With a 2-1 lead still in pocket following Saturday’s Game 3 loss to Brooklyn, Miami heads into tonight’s matchup with the mindset of taking Game 4 and going back to AmericanAirlines Arena to close out the series. For that to become a reality, writer Jimmy Cook examines three objectives for the Heat to steal Game 4 from the Nets.
Guard the Perimeter: One can say that Brooklyn won’t hit 15 threes again in this series, but, as LeBron put it in his post game press conference, they will if Miami doesn’t make the adjustments. Defense was essentially non-existent in Game 3, and the entire second half felt more like a Nets shoot around than an NBA Playoff game. The Heat pride themselves on making adjustments as a series goes on, and tonight is a pivotal moment for them to do just that. Stay alert on the rotations and switches, and don’t fall asleep on Brooklyn’s cuts and ball movement. Those type of actions led to the Nets breaking a franchise playoff record on 3 pointers made that had stood for 7 years, but if Miami makes the adjustments they’re known for, a new drought for that record can begin…and the Heat can be one step closer to a fourth straight finals appearance.
Spread the Wealth Around: While it was great to see LeBron get off to a hot start in Game 3, once he cooled off the rest of the offense sputtered and disappeared into the New York night. 40-25. That was the final score of Bench points in favor of the Nets, and the only reason it was that close was because James Jones dominated once again in garbage time (he needs to be in the rotation, but that’s another story). The major issue that has to be stressed in these playoffs is that Miami’s second unit has to maintain or extend leads OR keep/rally the Heat back into games. This is something fixable, and it hasn’t been a reoccurring issues, but just incase it has to be adjusted… now, because while Miami might survive Brooklyn, they are going to need the whole team clicking on all-cyllinders in the future rounds….and yes I mean Indiana and the Western Conference.
BALL MOVEMENT and ATTACK the BASKET: Why is this one capitalized AND bolded? Simple: the Heat offense has been far to stagnant this in the playoffs. The games Miami has won, ball movement has been beautiful. However, as we saw first hand in Game 3, when only one pass is made in a possession and then the rest of the game is basically all iso, the Heat are forced into tough unnecessary shots. This is an avoidable situation, because Miami performs at their best when the offense is moving with constant cuts and screens, and when possessions feature multiple passes for a high percentage shot. Now isolation isn’t a bad thing, when it’s used in small doses. HOWEVER, when it does occur the Heat need to take the ball to the whole! Be aggressive and drive the lane from the get go. More often than not, even if the shot doesn’t go down, it will earn a trip to the foul line, which leads to more points for the Heat.
If Miami achieves the keys, they’ll be headed back to South Beach up 3-1, and only one win away from keeping the dream of a Trey by the Bay alive. If not, they could be in for a long series, with a potentially well rested Indiana Pacers roster waiting in the wings.