NBA Finals 2012: 5 Plays Erik Spoelstra Must Use in 4th Quarter to Save LeBron
Erik Spoelstra is known as a tactical coach, but his speciality lies in making it increasingly difficult for the opponent to score points against the Miami Heat.
If LeBron James and the Heat are going to come back in the 2012 NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, some set plays on offense are going to be necessary. These five worked in Game 1 and should continue to be used by Spoelstra.
As devestating as the Heat can be in transition, the half-court offense often looks clunky and unorganized. Improving in that regard would drastically ease the offensive burden on James and save him during the dreaded fourth quarter.
Play 1: Drive-and-Kick to the Three-Point Shooters
This was the bread and butter for the Miami Heat during their first-quarter explosion.
While Shane Battier set up on the perimeter, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Mario Chalmers all drove past their respective defenders.
Once the Oklahoma City Thunder defense collapsed around them, it was just a matter of finding the right perimeter player to knock down the open three-pointer. More often than not, it was Battier standing just to the left of the top of the key.
A perfect example of this comes at 0:15 in the above video, when Chalmers brushes around a screen and drives into the lane. When he kicks the ball out to Battier, the defense isn't able to recover from the help soon enough, and Battier gets to shoot what is essentially a warm-up jumper.
Play 2: Isolation with Bosh on the Perimeter
You can see pretty clearly in this screenshot what's happening. While LeBron James is in complete control of the ball at the top of the key in the half-court set, the other four members of the Heat are spacing out the court and challenging LeBron's defender to attempt to stay in front of him.
The most crucial part of this play is that Bosh is set up in the back left corner. By getting as far from the basket as he can, he's preventing Serge Ibaka from sneaking over and truly contesting LeBron's inevitable shot at the rim.
Bosh's threat from the perimeter is negating Ibaka's shot-blocking skills and forcing the Thunder into a bad one-on-one matchup. It's tough to find any player in the world who can slow LeBron in a situation like this.
The result of this play, which the Heat should run far more often in the fourth quarter, was an and-one layup from the right side that LeBron failed to convert at the free-throw line.
OKC's defense didn't help soon enough, but if it had, LeBron is smart enough to kick it out to an open teammate and strong enough to finish at the rim after battling through more defenders.
Play 3: Double Screen with a Roll and a Pop
From a technical standpoint, this was one of my favorite plays that the Miami Heat ran all night long. It begins at 0:24 in the above video.
With Dwyane Wade rolling around the right side of the perimeter, LeBron James and Udonis Haslem both screen Wade's defender. In the NBA, it's tough enough to figure out how to handle a simple pick-and-roll. This play is far more complicated while remaining simple to draw up.
As soon as Wade gets around the screen, LeBron pops out to three-point line, while Haslem rolls to the basket. In this case, Wade finds a cutting Haslem for a wide-open throw-down, but he had two more options.
If Haslem's covered on the roll, Wade will likely be able to take his man to the basket for a contested layup or split through the double-team, as he's done so often in his career. If too much help is given by the Thunder, that will leave LeBron wide open at the top of the key for three points.
Expect to see this one early on in Game 2.
Play 4: Screen for the Outside Shooters
LeBron James is a physical dude, which makes it awfully difficult to fight through screens he sets.
This play was drawn up to be run directly out of a transition opportunity, preferably one in which the Thunder didn't recover fast enough and were lagging behind the Heat as the two teams made their way to the other end of the court.
With Wade handling the ball, all it took was a quick screen from LeBron and Chalmers was wide open in the corner.
This one isn't complicated at all, but you can find it at 0:45 in the video.
Play 5: Bosh/Wade PNR with James on the Perimeter
Finally, we have our most complicated set play of the five, coming at 4:00 in the video and involving the four main offensive threats on the court for the Miami Heat.
Once more, and you may have noticed the trend here, the ball starts in the hands of Dwyane Wade. When Wade is looking to run plays and pass the ball instead of pulling up for contested and ridiculously difficult jumpers, the Heat offense flows much more smoothly.
Here, Chris Bosh sets a screen for Wade on the right side of the half-court set, which forces Nick Collison to switch onto Wade and create a major mismatch. As Wade drives, Thabo Sefolosha looks rather confused about whether he should slide over to help stop the attack or stay on LeBron James, who's hovering on the weak side perimeter.
That slight freeze from Sefolosha is all Wade needs to see, and he kicks the ball out to LeBron, who uses the extra space to drive to the hole.
If Sefolosha hadn't stayed in his position, Wade would have had a lane to the hole, unless another defender came to help out and created an even easier perimeter jumper. Bosh also ended up standing on the arc with a massive mismatch, while Durant had to slide over and leave Battier alone in the corner.
Miami needs to run its offense in an intelligent fashion to win Game 2, and this play would help.
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