Film Study: The Heat Contest In OKC

VIDEO: LeBron James and the Heat pick up the victory in OKC

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Miami Heat were not a very good defensive team in the dog days of the season. They ranked 27th in defensive efficiency between Jan. 1 and the All-Star break, a stretch that included a game against the Warriors when they got picked apart by David Lee, a game against the Knicks when they clearly weren’t engaged all game, and a game against the Thunder when OKC shot 16-for-27 from 3-point range.

Coming out of the break, the Heat won in Dallas, but allowed 106 points on about 94 possessions. It was an offensive win in which the Heat shot 57 percent.

Thursday, however, was one of those nights when the Heat turned it on defensively. They held the Thunder to 81 points on 95 possessions, forcing 20 turnovers (nine in the first quarter) and holding OKC to just 2-for-20 from 3-point range.

And this wasn’t just a bad shooting night. The turnovers had a lot to do with Russell Westbrook playing his first game in almost two months, but the missed shots were about the Heat defense imposing its will on the Thunder.

All you have to do is look at the contested and uncontested shots from the Thunder in the two games, which you can now find in the Player Tracking tab in our boxscores, thanks to SportVU.

In the Jan. 29 meeting, the Heat contested 37 (46 percent) of the Thunder’s 80 shots. On Thursday, the Heat contested 48 (65 percent) of the Thunder’s 74 shots.

That’s a big difference. And the difference is bigger when you look at just the Thunder’s jump shots.

According to SportVU, on Jan. 29, only 13 (25 percent) of the Thunder’s 52 jumpers were contested. On Thursday, 18 (51 percent) of their 35 jumpers were contested.

Looking at just 3-point attempts… Only seven of the 27 were uncontested on Jan. 29, while nine of the 20 were contested on Thursday.

Here are some examples of the Heat being on point defensively…

First, we have a quick-hitting dribble hand-off play from Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant, in which Shane Battier and LeBron James trap Durant and Chris Bosh rotates over from the weak side to force Ibaka into a rushed jumper …

VIDEO: The Heat defense forces Serge Ibaka into a rushed jump shot

Here’s a long possession in which the Heat successfully defend a Reggie Jackson/Ibaka pick-and-roll, an Ibaka post-up, and a Westbrook isolation. The result is Bosh again contesting Ibaka’s shot …

VIDEO: The Heat show off their defensive chops on this series against the Thunder

Throughout the game, Dwyane Wade was particularly engaged. The Heat are at their best defensively when he’s healthy and active. They’ve allowed just 101.9 points per 100 possessions (a rate which would rank eighth in the league) in the games he’s played and 105.8 (a rate which would rank 23rd) in the games he’s missed.

But the Thunder brought some of their problems on themselves on Thursday. Here’s Derek Fisher not doing much with Perry Jones‘ screen and taking a contested, pull-up 3-pointer with 11 seconds left on the shot clock…

VIDEO: Derek Fisher takes a bad 3-pointer against the Heat

And here’s Fisher again, not making the extra pass and taking another contested 3-pointer with 10 seconds left on the clock …

VIDEO: Derek Fisher takes a 3-pointer too early in the shot clock

The Thunder rank seventh in offensive efficiency, but 26th in assist rate, assisting only 55 percent of their field goals. They’re not a team that moves the ball that much and, with the talent they have in Durant and Westbrook, usually don’t have to. If you get Westbrook out in the open floor and get Durant some catches at the elbow, you’re going to put the ball in the basket at a pretty good rate.

There is no correlation between assist rate and offensive efficiency. There are great offensive teams with low assist rates (like Houston and Oklahoma City) and bad offensive teams with high assist rates (like Chicago and the Lakers).

However, there is a decent correlation between assist rate and offensive efficiency against the Heat. With Miami’s aggressive, trapping defense, the teams that have success are usually the ones that move the ball quickly and find open shooters on the weak side. And the open shot is usually more than one pass away.

The Thunder had success against the Heat in January, but this time Miami was engaged defensively. That’ll probably be the case again if these teams met in June, so Oklahoma City will have to do a better job of making the extra pass and finding more uncontested shots.

VIDEO: Thunder players and coaches react to their loss to the Heat


  1. bodjee says:

    The ref’s job is to make the calls according to the rules of the game, they are not hired to make the game more interesting, to watch the game while on duty or to make it more difficult for certain players! There is enough referees on the court during a match to cover all aspect of the game and there is no reason why they are missing so many calls.

    Lebron James is the best player because he makes players around him better while Kevin Durant needs the whole team to make him better! Sometimes I wonder how great he could have been if he was as arrogant as a M Jordan, C Bryant, S Curry, D Willians, C Paul etc.

  2. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    I mean, of course the Heat are still an elite NBA team. However, if they don’t get upset in the East playoffs, expect the Pacers to eliminate the Heat.

    The Pacers upgraded by adding Evan Turner. They still have weaknesses, but no East team will stop them from reaching the 2014 NBA Finals.

    The Heat can’t rely on Lebron scoring the first 15 – 20 points to start every game in a playoff series. No way. If the Heat thinks that will work in the long run, they’re in for a rude awakening.

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      You forgot about one thing, the Heat have answers for every opponent in the league, plus still every team wants to beat the champ, steppin up even if they’re far under .500. There’s no streak, no overhauling like last year. Starters want to be rested, they get days, just to get to the playoffs, when the real fun begins. Battier Chalmers different game than last year. Slowly prepearing Greg at C just against Ind.

  3. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Honestly, no NBA team can trap Durant like that and keep getting away with it.

  4. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Anyone who thinks this game will mean anything in the playoffs — the Thunder strategy will crush any opponent.

  5. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    I mean, come on. How obvious can you get? Fisher/Lamb had over 30 points combined in the previous matchup. Suddenly, they go scoreless in this game or only had a few points combined? Yeah, right. Incredibly obvious. The Thunder are just pacing themselves while they integrate Westbrook back.

  6. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Nahhhh. If you can read between the lines, the Thunder didn’t “play for real” in this particular game. I give credit to Miami for playing better than they did in the previous OKC – MIA matchup. However, the Thunder clearly were out of sync, for whatever reason or reasons. Uncharacteristically, the Thunder turned the ball over carelessly, at times. Almost as if a few plays they botched on purpose. To give the Heat false confidence and to experiment with Westbrook back.

    The Heat are not THAT fast or athletic. Other than Lebron James, the Heat are aging or are not playing as well as they have in the past. They have key roleplayers who aren’t good defenders. Birdman being the exception.

    This game was an anomaly. An outlier.

  7. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Testing. 1,2,3. Testing.

  8. Jerson says:

    This year, the Heat ain’t the defensive powerhouse they were since the Big Three formed up in 2011. But I guess they can turn it up when they have to. The only problem any team has to deal with the Miami Heat, including OKC, is that you can’t outperimeter them. OKC is basically a perimeter-oriented team when we talk about their stars in KD and Russ. This film study shows how good the Heat is when it comes to perimeter defense over the years. They’re so fast and athletic that they force you to take contested jumpers and even steals that lead to highlight reel material. And when you don’t have a good fallback option inside, Miami will kill any team, I don’t care who it maybe.

  9. Vic says:

    You got that right!
    Durant might be #2
    but James is in another planet and has a huge gap between him and everybody else currently playing.

  10. okc2014 says:

    This was only one game. We already know Lebron James was making a statement. Yes, he is the reigning MVP and NBA champion Can he or the Heat never ever have contenders? Competition is good. And the fact is, the Heat have had more “bad” losses than the OKC this season. Now there. OKC2014!

  11. Troy says:

    Breaking James nose, leaving him bloody on the floor, and not getting a foul call. What A SHAME!
    I have been saying that refs do not call even on hard fouls to James. How many times they hit to his head and make his head band fall without a foul call..

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Who says basketball is not that physical? HA! NBA is just as rugged as it’s EVER been.

      LeBron may have to wear a face mask due to having his nose broken.

      The refs are only stricter on certain calls. They allow a lot of physical play when an offensive player takes it toward the basket.

      Wasn’t it that loser K. Bryant that whined recently claiming “you can’t even touch a guy?”

      K. Bryant utterly has lost touch with the game and has ABSOLUTELY no idea what he’s talking about anymore. 🙂

  12. lol says:

    Ok so we learned something. The comparison of Durant with James is disrispectful. James is so much better and complete player Durant fails every time vs Lebron. So never ever compare the 2 there is no competition James no1.

    • Duke says:

      this is the most ignorant post i have ever seen 1st off they never compared the two this entire article it was a comparision of the teams, and saying comparing durant to lebron is disrespectful all it shows is how much you idolize lebron like he is a god or something. dont get me wrong lebron is the best at what he do and the only person in the league you can compare to him is durant at least this year he is so its disrepectful to durant to say he doesnt compare to lebron especially when not only his team is in a tougher conference and have a better record than the heat and durant is having a better year than lebron too. all you have to go on is the past but as of right now durant is playing beter than anybody else in this league including lebron