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Miami’s Fatal Flaw: The Three-Ball?

 

Let’s start with some full disclosure here. This is an article I had first planned on writing during the Celtics-Heat series after Game 3. Time ran short quickly unfortunately (a five-game series will do that) and I wasn’t able to crank it out in time. It happens. Luckily, my original line of thought about Miami still holds up thus far in the next round, although it comes as little consolation for Celtics fans.

As we all know, the Heat is down 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals to those pesky Chicago Bulls. After the Game 1 beatdown, the vast majority of the attention from the media were seemingly on a few glaring Miami deficiencies. There were the offensive rebounds (Chicago had 19), the second chance points, (31-8 edge for Chicago), the turnover mismatch (Miami 16, Chicago 9). Now don’t get me wrong, these were all worthy statistics of our attention, but there is one other category, which caught my eye.

3-point shooting Chicago: 10/21 – 47.6%

A terrific number for the Bulls, to be sure, especially for a squad that had only shot 33.6% from downtown in their first two series. This was just one game though. It would be foolish to take too much out of it right? Chicago was due for a hot-shooting night and they performed well in front of their home court, which they are perfectly capable of doing.

There’s just one problem with that perspective however. Sunday night was not an anomaly when it comes to Miami’s contests of the three-point line. Hot shooting nights for Miami’s opponents beyond the arc have been the rule, not the exception through this postseason thus far, as the Heat have allowed their foes to hit a alarming 43.4 percent of their treys from downtown in 11 games.

A look at history tells us that kind of putrid defense of the three-point line could very well be Miami’s fatal flaw in their quest for a championship this season.

Before we go any further, let’s take a closer look at the team’s performance limiting the trey, both during the regular season and this postseason.

If you look at strictly regular season numbers, my concerns about Miami’s D appear to be far fetched. The Heat weren’t a bad team at defending from downtown at all. In fact, they were a top-10 squad, holding their opponents to just 34.5 percent from deep, good for 9th in the NBA.

If we inspect the postseason numbers however, you run into a disturbing trend for all three teams Miami have faced thus far. High percentages from downtown, with all of the teams outperforming their regular season numbers.

Philadelphia: 32/82 – 39% (regular season-35.5% 15th in NBA)
Boston: 39/84 – 46.4% (regular season-36.5%, 11th in NBA)
Chicago: 10/21 – 47.6% (regular season- 36.1%, 13th in NBA)

There is a lot to be worried about here if you are a Miami fan. You can say that the Bulls outburst was a flash in the pain, but through 11 games this postseason, the Heat’s problems defending the arc have become a flat out trend.

You also begin to notice problems, when you compare Miami’s issues to the rest of the NBA teams this postseason. To start, on average during the playoffs, teams are allowing their opposition to shoot a mere 34.2 percent from deep, nearly 10 points below the Heat’s number.

Out of all 16 teams in the tournament, Miami ranks 15th (behind New York) in defending the trey.

If you narrow it down to the three other teams remaining in the Conference Finals, you run into more glaring deficiencies for Miami in it’s defense of the arc. Postseason numbers are in parentheses

Chicago: (32.5%-5th), regular season-32.6%-1st in NBA
Oklahoma City: (34.5%-9th) regular season- 36.1%-18th in NBA
Dallas: (27.1%-1st) regular season-34.3%-7th in NBA

As you can see, all three of these remaining contenders have improved on or maintained their stellar patrolling of the three-point line from the regular season. Or in the case of Dallas, demolished it, reversing course much like Miami has done from its regular season numbers, but in a good way.

There’s more damning evidence out there for Miami and its lackluster 43.4 percent mark though. Let’s cycle through the numbers for the past decade of NBA champions and how they defended their opponents’ treys in the postseason.

2010–Lakers 32.1%
2009-Lakers 31.7%
2008-Celtics-32.9%
2007-Spurs-34.7%
2006-Heat-32.4%
2005-Spurs 30.0%
2004-Pistons 27.7%
2003-Spurs 33.1%
2002-Lakers 31%
2001-Lakers 27.1%
2000-Lakers 36.9%
1999-Spurs 25.7%
1998- Bulls 31.3%

I stopped going back at this point, since it’s safe to say we can all notice a trend here. NBA champions don’t get beat from beyond the arc. Outside of the 2000 Lakers, none of these allowed more than 35 percent shooting from downtown during their postseason runs, and were on average hovering around the 31-32 percent mark.

If you look at that list right on now, you can safely call the Bulls, Thunder, and especially the Mavericks true contenders, based on their current postseason numbers. The Heat? Not so much.

It pains me as a Boston supporter to know that Miami got away with allowing 46 percent shooting from deep by the Green and lived to talk about it. The fact they took care of business in a mere 5 games is even more depressing and speaks volumes about the other problems Boston had within its offense during the series. That’s another topic for another team however.

All of this isn’t necessarily to say we should count the Heat out entirely. The playoffs are far from over, and in all likelihood the Heat will improve these numbers. They’ve also been stellar overall defensively through the majority of their 11 games, limiting opponents to just 43.4 percent shooting overall from the field, despite their high numbers from downtown.

They are also fouling minimally, (.191 FT/FGA-2nd lowest among playoff teams), contesting the ball extremely well at the rim (just 51 percent for Bulls on Sunday night) and had been holding their own on the defensive glass before Game 1 in the first two playoff series.

Therein lies the problem however. Unlike Boston and Indiana, the Bulls are the first elite rebounding team that has faced Miami all postseason. The Heat will have to fight tooth and nail to hold even with Chicago on the glass all series long to stay competitive in these games.

And what Miami can not afford to do, is continue to allow a mediocre three-point shooting team like Chicago to consistently get good looks at the basket all series long.

They got away with it against the C’s sadly, since they were so much better in other facets of the game (rebounding, getting to the free throw line, etc.), but the same will not be true of those categories against the athletic Bulls.

There’s still time for Miami to shore up its D and give Chicago a good run. If no change comes beyond the arc however, the lackluster contesting of the three-point stripe may turn out to be the Heat’s fatal flaw.

All numbers taken from Basketball-Reference.com, and Hoopdata.com

  • janos

    Bryan in list of NBA champion says laker too many time for my like.
    thank you.

  • Chris O

    OMG I just heard rumors are floating Rondo and Jeff Green for Chris Paul, that would lead to Dwight in 2012….please tell me this is real lol

    • I_Love_Green

      Where?

      • duggyfresh88

        I think it was on some Celtics blog. Nothing from anyone with any real inside information.

        • Chris O

          It was on sports radio, I believe it was Sean Grande, I'm not sure how much of truth it has to it. Then I saw someone writing a similar comment on a yahoo article about Ainge giving Jeff Green too much props

  • skeeds

    That's a good catch about the threes. Almost had me wishing they get to face the Mavs in the Finals. If Dallas managed to destroy the Lakers from 3 point lad, I can only imagine what Dirk, Kidd, Terry and my man Peja would do to the Heat.
    But naaaah… Thibs to the Finals! (although since we aren't getting a ring this year, it's about time Nowitzki gets one. That guy deserves a finals mvp as much as PP did)

    • Rex

      Right on. With the C's out, love to see Thibs in the finals and Dirk get his ring.

      • DannyAinge4President

        What? You don't want a Heat v. Mavs finals rematch… with Dirk winning it in game 7 in the final seconds, 40+ foot three-ball………as he collapses into a coma, induced by playing all 48 minutes?

        =)

  • Rex

    "Unlike Boston and Indiana, the Bulls are the first elite rebounding team that has faced Miami all postseason."

    Bingo. The 3-point shooting is an issue, I agree, but if the Heat have a fatal flaw, it's that Joel Anthony is the best C they got. Bulls killed 'em on the glass in game 1. Hard to see that changing in this series. Heat need to sign some rebounding bigs willing to take the mid-level exception to bulk up their frontcourt. Sadly, because I hate the friggin Heat, that should be easy for them to do. Verrrry attractive destination for vets who've made their dough and want a ring.

    • Chris O

      Did you tell that to the Heat tonight lol.

      • Rex

        Touche. Didn't think Haslem and Miller could come back and produce like that. If they can keep it up, it's a different story, for sure.

    • DannyAinge4President

      Worst-case scenario for the East :
      Heat come out with a championship this year, Dwight goes "hmmm…Miami is just a 30 minute plane ride away"
      Riley goes to work massaging cap under new CBA. =)

      • Mike

        Right….so he would sign for the minimum…. those guys are over the cap for the next decades

        • DannyAinge4President

          How about… New CBA which leads to Even Softer Cap in the next few years, and/or MLE option if available (~7-8 million in 2012-13 ?) + Heat win ring this season and 2011-12 (doubt it very much, but who knows) … DH realizes he's getting older and goes ring chasing down the Florida Turnpike for something like a 50% paycut (but that's ok, his endorsements would rise). The league screams "tampering" but it's merely Decision II, and Heat win rings next two-three seasons to close out wade/lebron/bosh/haslem/howard era.

          Never happen, right?

          Come on, C's need a real nemesis =)

  • greg

    Am I the only one to think Doc signing a new 5yr. contract all the sudden is interesting? Where did his new found confidence in the new Celtics, post big 3, come from?

    • Morpheus

      $7 mill will do it.

  • http://www.corderafamilydentistry.com Teeth Whitening Colorado Springs

    I have been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this blog. Thanks, I will try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your website?

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