Thunder Make Heat Pay For Switching

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Miami Heat are a versatile bunch of players, especially defensively. They have multiple players who can defend multiple positions, starting with MVP LeBron James, who Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has nicknamed “One Through Five,” for his ability to defend point guards, wings and big men.

The Heat’s versatility allows them to switch on screens, which can be important against a team like Oklahoma City. By switching, the Thunder can theoretically keep the ballhandler in front of them and out of the paint.

In Game 1, Miami’s intitial defensive matchups, with James guarding Kendrick Perkins, were based on the idea that James would switch onto Kevin Durant when Perkins set screens.

But no matter what the matchups were, the Heat defense was often too passive. When teams switch, they don’t trap. And the Heat’s defensive success (they were the fourth-best defensive team in the regular season) has been built on its aggressiveness.

The Heat trapped quite a bit in the first half on Tuesday. But then they got beat by Serge Ibaka‘s rolls to the basket a few times, and there were fewer traps after that.

On Wednesday, Spoelstra was asked if all the Game 1 switching took some of the bite out of his defense.

“Possibly. Possibly,” he replied. “We’re an aggressive, disruptive defensive team. Now, I don’t mind it at times. We can be very disruptive when we switch, as well. But it flattened out some of our aggressiveness, which makes us unique.”

One example of that is the following fourth-quarter possession, where James switches onto Russell Westbrook and gives him plenty of space to do whatever he wants to. Westbrook finds an angle he likes and attacks the basket …


Now, James was probably trying to get Westbrook to shoot a jumper. And maybe he gave Westbrook a lane to the middle of the floor because he was trying to help out in the post, where Kevin Durant was matched up with Dwyane Wade as a result of the switch.

Durant and Westbrook combined for 22 field goals in Game 1. Nine of those 22 came in transition or immediately after an offensive rebound, where there was no clear defender on the scorer.

Of the remaining 13 made baskets, seven came after a defensive switch by the Heat. And three of those were switches of the 6-foot-4 Wade onto the 6-foot-9 (or 6-foot-10 or 6-foot-11) Durant.

Here, on a big possession in the fourth quarter, Wade switches onto Durant after a pin-down screen by Westbrook. Durant takes Wade off the dribble and hits a short pull-up …


Later in the fourth, Derek Fisher sets the pin-down screen for Durant, and Shane Battier and Wade seem to get confused about whether they’re switching or not. The result is a wide-open right-wing jumper for Durant.


Of those 13 field goals that Durant and Westbrook had in standard half-court situations, six (three each) came with Wade as the defender. Durant was able to shoot right over Wade, and Westbrook was able to go right around him.

Only one of the 13, the above Westbrook drive, came with James as the defender. So none of Durant’s 12 field goals came against James (though Durant beat James down the floor on this transition and-1).

Spoelstra believes that his team can always be disruptive defensively, whether they’re switching or not.

“[Game 1] was not decided by schematics,” he said. “It was decided by force. It was decided by will. It was decided by energy. Both these teams have that ability. They imposed that on us [Tuesday] night, and that’s the reality.”

But it seems clear that, in Game 2 on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ABC), James needs to be the primary defender on Durant. And whether or not Wade is playing with force and energy, he can’t get caught defending Durant. That’s a matchup the Thunder should be able to take advantage of every time.

39 Comments

  1. sanjay says:

    what the hell! KD should have been falled out when he just jumped on battier and there was block call! lebron did not touch durant in the last shot it was already done. His hand brushed top of his thighs after the shot was taken. People making too much of it! It was a good game and heat has to stop turning carelessly even till the last minute! wade is getting better, he is still not shooting great but he attacked the paint. If bosh continue to pound the board and wade shoots better with battier, james can get in to the paint and make better choices rather than perimeter jumpers! And they cant let westbrook just advance the ball and take a jump shot! he has to be hustled throughout. I like young man neo getting in to it. chamber can definitely get better( I am sure he will be at ease at home!).
    Bottom line miami heat cant fall back and careless with handling balls! they can still increase 10 to 15 more percent both on defense and offensive ends.

  2. MIAMI 3 6 1 says:

    Blah blah blah nough said MIAMI HEAT wins… end of discussion…………….

  3. sanjay says:

    what the hell, I told you people? it is 1-1 and heat should have easily gone 2-0 but settling for jump shots. Even today too late in the quarters, they cant give west brook uncontested jump shots! chambers has to do better! Battier came to play, so did wade( dint take random jump shots), and bosh was huge he pounded the paint!
    Heat have to still tighten the zone. Cant give anybody uncontested just run and jump shoot the ball. They have to continue to hustle this OKC team and take the war to the paint. lebron was good in the paint and wade has to still improve his perimeter play! Couple of calls evened out( durant should have been fouled out but fall went on battier and it was balanced
    out by james in the end. James made few good points. But still they are rusty and not smooth!
    But I liked the energy! But still need to control the better and reduce turn overs and take the war to the paint!

    The only way to slow down durant is to be in his face, same with westbrook who is having a free ride! Haslem wake up m an!
    Enough said! now it is a series!!!!!!!!

  4. sanjay says:

    come on miami, you can do it. no jumpes and lose shots. Attack the rim period and zone defense is the best defense for this OKC team. If you can shut them down, you can do it. come on james this is your time. 30 points wont do it, you need more! And wade… wade through the defense man. No jumpers please. hustle the okc. Enough said!

    • preferNFL says:

      Bottom Line–Miami needs to win the championship by game 7. The NBA and Miami have put too much money and PR work into this franchise since the big three came here. 48 million on three players………..the NBA and their promotions machines have called him “King James” for his entire career……………he needs to prove them right. That would mean at least 3 championships during his “reign”. Otherwise what’s the point? OKC’s last possession where Durant missed that little jumper, OMG James raped Durant and no call. They did not count on that steal and that changed everything. There was no way Miami was leaving OKC and the series not be tied up. Too much money at stake and jobs and egos. Last year almost killed them when they lost to Dallas. They will go 7 games (I think) because everyone trying to make up for money lost due to the shortened season. OKC will fight, and it will be a good series. Miami has to win to justify last season’s acquiring the “The three stooges”. Wade’s one ring won’t mean anything unless they can win at least three more in Miami.

      • Belizeboy says:

        Oh great here we go with the conspiracy theories and blaming the refs.

      • Amir says:

        Honestly, Durant shouldn’t be there that time if there was good officials to call his offensive foul minutes ago:)

      • q't18 says:

        what a cry baby…you can’t do anything now, ‘coz game 2 is over and the series is tied at 1…all you Heat Haters are s****!when the Heat wins, you’ll say the ref robbed it….accept the fact that you lose the game from the start!!!tell your team to have a great start!!!!

  5. NBA EXPERT says:

    look at how many jump shots lebron james missed in game 1. look at the shot chart.
    look how many kd missed.

    why blame wade? why blame coach spo? I thought lebron wasnt going to settle for jump shots this season? I thought lebron was a better player than kevin durant thats why lebron won mvp? I thought lebron james was unguardable?

    OBVIOUSLY NOT. THUNDER IN 5.
    KD = BEST PLAYER ON THE PLANET

  6. Victor says:

    OKC is a college basketball played in a college arena.

  7. JACK says:

    To say EITHER team as being a failure is absurd. Look at where they are now!

    • DNZ says:

      I agree with you JJKIDD … WISE ADJUSTMENTS not EXPERIMENTING is what Eric Spoelstra needs to be strong , most of the time he is making silly decisions … just like when Shane Battier was hot in the first quarter draining (3) consecutive three pointers , then he took him out for what ? He just broke one of the most important rule in basketball
      ” give the guy the basketball if he’s HOT , let him shoot until he misses , then you take him out “

  8. Miami will win it all in 6.

    • jKidd says:

      Problem with Miami is they need a better coach. Too much talent without a good coach means inconsistent game.Lebron and Wade need to fire Eric!

  9. Miami will win it in 6.

  10. Rocabye says:

    It amazes after these failed championship runs ppl still swear up and down the Heat are too talented to be stopped. They’ve been stopped twice, once by a far less talented team in the Mavericks. Talent does not win championships. I think we all need to see the Heat for what they are, and thats a failed experiment. It was a good idea on paper but in practice this will be remembered as a failure of an idea that did not even come close to living up to expectations. Its just not a championship team; its missing pieces and most importantly a leader. The Heat have looked unmotivated the entire playoffs, except for flashes of domination from Lebron. You can’t win a championship if you aren’t out for blood 48 minutes every single game.

    • Brad T. says:

      I wouldn’t say the Mavs were FAR less talented LOL — this year they were since they butchered the team, but last year they had a great team and Dirk was playing at a high level like Durant seems to be, so same result poor Heat

      • NBADude says:

        The Mavs were not FAR less talented this year…they are this year because Cuban destroyed the championship team last year by sending away the defensive monster Chandler and speedy Barea, as well as losing Stevenson…Dirk is one of the best jump shooters in the league, although in my sight he did terrible this season no offense to him. Last year though, he was a powerhouse.

        ~Thunder in 6!~

  11. doc j says:

    GET OUT THE BROOMS IN MIAMI, FOLKS. THE HEAT WILL BE SWEPT OUT IN 4. NOT ENOUGH FIREPOWER TO WITHSTAND THE ONSLAUGHT OF THE THUNDER….LIGHTNING MAY STRIKE, BUT THE THUNDER ROLLS…..

  12. I agree that LeBron needs to guard Kevin Durant from the get-go (http://sports.yahoo.com/news/2012-nba-finals-miami-heat-oklahoma-city-thunder-230200728–nba.html). I also believe that D-Wade has to take the challenge of defending Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City, particularly Durant and Westbrook, penetrated Miami’s defense at will in Game 1.

    James and Wade just might become a little more aggressive offensively if they take on the challenges of guarding Durant and Westbrook, respectively, especially if they can find a way to force Kevin and Russell into turnovers and convert them into easy buckets on the other end.

  13. ThunderUP says:

    Tired? If you cant get up for the opening game of the FINALS…you cant get up. However, trying to run with the Thunder…..you will see them tired soon enough. Thunder in 6!

  14. heatlose says:

    okc wins on thursday , heat win game three , then the rest okc will win , this aint a game durants like wu tang when it comes to a team , and lebrons not there yet …

    • josh says:

      man u didnt even see lebron start yet like watch when he GOES OFF!!!!!!! no body can touch him lebron can power his way into the bastket and they aint nothin kd can do bout tht

      • Brad T. says:

        True, now let’s see lebron do that for every single play in the game and they’ll win, otherwise later beyatches

      • RayRay20 says:

        You forget that when LBJ starts playing like that on the offensive end, KD is no doubt going to as well. And in a shootout between the two, I’d put my money on the 3 time scoring champ anyday.

      • RayRay20 says:

        Look at the stats. KD has a higher FG, 3 point and FT percentage. With less minutes, and less touches of the ball. If the Heat start giving the ball to LeBron, the Thunder will start giving it to KD instead of playing through Russell. If they’re getting the same amount of touches, I doubt that LeBron would come out on top.

  15. .....justplayball !! says:

    …..Where are all the OKC fans???

  16. digitioli says:

    Rest?! 4 days wasn’t enough?! Absurd.
    The heat have no recourse. It’s a design that 3 players came up with that is good enough to win against teams that they are more talented than, which does not include the Thunder. No only do the Thunder have a better team, they have a much better design and so the coach has options – like the 5 that played the crunch time minutes hadn’t even been on the floor together before that game… The Thunder know if they play hard their chances of winning are very very good. Their weakness should be their immaturity and inexperience which shows at times and which they overcome with short memories, more effort and zero quit – they have heart, and they believe in each other. They are really fun to watch. In the age of one on one basketball, flopping, traveling, bad officiating, the Thunder are a breath of fresh air.

  17. Belizeboy says:

    I still think Miami will win it all. Thunder are a great team though and not to be taken lightly so it has to be an all out effort from here on in for the Heat.

  18. LOLakers says:

    The Heat just played a 7 game series and everyone thinks they were playing at their max? They were tired but now that the Heat and Thunder have equal rest the Heat will dominate them! Heat in 5!!!

    • Jay says:

      Dream on…

      • bobby says:

        lolakers is right. THe heat is a better team overalll and with more rest, the thunder will be finished!

      • RayRay20 says:

        @Bobby, Heat are a better team overall? Are you blind? Sure, LeBron and Wade can hold their own against Westbrook and Durant, and Bosh is a good matchup with Ibaka, but go deeper into their rotations. Noone on the Heat bench can match up to James Harden, Kendrick Perkins’ size in the middle has no equal in the Heat either. The Thunder are a better transition team, has better endurance/stamina due to their age, have better speed due to Russell Westbrook, and have an offensive powerhouse in Durant (not taking anything away from LBJ, he’s a better overall player than Durant but he doesn’t have the scoring talent that Durant has).

    • too tired says:

      no. too tired. maybe they wake up from a dream and put on some slippers and walk into the kitchen and get a drink of milk. go back to bed. then dream they gonna win. it just a dream. THUNDER IN 4!!!!!!!