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Three On One

Sporting two of the top five players in the league along with a top-15 big to clean up their sloppy seconds, the Heat are really a team of three. They have a couple guys who play their roles relatively well, but the big two-plus-Bosh are the engine behind a team that's capable of beating anyone when they play as a team, but more likely to get caught up in their individual greatness than team success. The question is how do the Sixers get the Heat superstars into a one-on-one game?

Before we get into how to slow the Heat in their half-court offense, we need to identify the overall top goal of the game: Make the Heat operate in the half court. Limiting turnovers and keeping proper floor balance on the offensive end are imperatives against this team. Wade and LeBron will leave early and beat you down the floor if you aren't vigilant. You have to limit those easy opportunities which fuel the Heat offense. Basically, keep doing what you've been doing.

Now, when the Heat get in the half court, the goal is to make Wade and LeBron (more LeBron really) operate as if it's a one-on-one game. They're both excellent players, excellent one-on-one players, but they can also both get into a mode where they shoot their team out of the game for long stretches, and more importantly, Miami's offense isn't as good when those guys just take turns isolating. They're much more efficient when LeBron and Wade are setting teammates up for easy looks in addition to getting their own. The best way to accomplish this is to leave them on islands. LeBron recognizes the difficulty in facing Iguodala, and he'll typically sort of shy away from trying to iso on him. If he does, he typically settles for jumpers. The more you can get him to do that, the better. Resist the urge to double LeBron, that's when he'll really make you pay. Iguodala's main job is going to be to stop LeBron's momentum in isolation situations. Don't let him catch the ball with a head of steam where he can just barrel into the lane.

Handling Wade is more difficult in terms of limiting his scoring. He runs the pick-and-roll, but mainly he runs it to score. He's great at reading the defense, he'll split the double if the big doesn't close the gap. If the small tries to cheat to get over the screen, he'll completely ignore the screen and go right by the small. There are two things you can do with those plays, either go under the screens and encourage Wade to take the open jumper, or double Wade hard every time. Really smother him out on the floor. I'd prefer the first strategy unless Wade gets really hot, in which case there isn't a whole lot you can do about it.

How you handle Wade and LeBron is less about slowing them down and more about limiting the easy opportunities for Bosh. I don't want to see Bosh left alone at the foul line. I don't want to see him catching the ball with a clear lane to the hoop. He's killed the Sixers in the past, and if your bigs are overly focused on the two wings, he's going to do it again.

On the offensive end, Miami has a ton of long athletes who are constantly overplaying the passing lanes and going for the defensive home run that turns into a dunk on the other end. Be patient, try to exploit that aggression by moving the ball and moving without the ball. Look for back doors, look for give-and-goes, and if they trap, make quick passes to press the advantages elsewhere on the floor.

Here are a couple of key matchups/indicators:

  • Miami is seventh-worst in the league with a 15.1% turnover rate. Exploit that and make the most out of your transition opportunities
  • Joel Anthony was Thad's kryptonite last season. It'll be interesting to see if Thad can pull Anthony away from the hoop with his improved jumper. If he can force Anthony to close the distance, or rush out to contest a jumper, he might just be able to get by him. They need Thad to have some kind of impact.
  • Every field goal attempt by Norris Cole is a win for the Sixers defense (excepting wide-open layups, obviously). The guy is pretty terrible, and he's still playing 20+ minutes/game. When he's in there, I'm fine with leaving him to double.
  • Chalmers, James Jones and Mike Miller have all been great from three this season. Battier has not. I still wouldn't advise leaving Battier alone in the corner, but I'd focus on the other three guys when they're on the perimeter.
  • Weather the storm. Miami will go on at least one monster run tonight. Stay within yourselves, get good looks, don't turn the ball over and don't let the game get away from you. They'll have cold runs as well, just stay collected out there.

The tip is at 7pm. Game thread lands at 5.
by Brian on Feb 3 2012
Tags: Basketball | Miami Heat | Previews | Sixers |