Last night’s game versus Orlando did have a cool little play, but it also illustrated some defensive lapses from the Heat, especially Chris Bosh. Bosh was caught ball-watching and not paying enough attention to his man.
For example, let’s take a look at this pick-and-roll situation that occurred early in the Orlando game.
Jameer Nelson is dribbling at the top of the key, with Mike Miller guarding him. Tobias Harris jogs toward Miller to set a screen.
Miami likes to hedge hard on pick-and-rolls, so much so that in last night’s game it seemed that they were almost trapping on pick-and-rolls. In case you don’t know what a hard hedge is, a hard hedge is when the screener’s defender (in this case, Bosh) steps out and defends the ball-handler (Nelson) to prevent dribble penetration and to give the ball-handler’s actual defender (Miller) time to recover from the screen. Bosh has started to hedge even before the screen has really been set on Miller.
Harris recognizes that he is essentially unguarded, and so slips the screen. I don’t know why Miller doesn’t switch with Bosh now that he knows Harris slipped the screen — maybe he thought he couldn’t guard Harris, or maybe he didn’t know where Harris was.
Jameer Nelson threads a nice pass to Harris. Once Harris catches the ball, he has a pretty much unlimited range of options: if a Heat defender steps out on him a teammate will be open for a corner three or an easy two, if a Heat defender doesn’t step out on him, he can shoot the uncontested free-throw line jumper (which he does, and makes).
In the next example, Bosh is guarding Maurice Harkless. This is a bit of a mismatch as Harkless is technically a small forward, but Orlando was going small all night (Jeff Van Gundy was saying it was “the smallest lineup I’ve ever seen”) and so Harkless was the Magic’s tallest player on this play.
Harkless enters the ball into the low post and Bosh tries to deny. Notice how Miller is already leaving his man and double-teaming even before the ball has left Harkless’ hands.
You can’t see it too well, but you can kinda see Bosh looking over his left shoulder to see what the action is on the low post. The weak-side defender (I think it is LeBron) still hasn’t rotated on the wide-open Jameer Nelson.
When he looks back, Harkless cuts toward the baseline, leaving Bosh flat-footed. LeBron finally starts to move towards Jameer.
Harkless receives the ball around the baseline. Around this time, Miller should have shaded towards the baseline to cut off the baseline drive, so Miller is a little late on his help defense. LeBron has Nelson fully covered at this point, and is anticipating challenging Harkless.
You can see why Miller not preventing (or at least slowing down) the baseline drive is important here: Bosh is still completely out of position, and Harkless has an easy layup attempt.
I am not trying to say that Bosh is the worst defender in the NBA, but he is prone to ball-watching and over-anticipating, especially on pick-and-rolls. NBA offenses are so good that those little hesitations and over-anticipations lead to significant defensive breakdowns and easy shots.