in the regular season committed 14.1 turnovers per game and turned the ball over 13.6 percent of their possessions. Both of those numbers were near the league average.

In six playoff games against Boston, the Magic turned the ball over 15.7 times per game—the equivalent on a turnover on 15.7 percent of their possessions.

* Turnover rates calculated using Basketball-Reference’s formula to estimate possessions.

The Celtics decimated these teams by forcing turnovers. Through three rounds, the C’s were forcing turnovers at a rate the league hadn’t seen in the playoffs since the late 1990s, when hand-checking was legal and turnover rates were higher across the board.

I was struck at the time by how Boston was forcing turnovers, particularly against the Heat and Cavs. If you watch the tape of those games, you’ll see Dwyane Wade and LeBron James committing a ton of turnovers on screen/rolls. The C’s ran multiple players at James and Wade as they dribbled around screens, and they rotated aggressively along the back line to cut off the pass to the roll man. Watch those games, and you’ll see a lot of possessions on which Wade and James, hounded on the perimeter, force insanely difficult passes through thickets of Boston arms toward guys under the hoop or on the weak side.

A lot of those passes came as Wade and James negotiated their way to about the foul line before deciding it would be better to pick the ball up and pass it.

Wade committed 26 turnovers in 5 games against Boston.

James committed 27 in 6 games.

When I think about the 2011 Heat, I wonder how the Celtics could ever pull off numbers like those against them. Could they really pay that much attention to James on a James/Bosh pick-and-roll if Bosh is the one rolling, Wade is lurking on the near side and Mike Miller is spotting up in the opposite corner? Could they run the screener’s man out at James, gambling that the rest of the defense could find Bosh—one of the very best pick-and-roll men in the league—before James whips a pass his way?

Could they load up in the paint if Wade and Miller are the ones away from the ball instead of, say, Carlos Arroyo and Quentin Richardson?

Again: This is just one thing I think about when I contemplate the new Heat. They will not be indefensible, though they have the potential to be as efficient an offensive team as the league has ever seen. Still: there will be ways to at least contain them.

But the C’s blitzed through the East last year behind a ferocious team defense, and forcing a huge pile of turnovers was one of the two or three most important components of that playoff defense. Having three of the most talented offensive players on Earth in the same line-up would seem to ease the burden on each of them and reduce the likelihood that any individual player will have to try something very difficult in order to create a scoring chance.

If the Heat play the right way, it should be very, very tough to force them into 16 or 17 turnovers in any post-season game.

If that turns out to be the case, the C’s defense will have to figure out other ways to contain Miami. They have the talent and the defensive mentality to do that.

Right?

  • Doc Doublechin

    Unfortunately, wrong.

    Not only is the Heat (at least) twenty times better this year, than it was last year, but the Celtics’ defense is also significantly worse, than last year. However boneheaded Tony Allen played on O, he will be very much missed on D, because he was the C’s best wing defender by far. Losing Tom Thibodeau may prove to be even more detrimental to the team defense. Also, Perk is out to start the season and he may not regain his 100% form until the playoffs start. Shaq is atrocious on the pick and roll and I’m not sold on Jermaine either.

  • Perry

    Right. They do have other ways to attack the 500lb. gorilla; size, depth, and a huge advantage at the point can counter Miami’s obvious holes. Will they be able to rotate on defense effectively as demonstrated in the playoffs? I doubt it, but I can unequivocally say every team will treat a match up with the Heat as a game 7.

    On paper its easy to buy into JVG’ s prediction, but The Heat are not infallible. There’s no denying they will be wickedly good at home, but on the road chemistry could an issue. I don’t believe Spokestra is the right coach who can bend their collective ears, and it’s plausible he might become the next Mike Brown of the NBA.

    We know what to expect from the core .. are they willing to check their collective egos in the locker room as the Celtics’ big three did? Who’s taking that last shot? Will they be unselfish to a point where it becomes a detriment to the team? Is Miller still a 3 point marksman? His conversion rate says so, but his attempts are way down. Can you win a championship with three solid gold assets and 8 veteran minimum contracts? There are a handful of teams that will say no … and the Celtics are one of them.

  • Jeff

    From a depth standpoint the Heat really only have Wade, James, Bosh, Haslem, Chalmers, Z, Miller, and Howard.

    Everyone else is pretty much scrap filler.

    If you take the scoring averages of all three of the superstars and combine those (which they won’t meet since they’ll have to share the ball) they collectively score 80.3 ppg. Factor in every one of the “serviceable” backups they have and it’s an average of 41.3 ppg from those guys.

    So running at absolute full 100% octane if you will with all three superstars playing at their peak levels (peak of when they were on their own individual teams) they’d at best average 121.6 ppg.

    There is NO way they will be able to get the super three those types of numbers all playing together, and work those averages from their backups. Obviously those stats are not a very acurate representation of the Heat since they’ll be totally different but the point is made.

    They’ll be a super high octane offense for sure, but does anyone really think they will get by ORL, BOS, HOU and LA with a frontcourt that consists of Joel Anthony, Z, Juwan Howard, and Jamaal Magloire? Really?

    Also, the Celtics will have an advantage at Center and PG. James and Wade are going to go bananas…I get that, but KG can take care of Bosh, especially since the dude’s never even sniffed a playoff series win. Rondo is going to torch Chalmers or Arroyo, and Ray will run Wade off screens all night because he will be FRESH! The bench this year will pay massive dividends come playoff time, because the C’s will be rested better than ever!

    PP, KG, Ray, and Rondo will all be fresh for the playoff’s like they have never been.

    No doubt they’ll need it, but I don’t see MIA being able to beat the C’s when healthy. They won’t have the depth or the interior game.

  • jp

    the celtics definitly have the at advantage at the point and on the inside, that’s where they can beat the heat, and pierce has always done a decent job with lebron in the past.

  • I love Green

    We’d sweep ‘em.

  • GreenIsDone

    Just a quick comment to those fans that acted tough, cocky, and entitled. Just watched the re-play of Game 7. A thing of beauty to watch the overrated Celtics fall to the Lakers and lose it all. We were so much tougher and stronger. Your horses were and will be TIRED.

    So to the entire team, coaching staff, front office, and of course every last die hard Celtic fan – fuck you, plain and simple.

    GO LAKERS. It will be a joy to watch your sad team fall again.

  • Christian

    There are some sad, immature, fanweather, stupid, and ignorant faker fans. (aka;The Second Rate Dynasty Team)

  • Animus

    @GreenIsDone: How about you gargle with cyanide. Rinse. Repeat. The Lakers we “so much tougher and stronger” Really? Than how did you squeak a four point win in Game 7 on your own floor with a +20 FT differential even though pts in the paint were identical. Gargle. Gargle and perish.

  • Stephe

    hey Greenisdone. I live in LA and I’m a Celtics die hard. Why don’t you give me your address so I can come over and you can tell me to fuck off to my face instead of some candyass message board?

  • wayne7779311

    Greenisdone is the biggest b-i-a-t-c-h that’s ever hid under the cover of a message board. I bet this little sissy would crap his dirty too-tight girlie pants if one of us Celtics fans could catch him in person.
    As i said, he’s the most limpwristed b-i-a-t-c-h that’s ever hid under the cover of a message board in history.
    Later for all that tough talk.
    …don’t hid behind curtains, your pink undies might show.

  • Rangatiratanga

    Way to beat the Heat is obviously inside,up front.It will be interesting to see how we do without Thibs and TA.

  • EddieInCA

    Die hard Lakers Fan here.

    50 years old. I remember, painfully, the Lakers losing to the Celtics in 1969, and the Knicks in 1970 before putting together that beautiful season in 1971-1972. I fondly remember the epic battles between Magic and Bird in the 80′s.

    I respect the Celtics. And I hope the Celtics and/or Orlando beat the Heat in next season’s playoffs. I’d love for the Celtics to play the Lakers again for a title. Why? Because it’s usually a great series, regardless of who wins.

    Go Lakers. Go Celtics.

    Screw the Heat.

    I’d love

  • NV

    Yes i will say on paper the Heat are a very very good team, nonetheless, they are not as good as it seems. Yes you have Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem who are good players in their own ways. Yes you have three of the top ten players in the league. But, after that you have three(Z, Haslem, Miller) players who are worthy of starting. After that all you have are role players. Unless the Heat play twice as good defense as the Celtics and score like crazy, they will not do jack in the playoffs. As We showed last yr. If you win enough games in the reg. season for a good playoff position the regular season doesn’t mean jack. I will(and am going to) laugh my @ss off when the over-hyped Heat go into the playoffs and LeBRON goes out again. Hopefully at the hands of the Celtics.

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  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    @zach: love your attention to the details.

    without a man-up stopper on the perimeter (unless they make a deal before the deadline)…i think this team will have to be more a “funnel and plug” defense than last year. use their speed/smarts on the perimeter to funnel into the bigs….use all the veteran backline depth to maximum advantage by being aggressive and using lots of fouls.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    i also think miami will break nba records for facing zoneD this year. most teams have no chance to man-up so will just make them shoot and hope they miss.

  • bobo

    Game #1 aganist any team whether its the champs or the league’s worst team from the previous season,will not tell you much about either team.Uusally,when a team comes together like the Heat has with new stars,they come out with a lot of focus and try to send a message to the rest of the league.I don’t put a lot of stock into game 1.If the Heat is geling and rolling by next spring,which most expect them to be thats when they need to take them serious and make the necessary adjustments to beat them.Right now its just “flexing of the muscles”time with most teams who feel they got to prove something.The Celtics are a proven team who already know who they are and have less to figure out.More weight will be on the Heat to come together and stay together from start to finish of their first season.Chemistry wise its a tough thing for newly constructed teams to do no matter how much talent is on that team.Personalities on/off the court has to stay as consistent between the starters and the role players.Im gald TA left our team this coming season,why?because its obvious he’s not happy or content any longer.An unhappy player can potentially becomes a locker room problrm,which could affect the play on the court eventually.Our biggest task is blending in our new acquisitions with the already solid core players.

  • Daniel

    Lets not forget the comment shaq made about bosh last season and the good reason behind it. He called bosh the rupaul of basketball, hes soft in the paint and cant bang with a traditional back to the basket bigman, shaq killed him for an average of 33 pts in 2 meetings last season. Rondo can defend just about any pg they throw his way, look what he did on cp3 and derrick rose in his career. As far as the statement about running pick and rolls and having to worry about mike miller on the wing, dont expect to see much of miller lebron and wade at the same time rondo will harass whomever they put at point the whole game and our depth at center is the best its been in years. Heat wont make it past boston or orlando, whos gonna rebound, lebron? comeon get real!!!

  • Daniel

    And to greenisdone, You barely beat us by 4 pts with all of your core players healthy. DOnt be so cocky our old horses took you to game seven and you only won game 7 cuz perk was out. OKC will be the team to beat in the west this year

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