Over the next few weeks, Jordan Kahn will be providing video breakdowns of key sets and plays from many of the playoff games. Check out previous entires here. Find more from Jordan at Basketball Things and follow him on Twitter @AyoitsJordan.
In the fourth quarter of Game Three, the Miami Heat broke out a brand new lineup with LeBron James playing center. This small lineup was +12 in the quarter and brought the game back into striking distance.
Mike Prada noted that most of the damage done by the small lineup was when Kevin Garnett was on the bench. He’s right that Miami took better advantage of Brandon Bass; however, Miami was able to get some great looks against the Garnett-led defense as well. For a large part of the quarter they used a Wade-Lebron pick-and-roll to start their offense. Putting both Wade and Lebron in the middle of the action obviously attracts a lot of defensive attention. As a result of the focus on the pick-and-roll, Miami’s role players got plenty of open looks in the process. Let’s take a look at how it worked.
On this first play Lebron and Wade execute a dribble handoff, which acts similarly to a pick-and-roll. The Celtics switch assignments and Mickael Pietrus follows Lebron as he rolls to the hoop. Lebron’s roll attracts KG’s attention, but that leaves the Celtics shorthanded on the weak side of the floor. When Shane Battier sets a screen for Mike Miller, nobody is left to help out, and Miller gets a wide open three.
In the next clip, the play starts with another Wade-Lebron exchange and another switch by the Celtics. Rondo is now guarding Lebron in the post, which brings a Garnett double team. Shane Battier’s cut to the basket holds Keyon Dooling for a moment while the ball gets swung to Mario Chalmers. Dooling gets beat on his close-out and the rest of the defense cannot rotate to stop the eventual Lebron layup.
In this clip, the setup is again the same: a Wade-Lebron pick-and-roll and a Celtics switch. This time, Lebron shows off his unique skillset, as he makes a one-handed catch and pass to Shane Battier. Again, Lebron’s roll to the hoop forces help from Garnett, which leaves Battier wide open.
Battier misses, and of course the Celtics would rather have Battier shooting than Lebron. But an open corner three-pointer is about as good as it gets for Battier. Over the past two seasons, he’s shot 41 percent from the corner, well above his 36 percent total from three.
On this play, Miami runs a Mike Miller slip screen before going to the Wade-Lebron pick-and-roll. This time, Wade declines the screen and misses a really tough runner. Wade’s made this kind of shot before, but Miami was getting some really good shots off of ball movement. Wade had a few options on the perimeter if he didn’t shoot that runner.
Here we see one time where Boston didn’t send a quick double team. Miami runs the Wade-Lebron pick-and-roll to force a switch again. Lebron gets the ball in the high post and works hard (travels) for a good look that doesn’t fall.
Miami’s small lineup surrounds their playmakers with shooters so they can make Boston’s defense pay for helping. The Celtics will give Miami’s role players chances to make plays, but Shane Battier and Mike Miller have a better chance of scoring when compared with players like Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf. The small lineup gets Miami’s offensive non-factors off of the floor.