Game ones are about advanced scouting, players acclimating themselves to the heightened pressure of the playoff environment and prodding your opponent to see what works and what doesn't. Game twos are all about adjustments. Both teams learned a lot in game one, tonight we're going to see if they found anything they can exploit.
The first adjustment we're going to need to see is how the Sixers handle the zone. If you didn't see this post on NBA Playbook, check it out. In it, Sebastian Pruiti shows how the Sixers struggled against the zone in game one. Pruiti wraps it up by saying Miami used the zone on 10 possessions. On those possessions, the Sixers scored only 6 points. That may not be a big deal, but consider this: On the other 76 possessions, the Sixers scored 83 points (an OFR of 109.21).
The main adjustment Collins needs to make is in his rotations. When Miami first broke out the zone, the Sixers had a terrible lineup on the floor. If/when Miami decides to use it, Collins needs to get Meeks in the game immediately. He's your zone buster. Move the ball quickly from side to side, get the ball to Jodie with some space. If Miami overplays the zone to account for Meeks, then you drive. Without Meeks in the game, the zone can collapse, with Meeks on the floor, you can string it out and/or get really good looks. The other adjustment is to send all three bigs to the offensive glass. Leave the guards back to protect against runouts, but the bigs need to be shooting gaps and getting second-chances.
As far as Miami's adjustments, you'd have to think they're going to go with more zone, making everything I wrote above even more important.
In game one, it seemed like Collins was reacting to Spoelstra's substitutions at times. Tonight, look for him to press the issue. If Spencer Hawes starts this game looking as bad as he's looked for several weeks, Collins will probably go with a small lineup early. I think it would be a good idea to get Thad in there against Miami's big lineup, with Ilgauskus at the five and Bosh at the four. This is giving up a ton of size on the defensive end, but it's also nearly a guarantee that the Sixers will be able to run off misses. There's no way Bosh or Z is going to be able to keep up with Thad streaking down the floor, plus you've got Iguodala and Jrue to initiate the break off either a defensive rebound they grabbed, or a quick outlook from EB. The key to being able to play this lineup against Miami's big lineup is going to be Elton Brand's work on the defensive glass. He absolutely must do a better job on the defensive glass tonight. Iguodala and Jrue are also going to have to continue to chip in back there. Send one of them to the defensive glass on every shot, while the other hovers on the perimeter, ready to take off down the floor and handle it on the break. Then, of course, you have to finish on the break. They left too many points out there by blowing layups in transition. I'd also love to see a couple of transition threes from Meeks when LBJ and/or Wade get back to defend the hoop on a runout. This is on Jodie and the other guys, he needs to drag behind the break while someone else fills the wing at the hoop and the team's progression should be: dunk, Jodie three, go into the defender and get contact, in that order.
Not really adjustments, but keys nonetheless:
- Lou, you need to show up. I don't know how bad that hamstring is, but they need scoring from him off the bench.
- Whoever's guarding Wade should be screaming at him the entire game. See how he handles that with a migraine. That's a joke, but I'm serious about this. Make him pay every single time he drives the lane. No matter what you do, he's getting to the line 10+ times, make him earn those freebies. Don't just contest the shot, send him to the floor. Just assume that a good contest is going to result in a foul called, anyway. That should be the end result of how the refs have shown they're going to call this series. When games are called this tight, make them more physical, not less. If you don't have a chance to play solid defense without fouling, screw the solid defense and just hack the hell out of him. The same goes for LeBron, though LeBron's frame makes it hard to send him to the floor. Just wrap up his arms so he can't get off the circus shot.
- Trim the rotation. Going 11 deep isn't going to work, not when they wind up with 4 reserves on the floor at the same time and hope it works out. The Sixers have two day so off before game three. If they go down 2-0 in this series, pretty much all realistic hope has to be lost. This is do or die, push Brand, Jrue, Iguodala, Meeks and Thad all up to 40 minutes if you need to.
That's all I've got. The tip is at 7pm on TNT. Game thread will land at 5:30. Share your keys and adjustments in the comments.