Heat must stop the Indiana roll

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Fratello On Miami’s Defensive Breakdowns

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Pacers played one of their best offensive games of the season on Sunday. It was uncharacteristic and, in part, unsustainable.

But the Miami Heat can’t count on the Pacers to just play worse in Game 2 on Tuesday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). The champs can defend a lot better.

The Heat got burned by the Pacers’ pick-and-roll in Game 1. In some cases, it was about a simple failure to contain the ball-handler. But often, the roll man caught the ball too close to the basket.

Here’s an example from the second quarter, where LeBron James hedged hard on a Lance Stephenson-David West pick-and-roll, and then lingered too long well above the 3-point line.

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James is in no-man’s land, where he’s neither pressuring the ball nor defending his own man. So Stephenson is able to make a pretty easy pass to West in the middle of the floor.

If West just makes the catch at the foul line, the Pacers have a four-on-three situation. But what happens is worse.

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West makes the catch at the dotted circle. Rather than meeting West at the free-throw line, Chris Bosh – the help defender – has his feet inside the restricted circle on the catch. And he allows West to turn into an easy four-foot hook shot (video).

So James’ mistake in defending the pick-and-roll was compounded by Bosh’s late help.

Far too often on Sunday, the Heat’s weak-side help defender did not meet the roll man far enough from the basket. And West’s shot distances are all the evidence you need.

In the regular season, 21 (45 percent) of West’s 47 shots against the Heat were from outside the paint. In last year’s conference finals, 43 (44 percent) of of his 98 shots came from outside the paint. But in Game 1 on Sunday, only two of his 11 shots were from outside the paint, and none were from farther than 14 feet.

West wasn’t the only beneficiary of the Heat’s slow rotations. Miami held its own against Roy Hibbert in the low post. If he caught the ball outside the paint, he struggled to score, even one-on-one against smaller defenders.

But when Hibbert caught the ball in the paint, the Heat were in trouble …

  • Late in the first quarter, he fumbled a pick-and-roll pass, but still caught it in the paint, with only James Jones between him and the basket (video).
  • Midway through the second, Norris Cole was the only help on a Stephenson/Hibbert pick-and-roll in transition, and he got there late (video).
  • Midway through the fourth, Hibbert made a roll catch at the dotted circle, with James late to help. When he got there, Dwyane Wade was late to rotate to West (video).

There were a couple of possessions here and there when the Heat defense was on point. In fact, their first defensive possession after Udonis Haslem entered the game for the first time may have been their best. And it started with Haslem’s help.

West set a side screen for Paul George, with Haslem defending Roy Hibbert on the weak side.

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When West rolled to the low block, Haslem was there to meet him.

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Mario Chalmers sank in from the weak side to prevent an interior pass to Hibbert, and then recovered back out to George Hill in the corner (video).

Having a point guard rotate to a seven-footer is not ideal. But this is what the Heat do defensively. And when they do it well, they’re quick to rotate, they disrupt passes, they challenge shots, and they shut down the opposing offense.

The question has always been consistency on that end of the floor. This season, in particular, Miami hasn’t been able to put two good defensive games together very often.

The problems on Sunday went well beyond the weak-side help.

“It’s all of it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after practice Monday. “Really, I don’t know if we’ve been that poor, certainly in the way we’ve graded it, since we put this team together. Across the board, that was about as poor as we’ve played defensively. And all aspects of it. It was the ball pressure. It was the commitment on the ball. It was the weak side. It was finishing possessions. It was doing it without fouling. It has to be much better, a much more committed effort, across the board.”

The Heat’s defensive system is not easy on its personnel. And when the opponent has big bodies like West and Hibbert, it’s even tougher.

“That’s what winning championships is about,” Bosh said. “You have to be uncomfortable. Playing a good team where you really have to trust your back-side defense is like, ‘Man, this is what people feel like playing against us.’ It’s not a good feeling to have to help and close out. It’s not cool. I don’t like it. Nobody likes it.

“But it’s a part of the game. That’s where that trust comes in. We’re going to have to be a little more solid as far as our discipline is concerned, and just rely on each other as a team.”

Pacers coach Frank Vogel said he expects the heat to be “more aggressive and more sharp” defensively on Tuesday.

If the Heat do that, you’ll see it in where help defense meets the Indiana roll man. If that meeting takes place farther from the basket than it did on Sunday, the Pacers won’t be able to get so many good looks.

“They’ve got a great team scheme, a great team approach,” Vogel said. “It’s not about one guy that they’re going to throw out there that’s an answer for [the Pacers’ bigs]. They play defense as a team, and they’ve won championships doing so. We just got to stay ahead of the curve.”

18 Comments

  1. Let's go Heat says:

    Lbj sld not play PF against David West coz ineffective or in foul trouble. Heat sld play big, CB as 4 and Birdman/UH as 5, Heat’s bigger lineup won in regular games. Another main problem for Heat in Game1 is too many foul, many FT by Pacers. And I don’t think Pacers can shoot such a high % throughout the series…

  2. Mike says:

    I think game 2 will be all about defense and Pacers will win a close one, because Miami has no defense, and we are better.

    D. Wade wont get his points tonight, and somebody will have to step up big for Miami to win.

    STEEL CURTAIN D & CO.

  3. Level Headed says:

    The funny thing about this is that everyone admits that the Heat played an absolute terrible game, probably one of their worst this season, and the Pacers played probably their best game this season, heck probably their best game in a few seasons, and they beat the heat by what like 10-15. They shot 6-7 3’s in the first quarter, and every well contested shot they shot seemed to go in, I thought the officiating was alright, but the borderline calls seemed to go in Pacers favor. So all the planets and stars lined up for the Pacers, and they only won by 10. Unless they can keep up this unrealistic, and uncaracteristic pace, than the Pacers are in real trouble. The Heat won’t play that bad again on both sides of the court, and the Pacers will be good defencivley, but they won’t play that good offencivley, and when they don’t the Pacers will be in real trouble. Anyone can get hot for a game and look like all the problems are fixed, let’s see how the series turns out.

  4. t baby says:

    tonights game will show and prove LBJ didn’t have a great scoring game so tonight he plays better, Now as far a Beasley he can score but he has to learn how to play with wade and james on the floor. UD starting and bosh in double figures is the best thing for the heat to win game 2

  5. not lbj says:

    wheres the lbj guy and his future HOF norris cole now?

  6. qqq says:

    Id say take a chance on beasley, give him some minutes, he is rested and ready to play, and lets face it, Its not a risk letting him play against indiana`s terrible bench.

  7. Ryan says:

    The Heat tried to play small, same like Atlanta did, but Pacers were able to utilize their size advantage. Heat will be in deep trouble if they cant sort out how to contain Hibbert & West.

  8. mee(a)t says:

    @Michelle Johnson if you noticed, LBJ can’t guard the Roll man, he either hedges too much or just looks lost out there, which is why West got so many open looks. Chris Bosh is actually more capable in this situation. (And Rashad Lewis) Lebron is a good on ball defender… That’s pretty much it.

  9. Explorer says:

    a defensive minutes from GO could help a lot

  10. okcDoke2014 says:

    We are looking at Spurs out of West and Pacers out of East

  11. okc2014 says:

    Has anyone considered that maybe the Heat simply are not the same team as they were in their last 2 championships?

  12. Jay says:

    Lebron is not as great as some of the past greats. When he scores a lot of points he gets extremely tired. When he tries to do too much for the team he gets too tired. And he doesn’t have the supporting cast to not play hard and long. If you notice the slump he had after he dropped 60 on Charlotte in the regular season and the dip in production recently after dropping 49. You can tell that he is fatigued and it is going to be a tough test for them battling IND and if they make it past them it will be another tough test facing the best of the west. The odds are against MIA at this point after 4 tough years. Not to take anything away from what they have been able to do but they cannot sustain this level of excellence for this long.

    • Michelle Johnson says:

      Good Game Indiana, me Team is Heat, I feel like the Pacers did what they needed, and MIAMI-Obviously feld short: from Start to End, ithe Pacers played a good game, from DWest-jumpers, LStehenson-penetration jumpers, PGeorge-3 pointers, CJ’s off the bench help,RHibbert’s-inside points, GHill-drives and the supporting cast, good job: Heat step up Game, no unneccessary roughness, just do what you do, SCORE, LJames, not to be denied-play your game, DWade-keep doing you(ole reliable) CBosh(trust in your shot) stay on your man(don’t allow others to drive MChalmers(good guard) so underrated and crew (do you and the rest will be History)

  13. squala96 says:

    If the Heat lose Game 2, then Spoelstra needs to take a chance on Beasley. He should cover for LeBron if the latter is resting. The second unit only has Allen as a geniune shooter, with Rashard being inconsistent yet again. Give the prodigal son some playing time; I don’t see how that can hurt Miami given Indiana’s onslaught.

    • mee(a)t says:

      No…god no. It took me a while to see why Spo doesn’t use Beasley but I noticed when someone mentioned his affect on the game. Beasley stops the flow of Miami’s offense. He needs the ball in his hand to ISO and take his man off the dribble and drive to the paint, which Spo doesn’t want. (he wants spot up shooters to surround Wade and Lebron). We need rim protection and Lebron to not be the man to guard the Roll man in the PnR (which is why I think Haslem should start ahead of Battier). If Haslem starts, he can handle Hibbert, Bosh can take care of West, and Lebron can worry about PG.

      • Michelle Johnson says:

        Excuse me whom can CBosh guard, you did not say DWest, maybe if he were shorter, he is too big for CBosh, LJames, rarely has trouble guarding his man or visa versa, DWade(Oookay in his position as isMChalmers-I agreeHaslem can guardHibbrrt-DWest(no problem

      • TMac says:

        I agree.

  14. Brainundrum says:

    The Heat will adjust. They are still in this series. They are the champions two years and running. The Pacers need to keep playing high level basketball. With the way they have been inside the locker room this year, I wouldn’t get too excited yet. May the best team win.