David West entered the game with 8:37 to play. His first possession came on the defensive end, where he was asked to chase Ray Allen around screens.
He did not succeed in that assignment.
There were two screens set for Ray on the set, and while West did a nice job to get through the first one, he then made the terrible decision to go over a baseline (moving) screen by Chris Bosh. Allen faded to the corner — as he does better than anyone who has ever lived — then caught a pass and drilled a triple.
The Heat’s 2-point lead was now 5.
Here is the play.
For the rest of the game, West would continue to have trouble staying with Allen and Ray would make 3 more 3s as the Heat blew out the Pacers in the fourth quarter.
Oddly enough, however, West’s struggles and Ray’s other 3s were not at all related.
Two of the subsequent 3s would come in transition, and the third would come when West was guarding Norris Cole.
Yes, there was one other play in which West’s inability to stay with Allen led to points: a Bosh layup after Ray beat West and passed off. Then there was another possession that looked bad but ended up being harmless: when Ray lost West on a screen but missed a layup. And there was a set where West switched with C.J. Watson and Ray beat Watson around a pick to earn free throws.
But only one of Ray’s four 3s — and 5 of Miami’s 28 fourth-quarter points — were related to West being unable to cover Ray Allen individually in the half court.
Here are the other 3 triples that Allen hit.
You can say that this one is West’s fault, since he commits the turnover that allows Miami to run out on the break and get Ray a wide-open triple. But this was merely bad team-wide transition defense. Stephenson is particularly sluggish to get back.
On this one, we are also talking about a slow-break after a turnover that scrambles the Pacers defensive plan and leads to West covering Norris Cole. Lance Stephenson is who picks up Ray. After a series of attacks and passes by Miami, Cole gets into the lane where Hibbert is coming over to help.
The moment when the defense fails, however, is when Stephenson also helps, sagging way too far off of Allen in the corner. Cole kicks it out, and we can tell how much of a zone Allen is in by his ability to catch the off-target pass, adjust, and still stick the trey as Lance futilely contests.
The final 3 resembled the first: The Pacers turn the ball over and Miami pushes it down the court. Indiana gets back a bit better this time, with West picking up Cole on the wing. But Stephenson, the guy who turned it over, is super slow to get back, so the Heat run a well-spread 5-on-4. Hibbert is the only person in the vicinity of Allen, so LeBron makes the simple pass to a now-on-fire Ray, who drills the corner 3 before Roy can even consider contesting.
To recap: Ray hit 4 treys in a 6-minute stretch when Miami’s extended its lead from 2 to 15. One of those 3s came from Allen beating West, and the other three 3s came after live-ball turnovers by the Pacers that led to scattered, bad defense by the whole team.
As usual, Indiana’s failing was more of an offensive problem.
The turnovers, first of all, kept Indiana from getting shots up, and secondly, prevented the Pacers’ defense from getting set and allowed Miami to run away with a win. Maybe if they got back Ray would have torched West anyway, but that’s a hypothetical. Transition defense — and Miami just playing some superb basketball — was the bigger issue here.
This doesn’t mean that West guarding Allen isn’t an issue.
It is. It definitely is — as it was last year when Frank Vogel rolled the dice with the matchup at times. (He did something similar when West checked Jason Kidd against the Knicks in the second round.)
There were about 5 minutes of meaningful basketball in the fourth quarter when West checked Ray, and Ray was involved in an exorbitant amount of plays during that time. That is troubling. But Miami only got 5 points out of related breakdowns. It could have been more, no doubt, but you can’t blame the other 9 points from Ray’s 3s on the matchup with West.
Should Vogel mix things up? Maybe. This matchup is playing with fire.
It isn’t what burnt them in the fourth quarter in Game 3, however.