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Breaking Down A Breakdown

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Jordan Kahn breaks down the latest NBA trends in video form. You can find more of his work at Basketball Things and follow him on Twitter @AyoitsJordan.

The beginning of the fourth quarter of Sunday’s Heat-Knicks game had fans anticipating a down-to-the-wire finish. Instead, Miami turned a four-point deficit into an 11-point lead.  Let’s take a look at what went right and wrong for both teams.

The Knicks fourth quarter downfall began with a strong defensive play by J.R. Smith and a fastbreak dunk. After the dunk, Smith took a moment to recognize his great play instead of getting back on defense. As the video shows, Smith trails Dwyane Wade when he gets the ball at halfcourt and signals to Steve Novak to contain (possibly trap) Wade. Smith funnels Wade in Novak’s direction, but Novak leaves to cover someone away from the ball. Wade’s aggression leads to confusion among the New York defenders and a cheap bucket.
 

On the next Miami possession, Smith makes another defensive mistake. As Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh run the pick-and-roll, Smith doesn’t appear to have any inclination to help. Carmelo Anthony is clearly denying a potential pass to LeBron James, so he doesn’t have help responsibilities on the roll. Smith isn’t denying Wade and he isn’t helping Tyson Chandler contain Bosh. Bosh finishes the play with ease.
 

Despite the lack of points, the Knicks had some solid offensive possessions. On a Carmelo isolation/post-up, Landry Fields makes an excellent cut along the baseline. He sneaks behind the defense for what looks like an easy layup. However, Chalmers and Bosh communicate well on the play. Chalmers keeps Chandler out of the play as Bosh reacts quickly to get the block on Fields. This was a great cut by Fields and a great pass by Carmelo, but it was even better defense by Miami.
 

On this Knicks’ possession, they do a great job of driving and kicking to the open shooter and making the Heat defense rotate, something they have struggled with recently. Carmelo finds Smith open at the three point line, who then drives and beats the scrambling defense with a pass back to Carmelo.  Unfortunately, Chandler has spent about five seconds in the lane at that point and the refs finally noticed. Chandler is usually quite aware of his surroundings, but this time he missed his chance to get out of the lane as he anticipated a shot going up. This was another good offensive possession that ended up with no points.
 

After the Chandler three-second violation, the Heat went to Lebron in isolation. As Lebron goes through his series of jab steps, Chandler is jumping in and out of the lane. He’s ready to help on a drive and also avoiding a defensive three-second violation. With all of the focus on Lebron, Chandler and Iman Shumpert confuse their rebounding assignments. Both Chandler and Shumpert go to box out Wade under the basket, while Joel Anthony finds himself wide open for an easy putback.
 

Later in the quarter, Wade makes another heads-up play as he pushes the ball and gets into a pick-and-roll quickly. The Knicks defense isn’t yet set, and Chandler is forced to switch onto Wade. With a clear mismatch, Wade catches Chandler backing up and hits a jumper in his face.
 

With the lead stretched out to nine, the Knicks needed a basket to stay in the game. They would go to Carmelo Anthony for that basket. When Chandler sets a screen on Lebron, Carmelo correctly reads Lebron’s positioning and curls around the screen, toward the basket. If Lebron cut under the screen instead of going over the top, Carmelo could have popped out to the three point line. Baron Davis makes the incorrect read and anticipates Carmelo fading out to the three point line.  His pass goes into the stands, and the Knicks lose possession.
 

Whether through miscommunication or bad luck New York had too many empty possessions in crunch time. Miami, on the other hand, took advantage of the various defensive miscues that they faced.

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