Michael Malone is usually the type of coach who leaves negative reviews on Yelp after vacationing in Shangri-La. But this time, his worries were spot on.
On Saturday, the day before Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Malone lamented his team’s poor defense in Game 1 of the series against the Miami Heat. Despite the continued absence of good shooters like Max Strass and Duncan Robinson and Denver winning the game, the Denver Nuggets had a number of wide-open 3-point shots by the Heat, Malone said. Told.
On Sunday, Strath and Robinson combined to make 6 of Miami’s 17 3-pointers. On a night when the Heat looked mostly behind, their 3-point shots saw them win the series one game at a time on their way to a tie. Somehow, I won with a 3-point difference of 111-108.
“There was a miscommunication, a broken game plan, a mix of people,” Malone complained afterwards. “We were lucky in the first leg. Tonight they decided it,” he added.
The Heat frustrated all of their playoff opponents this year with a jump shot they’d missed during the regular season. Over the past decade, most teams have focused on generating points from their most efficient shots, including 3-point shots, free throws, and shots to the basket. Miami has followed that trend to some extent. One of the worst 3-point shooting teams During the regular season, they were likely to score points by focusing on midrange baskets, led by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
That’s probably going to be a failed strategy against the offensive giants Denver. The Heat can’t match the playmaking of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon. For the Heat to win, they have to stay hot from within the 3-point range.
On Sunday, Miami manager Eric Spoelstra said the Heat’s offense was “more intentional” and suggested they planned to focus more on 3-point shooting.
“It doesn’t guarantee you anything either,” Spoelstra said. “But at least you give yourself the best chance.”
The Heat took their chances this postseason, showing that they are unlikely to make it to the NBA Finals as the No. 8 seed. Kevin Love, who joined the Heat mid-season, said he didn’t know about the team’s three-point struggle until coming to Miami.
“I always feel like there’s something closing the door to the regular season,” Love said, adding: And I think everyone felt that too. They had another level of confidence and understanding that if we just go out and play ourselves and play freely and fluidly, we will give ourselves a chance to win.”
During the regular season, Miami moved up the standings 3rd place in number of shots 10 to 14 feet away from the cage, 10th on shots between 5ft and 9ft. That doesn’t mean the Heat couldn’t hit threes. they were 10th. Attempts per match. I just didn’t make it.
The Nuggets had a 15-point lead in the second quarter on Sunday night. The match was on the verge of becoming very close. But Love, who hasn’t played in the last three games, hit a deep Miami shot to keep the Nuggets in sight. Miami made 8-of-17 3-pointers in the first half to help the Heat stay within six points of Denver at halftime.
The Heat hit a barrage of 3s and tied the game relatively early in the third quarter. Denver held on to the lead going into the fourth quarter, but a 3S allowed the Heat to keep the game in range and allow a comeback.
It was Robinson’s turn in the final quarter. His two 3-shots early in the game cut the Nuggets’ lead to 2 points. Miami trailed by at least 10 points, but ended up winning for the seventh time in the postseason. The record for double-digit comebacks in a single postseason in the last 25 years is tied by the Golden State Warriors in 2022 and the Heat in 2011 and 2012.
The Heat have some strong shooters, but they don’t include the team’s best players, Butler and Adebayo. Additionally, guard Tyler Herro, one of the team’s best shooters, missed most of the playoffs with an injured right hand.
Miami’s offense often revolves around Adebayo grabbing the ball with his elbow and using his passing skills, or Butler driving the baseline and using shot fakes and strength to create his own space.
In the playoffs, Miami flipped a switch. All of a sudden, that three-pointer started dropping at the elite clip. Going into Game 2, the Heat were the best 3-pointer in the world. 38.7% playoff advance rate.In the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, the Heat shot 43.4 percent. from 3 over 7 games.
Miami reserve center Cody Zeller said he thinks the regular season has been “inaccurate” when asked if he knew why the Heat suddenly improved their shooting power.
“The playoffs are more accurate about how good shooters our guys are,” Zeller said. “We weren’t surprised by the guys shooting in the playoffs. We’re even more surprised that we didn’t get a shot during the regular season.”
The 3-point shot, which teams rely on more than ever, is a high variability shot. It creates a lot of open looks on offense, but players still shoot the ball in a circle he’s 10 feet off the ground. You are more likely to fail than succeed. But when a team heats up for a few games, it doesn’t matter what the opposing team does defensively. The Celtics saw it, and so did the Nuggets in Game 2.
The Nuggets have more offensive weapons than the Heat. The Heat will need to keep hitting more threes to keep pace.
“As far as shooters go, it’s very easy. Just let it fly. Ignite. When you see two go down, it might go down to three, it might go down to six, that’s exactly what it is.” Spoelstra said Saturday with a snap of his fingers.
In the regular season, the ideal tactic for defending the Heat was to focus on Butler and Adebayo to lock down the center and push the ball into the perimeter.After all, the Heat hit a shot during the regular season 34.3 percent According to NBA stats, the numbers from 3-on shots considered open are low. An NBA defense can’t take everything from an opposing offense.
Strategy, in general, is about pushing your team towards something they’re not good at. The Celtics did just that, and Miami made them pay big. 42.1 percent With open 3 pointers.
When a team goes cold on deep shots, it’s tempting to focus more on hitting shots near the rim.Heat almost didn’t go to the rim in Game 2, only shooting 10 times in restricted area.
Miami heads home with the series 1-1 tie. Once again the Heat won a playoff game they weren’t expected to win with an unexpected shot.
“That’s the game,” said Butler. “Make the game or miss. Make the league or miss. We took some shots. They didn’t.”