Last night’s game was one of the more entertaining games of the Miami Heat’s season. Though it may not have been among their best performances, the Heat were in the game despite poor shooting, ball movement and defense at times.
After Chris Bosh, who made eight of his 19 shots, tied the game with a three-pointer with just a few second left, Norris Cole committed an egregious foul to put the Timberwolves on the line. Minnesota took a one-point lead and the Heat had 1.4 seconds left to get a shot up.
Getting a quality shot with such little time is tough for any team, but Miami’s execution was especially confusing for a couple of reasons.
The first reason being that Shane Battier, who hadn’t played all game, was put in to do the inbound.
Rashard Lewis, who played much of the game over Battier, inbounded the final play vs the Indiana Pacers a few games ago and could have done this one.
Now, it isn’t the worst idea in the world to pass the ball to Allen—the greatest three-point shooter of all time and the Game 6 hero—but this was his first game back from a virus that left him bedridden and was just 4-9 from the floor at the time of the play.
Battier is the inbounder with Ronny Turiaf covering. Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Allen are in a bunch at the top of the key. LeBron starts in the low post and Battier actually had an opening for a quick bounce pass, but 1.4 seconds is too little time for a post up.
A series of screens to get an open look before the pass is the better option and that is what the Heat did.
Bosh, who missed the final shot against Indiana a few games ago, clears out to the far side in order to stretch the defense. Chalmers pulls Rubio out and away from the play to do the same.
That means this is, essentially, a three-player dance involving LeBron, Allen and Battier. You can see LeBron and Allen moving into position, with LeBron in position to set a hard screen on Love.
Well, that doesn’t look like a hard screen. Instead, LeBron bumps Love and continues his movement toward the opening at the peak of the arc. Love is hardly fazed and sticks to Allen.
LeBron is open for the pass and so is Allen. Both players are ready for the ball but LeBron was clearly expecting it, evidenced by his faux-screen on Love in the previous screen grab. Turiaf does a great job of angling his body to make a pass to LeBron more difficult. This simple angling may have won the game for the T’Wolves because LeBron is very open.
Battier makes the easier pass to Allen, who ends up taking the long two. Had he passed to James, James would have needed to turn around and take a long three-pointer. Still, he probably would have had more balance and definitely a more open look without Love barreling down on him.
Because LeBron didn’t commit to the screen, Love is able to contest the shot perfectly. The combination of the clock and Love made this shot nearly impossible for Allen.
Still, the blame doesn’t go to LeBron. Some of it goes to the Erik Spoelstra and Battier, who could have done a better job foreseeing and communicating that Allen could very likely end up with the ball and that James should make sure to set a strong pick. You could blame Spo, too, for opting to go with Battier instead of an in-rhythm Lewis. Still, Battier could have been more patient and led LeBron to the peak of the arc with a pass.
How much better is that more risky pass and long-distance shot than what Allen got? If perfectly executed, James could have gotten a cleaner look, though it would have been rushed. But if the pass wasn’t perfect, he wouldn’t even gotten a shot off.
Most of the credit goes to Minnesota’s defense and, specifically, Turiaf and Love. Turiaf’s angling and Love’s defense (!) in combination made it extremely difficult for the Heat and ended an exciting and long the game.