How Miami Bounced Back.
Ah how 2 games can change everything in a series, Games 2 and 3 seem like a lifetime ago now. While the series isn’t over just yet, The Heat of stormed back from the 1-2 hole they were in to take a 3-2 lead in the series.
How did it happen? How did the Heat go from a team I wouldn’t have been surprised if they didn’t win another game in the series, to a team I would be surprised if they didn’t advance to the Eastern Conference Finals?
The answer lies in the coaching. Yes the players have played well, Lebron putting up historic stat lines and D Wade returning to form after his nightmare Game 3 and shooting poorly in the first two games, but it was all made possible by Coach Spoelstra making some key adjustments. If people are going to call for him to be fired every time Miami loses, it’s only right that I give him his due when he answers the bell.
After Chris Bosh went down in Game 1, Miami relied on Lebron James a little too much. Not only was he called upon to carry a heavy scoring load, be the teams primary playmaker, he now had to crash the boards more than ever, and found himself having to guard Pacer forward David West. Unable to rest in the entire 2nd halves of games 1, 2 and 3 the effects of fatigue were taking it’s toll on the reigning MVP.
Bosh’s absence took it’s toll on Dwayne Wade as well. With Bosh on the court opposing big men had to account for him, and this created driving lanes for Wade. With Bosh out, Wade was relying on his jumper, and it was failing him.
So what did Spoelstra do? The first and most important adjustment was to have Shane Battier guard David West. Battier has done a great job of limiting West’s offensive impact while also saving Lebron from the task, while on the offensive end he is pulling West out of the paint to the 3 point line. Opening up previously clogged driving lanes.
His next adjustment was to get Wade moving off the ball. When Lebron has the ball, all eyes are on him, having Wade moving off the ball allows him to get easy buckets at the rim and helps him get into a better offensive rhythm. It’s amazing how a dunk helps fix a broken jumpshot.
Lastly he put his faith in Udonis Haslem. In the first 3 games Haslem wasn’t logging many minutes, in Game 4 Haslem played heavy minutes and rewarded his coaches faith him by making big shots, grabbing key rebounds, and playing gritty defense. On the offensive end instead of having Haslem roll of picks, he went back to Haslem’s bread and butter for much of his career, the pick and pop. Although Lebron James and Dwayne Wade get partial credit for making the suggestion, Spo had to enact it, and deserves recognition for doing so. Haslem has been mired in a season long shooting slump, and trusting him in such a big spot was a gamble. One that paid off.
Just like that, Miami is in the driver’s seat, what adjustments will Frank Vogel make with his team’s playoff life on the in? That remains to be seen. Especially with the health of Danny Granger and David West in question. While I expect them both to play, who’s to say what effect the injuries will have on their effectiveness.
The series is far from over, but for now Miami is in control.