We’ve seen it on so many occasions this season.
I’m not speaking solely of the Miami Heat being in a position to fall at the hands of defeat to an inferior opponent, although that has occurred far too many times. No, what I’m speaking of is this team being in that position, against any opponent, and ending up having to rely on the shooters to bail them out. This time against the Dallas Mavericks, it was Shane Battier hitting the corner-three that would put the Heat up two with 14 seconds remaining.
Although Dirk Nowitzki would tie the game up ten seconds later to send it into overtime, the Heat would still end up winning a game they had no right winning, considering they were down 100-94 with 3:37 remaining.
The Battier three occurred as a direct result of the Mavericks’ defense collapsing to defend the drive of LeBron James. How many times have we said that before? We saw it happen against Denver when James’ influence led to a Ray Allen three, when he drew a triple-team to get an open shot for Allen against Cleveland, and when he drew the attention of just about every San Antonio Spurs defender that ending up leading to a wide-open three, once again, for Ray.
And those are only the game-winners. LeBron’s influence has led to plenty of other daggers from Ray, as well. The only difference in the game against Dallas was that it was Battier taking the three. That’s the beautiful thing about this Heat team. Who do you guard in those moments?
Do you put an extra man on Dwyane Wade: The notoriously clutch shooter?
What about Chris Bosh? He only hit a game-winner in the NBA Finals.
Ray Allen and Shane Battier? We’ve already ran through that.
Or do you just trust your defender to stick on a determined LeBron James, who will be doing everything he can get to the rim?
That’s quite the dilemma for the defense. It’s also difficult to keep your composure in those types of situations. As much as you want to fault Corey Brewer and Dion Waiters for leaving Ray Allen and allowing him to take an open three-pointer, they still had good intentions of double-teaming the most feared slasher in the game. If LeBron James wants to get to the rim, he can do so against any defender in the league.
It’s also the smart thing to do, even if you’re leaving the likes of Ray Allen or Shane Battier open. The defense is still giving up a low-percentage shot, rather than possibly giving up a high-percentage LeBron James layup. There’s no doubt that coaches are telling their players to watch out for an Allen three-pointer, but it’s a natural tendency of any defender to not give up a layup.
Plus, it works out sometimes. If you live by the three, you also die by it and that’s exactly what has happened in a few losses. As good as Allen and Battier are when it comes to shooting in crucial moments, they can’t hit those shots every game. Take the Heat’s loss against the Washington Wizards as a prime example. The Heat attempted a frantic comeback and ended up losing because Allen and the rest of the Heat shooters couldn’t make their shots.
Ray Allen may be the best three-point shooter in NBA history, but he’s also a 40 percent career shooter from deep. That means he’s making four out of every ten three-point attempts. You can only rely on that type of percentage for so long before there is a regression to the mean and that’s exactly what we’ve seen in a few of the Heat’s close losses.
The Heat currently rank tenth in three-point attempts, sixth in three-pointers made, and second in three-point percentage. Shane Battier leads the team with two three-pointers made per with Allen a close second at 1.8. Rashard Lewis’ three-point percentage leads the way at 48 percent, but as far as legitimate rotation players go: it’s Ray and his 45.6 percent shooting from deep that leads all rotation players.
Battier is a close second at 42.4 percent. The Heat currently have five players shooting at least 40 percent from deep. They trail only the Oklahoma City Thunder in three-point percentage, but the Thunder are also taking three less three-pointers per game than the Heat.
It seems like it’s going to be like this the rest of the season. The Heat are obviously adopting a strong approach to this new offensive philosophy of relying on their shooters to bail them out in crunch-time situations. And why shouldn’t they? Miami has never played this well in late-game situations, which is coming as a direct result of there being less pressure on LeBron and the rest of the Big Three because there are notorious clutch shooters now playing alongside them.
Things become a lot easier when you have only the greatest shooter in NBA history on your side.