Film Study

Film Study: Spurs on a string


VIDEO: Through the Lens: Finals Game 4

MIAMI – The 2014 Finals have turned into a thorough beatdown. The Miami Heat have won a game by two points, while the San Antonio Spurs have won games by 15, 19 and 21.

They got help from LeBron James‘ cramps in Game 1 and had a flukey shooting performance in Game 3, but were still the better team through the first 144 minutes. And Game 4 was their most complete performance yet.

Except for a couple of ugly quarters, the Spurs’ offense has been humming all series. On Thursday, they were just as good on defense.

James scored 28 points in Game 4, but 19 of those came in the second half, when the Spurs had the game well in hand. They held the Heat to just 36 points on 43 possessions in the first half and basically shut down James’ supporting cast … until James Jones hit four straight shots in garbage time. It was Miami’s worst offensive game of the postseason.

The Heat are the best finishing team in the league. In the regular season, they led the league by shooting 68.0 percent in the restricted area. Through the first three rounds, they were shooting even better than that at the basket and they were solid in the paint through the first three games of The Finals.

But in the first half on Thursday, the Heat had almost as many turnovers (7) as points in the paint (8), where they shot a miserable 4-for-15.

On a string from the start

The first possession of the game foreshadowed exactly what was to come for the next 48 minutes. It was five guys on a string helping each other, closing off the paint, recovering out to the perimeter, keeping the Heat from getting an open shot, and, eventually, forcing a turnover.

The possession started with a Mario Chalmers/LeBron James side pick-and-roll, with Kawhi Leonard sitting back at the foul line, where he can help on Chalmers, but also get back to James. Every other Spur was ready to help…

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After Chalmers swung the ball to Dwyane Wade, he got a sideline screen from Rashard Lewis, and there was Tim Duncan, at the block, cutting off the paint…

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Wade squeezed by Duncan under the basket, but had no shot on the other side of the rim, because Leonard sunk down to prevent it…

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When Wade kicked the ball out to James, Boris Diaw rotated out from the corner. James saw it coming and immediately got the ball to Chris Bosh, but there was Leonard again, closing out…

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Bosh attacked the close out and got by Leonard, and there was Duncan again…

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And when Bosh tried to slip a pocket pass to Wade, Leonard had recovered and got his big mitts on the ball.

It was a supreme effort by Leonard, who was all over the place over a span of 15 seconds. But it was also an example of perfect synergy from all five Spurs. There was no miscommunication and no hesitation in their rotations. When one guy got beat, another guy stepped up and everyone else reacted quickly and appropriately. (more…)

Film Study: Spurs swing and attack


VIDEO: GameTime: Role players shape Game 3

MIAMI – The ball did not stick in Game 3. And the results were remarkable.

After his team lost Game 2 of The Finals on Sunday, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich remarked how the ball “stuck” too much in his team’s offense.

According to SportVU, the Spurs made exactly the same number of passes in Game 2 (337) as they did in Game 1, and on fewer possessions (88 vs. 95). But some passes are better than others, especially against the Miami Heat defense. When you say the ball sticks, you could mean that it sticks in one guy’s hands or that it sticks to one side of the floor.

In the first half of Game 2, the Spurs swung the ball from one side of the floor to the other with a pass just 19 times (on 46 possessions). They were passing, but they didn’t necessarily move the ball effectively. Here’s an example of a possession where the ball was passed four times, but stayed on the right side of the floor.

In the first half of Game 3, the Spurs swung the ball from side to side with a pass 30 times (on 44 possessions), which led to a relentless attack of the paint.

Monday’s Film Study noted the Heat’s ability to close out on shooters and force the Spurs’ into 23 mid-range shots in Game 2. On Tuesday, the Spurs attempted just eight mid-range shots, the same number as they attempted in their Game 1 victory.

When the ball is coming from the other side of the floor, closing out on shooters is tougher. The Heat’s weak-side defenders are generally in the paint, ready to help on a drive or cut. So when the ball is reversed, they have a longer distance to travel than if the ball is coming from the top of the key or the same side of the floor. They may get to the 3-point line, but their momentum keeps them from being able to stay in front of their man as easily.

And when the defender is coming from far way with that momentum, attacking those close-outs is easier. With the ball moving from side to side on Tuesday more than it did on Sunday, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green went right at the Heat’s recovering defenders.

Here are a few examples…

Play 1: Swing and attack

The ball movement wasn’t crisp on the Spurs’ third possession of the game, in part because they were trying to take advantage of a mismatch – Mario Chalmers guarding Leonard. But once they saw that they couldn’t get the ball to Leonard in the post, the ball swung from the right side of the floor to the left. And when the ball came back to the right side, Leonard had just enough of a lane to the paint…

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Leonard drew a foul on Chalmers on the play, but also could have hit Tony Parker for an open 3 in the left corner…

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Play 2: Got him with the rocker

A few possessions later, the Spurs quickly swung the ball from the left side of the floor to the right, and then reversed it back to Leonard at the top of the key. With 16 seconds left on the shot clock, the Heat were already scrambling, with LeBron James having totally lost contact with Leonard and Dwyane Wade forced to switch out …

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Leonard looked to swing the ball to Green, but James recovered well enough. Wade displayed some great awareness to see James on the baseline and know that he had to go guard Leonard. And because Leonard first looked to pass (and because Chris Bosh also hedged over), Wade was able to get in front of him. But a simple rocker move got Wade leaning to his left, and Leonard was able to get him on his hip, get into the paint, draw a foul on Bosh, and hit a nifty scoop shot.

Play 3: Green gets in the act

The ball stays on the right side of the floor on this play, but it’s another example of Leonard’s and Green’s attack-the-close-out mentality. After Parker gets a sideline screen from Tim Duncan and takes the ball toward the right corner, he reverses it to Green. Wade closes out and positions himself to force the ball to the sideline …

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… but Green uses Wade’s momentum against him. He attacks that right leg and gets into the paint for a runner.

Play 4: Taking what they give you

The Heat are trying to push the ball to the sideline on their close-outs. They do not want the ball in the middle of the floor, where layups can be had and passes can more easily be made to whoever is open.

We were still in the first six minutes of the first quarter when Parker and Duncan ran a standard high pick-and-roll. A quick pass put the ball in Boris Diaw‘s hands with Ray Allen sinking down to the right block on the weak side…

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Two passes and 1.5 seconds later, the ball was in Green’s hands on the right wing. Allen closed out and, just like Wade, positioned himself to force the ball to the sideline…

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Unlike Wade in the play above, Allen has help in the presence of Duncan and Chris Andersen, who are preventing Green from attacking that right leg. But Green still uses Allen’s momentum to get to the basket. He just goes the other way.

Where the title will be determined

Green set a Finals record with 27 3-pointers in last year’s series. And Leonard’s mid-range shooting has improved quite a bit since he came into the league. But the pair were a combined 12-for-12 in the paint in Game 3, because of how well the Spurs moved the ball from side to side and because of how well they attacked the Heat’s close-outs.

There’s a reason all three Finals Film Studies thus far have been about the Spurs’ end of the floor. The Heat have been solid offensively throughout the series, especially when James has been able to stay on the floor. They’ve scored at least 105 points per 100 possessions in eight of the 11 quarters in which his body didn’t shut down.

In order to win their third straight championship, the Heat will need to get more consistent stops. They’re trying to be only the fourth team in the last 35 years to win a title after not ranking in the top 10 in defensive efficiency in the regular season. And there’s a reason why only three teams have done it in that span.

Film Study: Heat switch and challenge


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew breaks down Tony Parker’s woes in Game 2

SAN ANTONIO – The differences between Games 1 and 2 The Finals were on both ends of the floor. The Miami Heat were better offensively in Game 2, and the San Antonio Spurs were worse.

Both games were decided in the fourth quarter, and on Sunday, LeBron James was on the floor with the game on the line. That was the most important difference, and James’ ability to get to the rim in the first half and knock down jumpers in the second gave the Miami offense a boost. The Heat scored 82 points in James’ 37:36 on the floor (105 per 48) and just 16 points in his 10:24 on the bench (74 per 48).

But defense was just as (and maybe more) critical to the Heat’s 98-96 victory. The Spurs’ offense is rarely shut down completely, but if Miami can slow it down somewhat, it’s own offense should be enough to win a third straight championship.

In Game 2, San Antonio scored 17 points on 23 possessions in the second quarter and 18 points on 20 possessions in the fourth. Those had been the Spurs’ best offensive quarters for most of the playoffs, but certainly weren’t Sunday.

Afterward, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich blamed a lack of ball movement.

“We can’t put it in somebody’s hands and have them create everything for us,” he said. “It’s got to be a group effort and we didn’t do that.

“That puts a lot of pressure on everything else. It means we’re going to have to be perfect on defense, we can’t miss four free throws in a row, those sorts of things.

“You move it or you die.”

The lack of ball movement wasn’t just about the Spurs. The Heat’s defense played its part.

The Miami defense had issues in Game 1. A lack of ball pressure and slow rotations from the weak side allowed Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter to make easy catches in the paint and shoot 14-for-16, with 14 of those 16 shots in the restricted area.

The pair got another 14 shots in the restricted area in Game 2, but converted only eight of them this time. None of Splitter’s three shots were on straight pick-and-rolls like he was converting on in Game 1.

The power of the switch

One adjustment the Heat made was switching high ball screens for Manu Ginobili to prevent the roll man from going untouched into the paint.

Here’s Norris Cole, at the end of the first quarter, switching onto Splitter after he set a screen for Ginobili …

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And early in the second quarter, here’s Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade switching a high ball screen…

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Immediately followed by Bosh and Chris Andersen doing it…

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Switching screens takes some of the bite out of the Heat defense, but also takes some bite out of the Spurs’ offense. Not only does it help prevent those open rolls to the basket, but by not sending two guys to the ball, it doesn’t give San Antonio 4-on-3 situations where their passers will usually find the open man. The adjustment was one of the reasons the Spurs didn’t turn the ball over as much, but also why they got stagnant at times. (more…)

Film Study: Spurs get good looks inside


VIDEO: Nightly Notable: Tim Duncan, Game 1, NBA Finals

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Spurs suddenly have turned into the Houston Rockets.

Through their first 17 playoff games, the Spurs took 30 percent of their shots from mid-range (between the paint and the 3-point line), the most inefficient area of the floor. That rate is higher than the league average (27 percent) for the postseason.

But in their last two games (Game 6 of the conference finals in Oklahoma City and Game 1 of The Finals on Thursday), the Spurs have attempted just 12 percent (19/162) of their shots from mid-range, a rate that’s very Rockets-like. Since Game 2 of the Oklahoma City series, the Spurs have attempted 27 3-pointers per game. And on Thursday, they shot 13-for-25 from beyond the arc. They also shot 24-for-35 (69 percent) in the paint, their second-best percentage of the postseason.

All 10 of Tim Duncan‘s shots were from inside the paint. He made nine of them to lead the Spurs with 21 points. Tiago Splitter shot 5-for-6 in the paint. When their teammates were able to get them the ball, the bigs were able to finish.

“It’s where my shots come,”  Duncan said Friday. “We have a lot of shooters and I’m not going to stretch the court in that respect. Every once in a while I get a jumpshot from 15 to 18 feet, but mostly my effective range is in there right now. I’m going to pick‑and‑roll and try to get to open spots and try to take advantage of the rotation if they’re trapping.”

The Spurs committed 22 turnovers in Game 1, 14 of the live-ball variety. The Heat’s rotations were on point most of the night, but the Spurs were also very sloppy, failing to connect on some simple passes. But they executed well enough to score 110 points on 95 possessions. And much of that execution resulted in layups for their big men.

Pick, roll, and finish

Duncan’s final basket of the game, one that gave the Spurs the lead for good, was a simple pick-and-roll with Manu Ginobili on the left sideline. Chris Andersen stepped out to contain Ginobili, and Dwyane Wade gave him just enough space to deliver a pocket pass to the rolling Duncan…

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And when Duncan made the catch, the only person between him and the basket was little Ray Allen. When a team is faced with this …

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… the Spurs either have a layup or a wide-open Danny Green in the corner. Duncan chose the layup.

Four of Splitter’s five layups were pick-and-rolls, with him scoring over a smaller Miami help defender. San Antonio is smart, putting a guard in the weak side corner, so that it’s his man – a Miami guard – who’s rotating over to help on the roll man. That makes it easier for the Spurs’ big to finish over top.

“That’s by design,” Shane Battier said Friday. “We know it. And if we’re sharp in our rotations and meet the roller early, it can mitigate some of that.”

Drag, swing and drive

Layups don’t necessarily come one pass after the pick-and-roll. And the Spurs are the best team in the league at keeping the ball moving until the open shot can be found.

Duncan’s first basket of the second quarter was a result of a drag screen from Boris Diaw, which Tony Parker used to pull Rashard Lewis out to the sideline and give him a long distance to recover back to Diaw…

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Diaw drove past Lewis’ close-out, drew Chris Bosh‘s attention, and fed Duncan under the basket.

Pick-and-seal

Duncan’s second bucket of the game was a result of a pick-and-roll, but wasn’t him scoring over a guard. Instead, it was him refusing to let Bosh get back into position.

Bosh came out high on a Parker/Duncan pick-and-roll out of the corner…

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When Bosh recovered, Duncan got his body between his defender and the basket and pushed Bosh out to the foul line. The Big Fundamental executed a perfect seal.

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It was just a matter of getting him the ball. Green’s pass allowed Bosh to get back between Duncan and the basket, but Duncan still had good enough position to get a good look.

Around the front

The smaller Heat mostly front the low post, forcing their opponent to make difficult passes. This scheme works very well against the bigger Pacers, because the Pacers are bad passers.

But the Spurs have guys that can find the right angle on entry passes. One of those guys is Ginobili.

Here, Duncan got a cross-screen from Kawhi Leonard, but Lewis was still able to beat him to the block.

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A more timid passer would swing the ball to the other side. Ginobili found the proper angle…

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… and thread the needle for a Duncan layup. Duncan got another on a similar play late in the second quarter.

He’s good. Know where he is.

A couple of Duncan layups where just a result of a lack of recognition from Bosh. The Spurs’ first basket of the game came when Bosh had his head turned after getting back in transition. And another in the third quarter came when Bosh was on the weak side block and was astoundingly slow in recognizing Duncan’s cut to the basket.

The Heat defense certainly could be better. They need to be more aware, they need to pressure the ball to make those passes more difficult, and their help defenders need to meet the roll man farther from the basket.

“It starts with ball pressure,” Battier said. “I thought they had a lot of straight-line passes into the paint, which is really death for us. If you put two on the ball, you have to affect the tempo and the timing of the pass. We didn’t do that well enough. And B, we have to trust the rotator.”

“We have to do some things better, more committed, five‑man against a very good passing team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra added. “They’re well schooled. Some things that we need to adjust on. That’s what we’ll figure out in the next couple of days.”

The Spurs’ could certainly execute better, too. Their offense was a feast-or-famine situation in Game 1. And they won, because the fourth quarter, when they shot 14-for-16 (6-for-6 from 3-point range), was mostly feast. They may not shoot as well in Game 2 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, ABC), but they can certainly cut down on the turnovers and keep Miami from easy baskets on the other end of the floor.

This time, Hibbert meets LeBron


VIDEO: Heat vs. Pacers: Game 5

INDIANAPOLIS – This go-around, Roy Hibbert was on the floor.

Travel back in time to Game 1 of last year’s conference finals in Miami. The Indiana Pacers led by one with just 2.2 seconds left in overtime. And Pacers coach Frank Vogel took Hibbert — “the best rim protector in the game” in Vogel’s own words — off the floor, so that his team could switch all screens and stay with the Miami Heat’s shooters, including Chris Bosh.

LeBron James caught the inbounds pass at the 3-point line and Paul George got caught out too high. James immediately turned and darted to the basket. Hibbert wasn’t there and James laid in the game-winning bucket at the buzzer.

“It’s the dilemma that they present,” Vogel said after the loss. “Obviously, with the way it worked out, it would have been better to have Roy in the game. But you don’t know. If that happens, maybe Bosh is making the jump shot, and we’re all talking about that.”

At the end of Game 5 of this year’s Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday, we saw a very similar situation. The Pacers were holding on to a two-point lead with 12.8 seconds left.

James caught the inbounds pass and was isolated at the top of the key with George. And once again, he got past him.

But this time Hibbert was on the floor, and he met James at the rim…

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“We didn’t want to give up a 3,” Vogel said afterward. “But we didn’t want to give up LeBron James at the rim, like we’d done the past two. So we made sure we had rim protection and scrambled on the 3-point line.”

James, as he always does, made the pass to the open man, Bosh in the corner. It was the scenario that Vogel was planning against last year. And with this one being a two-point game instead of a one-point game, the value of the shot meant something this time.

“Thought we got a pretty good look,” James said. “You live with the result.”

“He went for the kill,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ll take that. We’ll take being able to get two feet in the paint, an opportunity to either score yourself or have an opportunity for one of our better clutch 3-point shooters in his spot. That actually was good to see that poise.”

When the Heat came back to win Game 2 on this floor, their second-half run began with a few plays just like this. Spanning the third and fourth quarters, they hit three corner 3s (one from Bosh and two from Norris Cole) on plays just like this one. James got to the basket, drew an extra defender and found an open teammate with a bullet pass. It’s the Heat’s bread-and-butter.

“My teammates trust me that I’m going to make the right play to helps us win,” James said. “I trust myself that I’m going to make the right play to helps us win. And win, lose or draw, you live with that.

“We got a great look. C.B. makes that shot, then we get a stop and we’re headed to The Finals.”

As Spoelstra noted, Bosh was one of the best clutch 3-point shooters in the league in the regular season, shooting 16-for-31 (52 percent) on 3s in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with a score differential of five points or less. He’s had a knack for hitting big shots from distance.

But he’s usually wide open on those plays. On Wednesday, George Hill was able to get in Bosh’s vision and provide an on-the-side shot contest.

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Hill was able to do that because Miami’s spacing was not ideal. When James hit the paint, Bosh, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis were all on the right side of the floor, with Allen and Lewis bunched together at the right wing.

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So when Hibbert helped on the drive, Hill didn’t have far to travel to contest Bosh. And when he did, David West had already rotated over to Allen.

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“I asked Ray,” Bosh said later. “I said, ‘Were you open?’ He said, ‘Yeah, he came off me.'”

But the only guy open was Lewis at the top of the key. And that’s a tough pass for Bosh to make, especially with West in his line of sight.

The Pacers defended the play well, but the Heat gave them some help. If Lewis had been quicker to fill in behind James at the top of the key, the spacing might have been better and Indiana’s rotations would have been tougher.

A feigned pick-and-roll where Lewis flares out to the left wing as James drives past would also have left just one Indiana defender to defend Bosh and Allen on the right side. A kick to Bosh and a swing to Allen may have resulted in the one of the best 3-point shooters in NBA history being all alone beyond the arc.

But the Heat still got a decent look. And both teams were willing to live with the results.

“LeBron is the smartest player in this league,” George said. “He’s going to make the right play, and he thought that was the right play. They made 15 3s tonight. So obviously, they were hot behind the 3-point line. He found a 3-point shooter that’s been hot lately for them in Chris Bosh. We were fortunate he missed. We walk away with a win.”

Film Study: Allen takes advantage of matchups, lapses to put Pacers away

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: All of Allen’s clutch 3-pointers from Game 3

MIAMI – Ray Allen is the all-time leader in both regular season and postseason 3-pointers, a fact that the Indiana Pacers might want to remember when Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals tips off on Monday night (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Allen’s four fourth-quarter threes helped turn a two-point game into a comfortable Miami Heat win and a 2-1 series lead. The Heat’s comeback from an early 15-point deficit was keyed by defense, but they put the game away with another big fourth quarter. Miami has scored a ridiculous 132 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter over the last two rounds.

It’s not a coincidence that that’s the quarter when Allen has played his most minutes. Against Brooklyn and Indiana, Allen has played 32 minutes in the first quarter, 65 in the second, 32 in the third, and 85 in the fourth.

When you have the league’s best attacker and you complement him with the best shooter of all-time, you’re going to score some points. As such, LeBron James creates open shots for Allen … and Allen creates space for James.

And sometimes, the defense makes it easy for them. According to SportVU, all four of Allen’s threes in Game 3 were uncontested. According to the video evidence, they were mostly a result of Pacer mistakes. (more…)

Film Study: Splitter D keys Spurs

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Trail Blazers vs. Spurs: Game 2

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – If there was a postseason Defensive Player of the Year award, the early leader would have to be Tiago Splitter.

After seven games of keeping Dirk Nowitzki in check in the first round, Splitter has done the same to LaMarcus Aldridge in the conference semifinals, helping the San Antonio Spurs to a 2-0 series lead.

The Spurs’ offense has been ridiculously efficient, scoring almost 120 points per 100 possessions over their last five games. They basically won Thursday’s game with a stretch of 12 possessions (spanning the first and second quarters) in which they scored 29 points.

But their opponents have been two of the three worst defensive teams (among those that made the playoffs) from the regular season. And maybe more impressive is that they’ve held two top-five offensive teams under a point per possession over their last three games.

A big key to that has been Splitter’s ability to defend both Nowitzki and Aldridge one-on-one. They are the two of the most prolific mid-range shooters in the league. But if you can contest those mid-range shots, they’re better for the defense than layups or 3-pointers. And the best way to avoid the layups and 3s is by not helping the defender guarding Mr. Mid-Range.

Splitter allows the Spurs to do that. And if he can keep his man from shooting too efficiently, his team is in really good shape.

According to SportVU, Nowitzki shot 21-for-45 (47 percent) against Splitter’s defense in the first round. In the conference semis, Aldridge has shot 8-for-25 (32 percent) against Splitter, including 2-for-13 in Game 2.

Aldridge’s favorite spot on the floor is the left block. Nine of his shots in Game 2 came from that spot with Splitter defending him. He made his first one, and then missed the next eight.

Here’s a compilation of those nine shots …


VIDEO: Splitter Defends Aldridge

From the same spot, Aldridge was 2-for-3 against Boris Diaw. When he hit two straight turnaround jumpers (here and here) midway through the fourth quarter, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich immediately sent Splitter back into the game.

On another day, Aldridge would certainly have made more than one of those nine shots. But Splitter has the size and discipline to use a simple and effective method for defending him. Stay in front, stay on the ground and contest the shot.

Aldridge can get more open looks by getting away from Splitter, as he did a few times on Thursday.

Early in the first quarter, he got a wide-open elbow jumper off a pick-and-pop with Damian Lillard, with the three Spurs who weren’t defending either Lillard or Aldridge staying at home on their man …

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Midway through the second quarter, Aldridge got two straight layups (one he made, one he missed) by curling off a pin-down screen from Lillard.

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The Spurs cleaned up their defense on those after that, but Aldridge clearly got better looks at the basket when he caught the ball on the move. That will be something to look for in Game 3 (10:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN).

Film Study: Open looks for the Clippers

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Clippers vs. Thunder: Game 2

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Oklahoma City Thunder evened their conference semifinals series with the Los Angeles Clippers at one game apiece on Wednesday.

Russell Westbrook recorded his third triple-double in his last five games, with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Kevin Durant added 32, 12 and nine, and OKC scored an efficient 112 points on 95 possessions (118 per 100). But the difference between Game 1 and Game 2 was on the other end of the floor.

These are two of the three teams that ranked in the top seven in both offensive and defensive efficiency in the regular season. But the Clippers weren’t so balanced against their strongest competition. No team’s difference suffered more when it played against teams with winning records. At the same time, they were the only team that was better offensively against winning teams.

So, the team that gets just enough stops — not giving up any 30-point quarters will do the trick — will be the one that wins games in this series. In Game 2, that was the Thunder.

The biggest difference in the Clippers’ numbers from Monday to Wednesday was their 3-point percentage. After shooting 15-for-29 (52 percent) from beyond the arc in Game 1, L.A. shot 9-for-27 (33 percent) in Game 2.

Did the Thunder defend the 3-point line better? Sort of, but they still didn’t defend it very well.

According to SportVU, the Thunder contested just 23.6 percent of their opponents’ jump shots in the regular season, the second-lowest rate in the league (higher than only that of New York). In the playoffs, that number is down to 20.4 percent.

The Thunder got away with it in the first round, with Memphis shooting just 33 percent from outside the paint. Grizzlies not named Mike Miller shot a brutal 17-for-78 (22 percent) from 3-point range.

But the Clippers have five guys in their rotation who shot better than the league average (36.0 percent) on at least 2.4 attempts per game. They can make you pay for not contesting on the perimeter.

They did that early in Game 2, hitting their first four 3-pointers. The first 3 came as a result of OKC over-helping on pick-and-rolls.

(Click links for video)

1. Matt Barnes being left all alone on the left wing, because Thabo Sefolosha went all the way to the other side of the paint to help on a J.J. Redick/Blake Griffin pick-and-pop…

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2. Redick being left alone in the left corner, because Sefolosha had both feet in the paint on a Chris Paul/Griffin pick-and-pop…

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3. Barnes being left alone on the right wing, because Durant went over to help on another Paul/Griffin pick-and-roll…

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This is how the Thunder defend. And only four teams allowed their opponents to shoot a lower percentage in the paint. But their tendency to over-help yields a lot of open jumpers.

In Game 1, 50 of the Clippers’ 54 jumpers (93 percent) were uncontested. In Game 2, 43 of their 58 jumpers (74 percent) were uncontested.

After L.A.’s 4-for-4 start, the Thunder did do a slightly better job of recovering out to the 3-point line. Here Steven Adams doesn’t sag too much and is in position to contest Jamal Crawford in the corner after Glen Davis sets a back-pick on Derek Fisher

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But there were also more open shots and the Clippers let OKC off the hook a little, not getting many more weak-side looks off the pick-and-roll. A lot of their 3-point attempts came off the dribble, off of post-ups, or on the strong side. Some came too early in the shot clock, before the Clips could really make the Thunder defense collapse.

As with any defense, the more you make it work, the more likely you’re going to get an open shot. Against the Thunder, those open shots are more likely to come on the perimeter.

Paul isn’t going to shoot 8-for-9 from 3-point range (like he did in Game 1) again. But the Clippers will continue to have opportunities to beat the Thunder’s defense from the outside.

Film Study: Heat beat Nets at the basket

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Best of Inside: Nets and Heat

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Jason Kidd made the right decision to rest most of his starters at the start of the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the conference semifinals. The Brooklyn Nets were down only 13 points, but there was no way they were winning that game.

First of all, the game — like the regular-season meetings between these two teams — was played at a very slow pace. So that 13-point deficit was much tougher to overcome than it would have been in a Western Conference game. Both teams finished the night with just 84 possessions (compared to about 100 apiece in Blazers-Spurs later on).

Secondly, given the shots each team was getting, there was little chance the Nets would get the consistent stops or consistent scores they needed to make it interesting. This game was layups on one end of the floor against contested jump shots on the other. And you could just see the blowout coming when the Nets weren’t able to turn that trend around after halftime.

It was just a three-point game at the half, but Miami had already attempted 15 shots in the restricted area. Brooklyn? Five. By the end of the third quarter, those numbers were 22 and seven. The Heat train was traveling downhill, and Brooklyn wasn’t stopping it. Miami scored 61 points on just 41 possessions in the second half, a ridiculous rate of 149 points per 100 possessions.

The Nets’ defensive issues started early. And there were lots of them.

There was Deron Williams getting caught in no-man’s land as LeBron James posted up …

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… a play that resulted in an easy layup for Mario Chalmers, the guy Williams was defending.

There was Mirza Teletovic slow to help on a Chris Andersen roll to the basket…

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… a play that resulted in free throws for Birdman.

The Nets offered little resistance to James and Dwyane Wade in the low post. Results: A layup and the shortest of jump hooks.

They fell asleep in transition. They had some miscommunication in transition. And they got caught ball watching (Ball-you-man, Mirza).

Layup, layup, layup.

The Nets also didn’t know how to defend the James-as-a-screener plays. Chalmers got two more layups late in the second quarter (here and here) when Alan Anderson stayed attached to James, Williams trailed the play, and no one else came to help.

All of the above came in the first half, when the Heat scored just 46 points on 43 possessions. The second half, when they got going from 3-point range, was much worse for the Nets.

The Heat finished with 29 shots in the restricted area, which was only a tick above their average (28.8) in their four regular-season games against the Nets.

Brooklyn, meanwhile, got just 12 shots at the basket, down from an average of 21.5 in the four regular-season meetings. Defense is where the Heat can really flip the switch, as they did Tuesday.

In fact, Miami forced a 24-second violation on Brooklyn’s first possession, doing a nice job of helping and recovering. The Heat took away the Nets’ primary options, like Shane Battier denying Joe Johnson here …

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… a play that resulted in another 24-second violation.

Their rotations were on point. They took away the paint and contested on the perimeter. In the end, these two facts spell out the difference between the Brooklyn offense in the first round and the Brooklyn offense on Tuesday …

  • Against Toronto, 28 percent of the Nets’ shots came from the restricted area. In Game 1 on Tuesday, that number was 17%.
  • Against Toronto, 64 percent of the Nets’ jump shots were uncontested, according to SportVU. In Game 1 on Tuesday, that number was 51 percent.

Now the Nets have to ask themselves if their defensive mistakes and lack of good shots were more about the Heat or more about their own energy level, coming off a grueling, seven-game series with the Raptors.

There’s certainly evidence that the latter played a part.

Go back to that first Chalmers/James pick-and-roll late in the second quarter. Brooklyn’s Anderson has to stay attached to James, but look at where the other defenders are when Chalmers comes off the screen.

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You’d think they’d be able to prevent a layup there. They didn’t.

Offensively, the Nets were weak inside. Miami’s hedge-hard-and-deny defense produced some mismatches down low. But three times in the first half, Brooklyn’s bigs couldn’t score in the paint against Heat wings.

The Nets couldn’t finish. Their ball movement wasn’t very crisp. And some of those contested jumpers were a result of them settling.

On both ends of the floor, the Nets believe that they’ll play better with more energy and focus. But there are no two-day breaks in this round. In fact, because Game 7 in Toronto was a day game on Sunday, they’ve already had the longest break they’ll get before any game in this series.

Film Study: Blazers’ shooters burn Wizards from 3-point range


VIDEO: The Blazers hit the Wizards with a barrage of 3s in the third quarter

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Thursday night in Portland, the Washington Wizards shot 12-for-27 (44 percent) from 3-point range.

Those are good numbers. Prior to Thursday, teams were 353-180 (.662) when they hit 10 or more threes in a game. The Wizards themselves were 28-10 when shooting better than 36 percent from beyond the arc.

It’s also impressive that the Wiz were able to generate so much perimeter offense without Marcin Gortat (who hurt his back warming up), one of the most prolific pick-and-roll bigs in the league. They’ve been much more efficient offensively with Gortat on the floor this season, but they scored 103 points on just 91 possessions (113 per 100) on Thursday.

The problem was that the Blazers shot 14-for-35 from 3-point range and scored 116 points on 91 possessions (127 per 100). The Wizards ranked ninth defensively when Nene went down with a left knee injury on Feb. 23, but rank 21st since then, having allowed 108.0 points per 100 possessions over the last 12 games.

Nene might not have been the difference maker on Thursday, because even with the players the Wizards had, some of Portland’s threes were avoidable.

Second chances, then 3 points

The Blazers rank second in offensive rebounding percentage and lead the league with 88 second-chance 3-pointers.

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Three of those 88 came Thursday …


VIDEO: The Blazers hit three of their league-leading 88 second-chance 3-pointers

Foes pay for doubling the post

Those first two second-chance 3-pointers came directly off the offensive rebound. But on the third one, Nicolas Batum found himself wide open when John Wall double-teamed Wesley Matthews in the low post.

That was also the third three that the Blazers got directly off a Matthews post-up. On the first two, either Wall or Bradley Beal initially fronted Matthews in the post, and when the Blazers were still able to get Matthews the ball, Trevor Booker came to help from the baseline.

From there, the Wizards’ defense was scrambling and there was an open three one or two passes away …


VIDEO: The Blazers get open threes out of double-teams in the post

Matthews is a pretty good post-up guard, but there shouldn’t be a need to send a double-team when he’s being defended by the 6-foot-4 Beal or 6-foot-4 Wall. That idea is especially true when the Blazers have an extra shooter on the floor.

Wright kind of mismatch

The Blazers are now 7-2 without LaMarcus Aldridge, having scored an efficient 112.0 points per 100 possessions in the nine games. Aldridge is thought of as Portland’s best player, but of their five starters, he has, by far, the lowest true shooting percentage. His abundance of mid-range shots (he still leads the league by 139 attempts) makes him a relatively inefficient scorer.

And while the Wizards will still start two bigs when Nene and/or Gortat are injured, the Blazers have gone small without Aldridge, starting Dorell Wright at the four.

On Thursday, Wright was matched up with Booker, who got one bucket on a tip-in and another on a post-up, but who wasn’t able to consistently take advantage of the size discrepancy.

Wright didn’t burn Booker all night from the perimeter, and the Wizards were a plus-2 in 16 minutes with Booker and Kevin Seraphin on the floor together, but there were a couple of times when Booker couldn’t keep up with the shooter …


VIDEO: The Blazers take advantage of Trevor Booker on the perimeter

The Wizards’ schedule gets a lot easier from here on out. Thursday was their last road game against a team with a winning record. But their 3-point defense needs to be better, because three of their next five games are against the three teams — the Lakers (32), Suns (36) and Hawks (32) — who have the most games with 10 or more threes.