The Miami Heat’s defense is one of the most aggressive in the league. They are always looking to trap pick-and-rolls, to jump in passing lanes, to send double teams. Having posted the 11th, 7th, and 4th best defensive ratings over the last three seasons, it’s clearly working out all right for them.
But that’s not to say this defensive aggression can’t hurt them.
The Heat are often looking to help on dribble penetration, and to double the post. Both of these are typical parts of a defensive system, but have to be executed well. In Games 1 and 2, Miami has been helping one pass away and doubling the post one pass away far more often than they should.
This has created a lot of open 3s for the Pacers, whose torrid 44.7% shooting from long range is giving it a huge edge over the normally accurate Heat, which are only hitting just 32.6% on 3s in the series so far. Yes, the Indiana Pacers, which shot 35.7% from deep in the regular season (17th best in the NBA), seemingly can’t miss in the Eastern Conference Finals.
George Hill has hit 6-of-12 so far (50%), Paul George is 5-of-11 (45.0%), and Lance Stephenson has make 3-of-6 (50%). Compare this to LeBron James and Chris Bosh, who have combined to connect on just 3-of-19 (15.8%) triples through two games.
To explain the relevant terms simply, helping one pass away is displayed here:
Being one pass away from the ball here, it is not Chalmers’ job to help off his man. It is LeBron’s responsibility, and he does correctly. But because of Chalmers leaving Hill, the Pacers get an open 3.
Doubling the post one pass away is fairly similar:
The necessity of doubling Hibbert in the post against Bosh is questionable, but regardless, it’s likely not Battier’s job to do so when he’s one pass away. Instead, Miami would be better served if somebody from the weak side comes over if the defense chooses to double.
In Game 1, 5 of the Pacers’ 8 made 3-point shots were because of Miami either helping one pass away, doubling one pass away, or just a general lapse in concentration defensively . In Game 2, just 2 of the Pacers’ 9 made 3s came this way.
For those keeping track, that’s 7 out of 17 threes coming due to bad defensive decisions that the Heat have been making all series.
Here’s the play shown in the example earlier, as Indiana gets the ball into Hibbert on the low block. Battier goes to double and stumbles on his recovery back to George, giving him enough time to make the shot.
A similar instance here, as Chalmers inexplicably comes over to double-team George when he is not at all needed. The defense is already collapsed in the paint, George will be met with them if he turns to the hoop.
Regardless, Hill gets a wide open look.
The full play of the example shown earlier, as George splits the double team and finds the open Hill again after Chalmers foolishly leaves him.
Noris Cole is the culprit this time, as he leaves C.J. Watson open to help on a drive that is already being contained. Chris Andersen and Ray Allen were both behind him to help in the lane.
Yet another instance of unnecessary helping, as Bosh is already beginning to rotate to contain the drive, but Wade still leaves Paul George in the corner from one pass away and gives up a 3.
Here, Stephenson hits West on the roll, and Chalmers leaves Hill in the corner to double West at the rim. West easily makes the pass around the double back to Hill, who makes the 3.
This last one is a bit more of a team lapse for the Heat, rather than for any particular player.
Wade – originally guarding Hill – picks up Hibbert as Birdman is recovering back to him, then points at Cole to pick up his man, Hill. Cole doesn’t, and Hill hits again.
Bear in mind, those are just the makes. There are far more instances of the Miami defense unnecessarily helping/doubling, and the Pacers not recognizing this and making the pass back out to the open shooter, or doing so and the shooter missing.
Indiana can’t necessarily make it a mission to exploit this, because they don’t have a say in when the Heat come to double. But by getting the ball into Hibbert and West in the post, and by being alert for kick outs during penetrate, it is bound to be a recurring trend.
Running pick-and-roll with Hill in the strong-side corner could work, too. Chalmers has continued to help off Hill despite his excellent shooting. Also, going small with West at center, and four 3-point shooters around him could puts more pressure on the Miami defense to stay at home on their men, which would in turn open up driving lanes for PG and Lance.
Erik Spoelstra has no doubt spent much of the last three days trying to get his team to remain more disciplined, but the Pacers must try to burn the Heat whenever they continue to over-help.
The Heat’s hyper-aggressive defense can beat you. We know this.
Who would’ve thought it could hurt them this much?