Posts Tagged ‘Udonis Haslem’

Numbers preview: The Finals


VIDEO: GameTime: Finals Preview

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Considering how dramatic last year’s Finals was, now’s the perfect time for the first rematch in 16 years. The last time two teams faced each other in The Finals in back-to-back years was the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz in 1997 and 1998.

We’re also returning to the 2-2-1-1-1 format for the first time since 1984. In the 29 years of the 2-3-2 format, the lower seed won all three games at home only three times (though the Heat did it in 2006 and 2012).

In these playoffs, the Spurs (9-1) and Heat (8-0) are a combined 17-1 at home, each scoring more than 116 points per 100 possessions. That’s ridiculously good offense, and we’re sure to see some more of it over the next 4-7 games.

These were two of the top six offensive teams in the regular season and have been the two best offensive teams in the playoffs. Comparing their offensive efficiency in each round with their opponents’ regular-season defensive numbers, both the Spurs and Heat have improved offensively during the playoffs.

The Heat (11th) are the first team since the 2006 Mavericks (11th) to make The Finals after not ranking in the top 10 in defensive efficiency in the regular season. And they’re aiming to be the first team since the 2001 Lakers (19th) to win the title after not ranking in the top 10.

The Spurs ranked in the top four defensively for the second straight season after sliding out of the top 10 the previous two. That they played more consistently on that end of the floor over the last seven months could give them the edge, as the team that can most consistently slow down the other over the next two weeks will win the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

But postseason series are often about matchups, and the Heat have the ultimate trump card in LeBron James. If it seems like this series could be decided by a possession or two, you only have to look back at last year’s to confirm that it certainly could.

Here are some statistical nuggets regarding these two teams’ paths to The Finals, their two regular season meetings, and last year’s scintillating series.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Stats and rankings are for the playoffs.

San Antonio Spurs (62-20)

First round: Beat Dallas in 7 games.
West semifinals: Beat Portland in 5 games.
West finals: Beat Oklahoma City in 6 games.
Pace: 96.2 (4)
OffRtg: 111.2 (2)
DefRtg: 101.0 (2)
NetRtg: +10.1 (1)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Miami: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
Playoffs: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

Spurs by round

Round Opp. OffRtg Rank AdjO DefRtg Rank AdjD
First round DAL 110.2 3 +4.3 106.8 9 -2.2
Conf. semis POR 112.3 2 +7.5 93.9 1 -14.3
Conf. finals OKC 111.4 2 +10.4 100.7 1 -7.4

AdjO = OffRtg – opponent’s regular-season DefRtg
AdjD = DefRtg – opponent’s regular-season OffRtg

Playoff notes:

  1. Opponents have attempted just 25 free throws per 100 shots, the lowest opponent FTA rate of the playoffs. But their opponent free-throw rate has increased in each round, from 0.217 against Dallas to 0.233 against Portland and 0.303 against Oklahoma City.
  2. Their defensive rebounding percentage has improved each round.
  3. Their rate of 9.7 turnovers per 100 possessions in the conference semifinals against Portland has been the lowest turnover rate for any team in any series so far.
  4. According to SportVU, they lead the postseason with an effective field-goal percentage of 59.5 percent on catch-and-shoot opportunities.
  5. They’ve scored 124.0 points per 100 possessions in the second quarter, more than any other playoff team has scored in any quarter.
  6. The Spurs have outscored their opponents by 15.2 points per 100 possessions with Danny Green on the floor. That’s the best on-court NetRtg of any player that has logged at least 20 minutes per game in five or more playoff games.
  7. Kawhi Leonard has the best raw plus-minus of the playoffs at plus-111.
  8. Marco Belinelli is the only Spurs rotation player with a negative plus-minus. They’ve been outscored by 42 points in his 296 minutes on the floor and are a plus-186 in his 572 minutes on the bench. In the regular season, Belinelli had a better on-court NetRtg (plus-7.3) than Tim Duncan (plus-6.6) or Tony Parker (plus-6.7).
  9. Green has an effective field-goal percentage of 63.4 percent in the playoffs, a jump of 7.2 percent from his regular season mark (56.2). That’s the biggest EFG% jump of any player who has attempted at least 75 shots in the postseason.
  10. Duncan had 14 more rebounds than any other player in the conference finals.
  11. Manu Ginobili shot 15-for-30 (50 percent) from 3-point range in the conference finals after shooting 2-for-14 (14 percent) in the conference semifinals.
  12. The usage rates of Ginobili (28.9 percent, 25.9 percent, 23.8 percent) and Parker (31.8 percent, 30.4 percent, 25.0 percent) have decreased in each round. The usage rates of Duncan (19.9 percent, 20.2 percent, 25.4 percent), Boris Diaw (14.4 percent, 16.2 percent, 21.4 percent) and Green (11.7 percent, 17.1 percent, 17.8 percent) have increased in each round.
  13. Parker leads the postseason with 195 drives and 10.8 drives per game.
  14. The Spurs have outscored their opponents by 27.1 points per 100 possessions in 114 minutes with Ginobili, Leonard and Tiago Splitter on the floor together, the best three-man NetRtg among 194 trios that have logged at least 100 minutes.
  15. Patty Mills has traveled at the fastest average speed in the playoffs, 4.9 miles per hour.

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Andersen injury has allowed Heat to find a new lineup that works


VIDEO: Pacers-Heat Game 6 Preview

MIAMI – Has another injury forced the Miami Heat into another lineup change that will help them win a championship?

It was two years ago when Chris Bosh suffered an abdominal injury in Game 1 of the conference semifinals against Indiana. His absence forced Shane Battier into the starting lineup and unlocked the Heat’s floor spacing around LeBron James, turning them into an offensive juggernaut and two-time champions.

Rashard Lewis (Ron Hoskins/NBAE)

Rashard Lewis (Ron Hoskins/NBAE)

In Game 3 of this year’s Eastern Conference finals, Chris Andersen suffered a bruised left thigh. Andersen wasn’t starting, but his absence forced another lineup shuffle by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. Because the Heat needed a back-up center, Udonis Haslem went from starter to reserve, and Rashard Lewis — who hadn’t played in the first two games — was inserted into the starting lineup for Game 4.

Andersen could be back for Game 6 on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) — he’s a game-time decision — but it seems unlikely that Spoelstra would remove Lewis from the starting lineup either way.

Lewis is a series-high plus-35 in the conference finals. Though he shot 0-for-7 in Games 3 and 4, the Miami offense has been at its best with Lewis on the floor. His work (and “work” is the right word here) against David West has allowed the Heat to remain strong defensively without playing big.

With the best player in the world, Miami has a lot of combinations that work. But the one with Haslem wasn’t working that well. Haslem is a series-low minus-43. He has hurt Miami’s spacing offensively and hasn’t been able to make up for it with defense and rebounding. Even in the Charlotte series, which the Heat swept, he was a minus-17.

Going into the conference finals, the Heat just didn’t have many alternatives at the second forward spot. Battier’s minutes are limited as he approaches retirement. And Michael Beasley never earned a postseason role. Neither can really handle West defensively.

Lewis can. He’s listed as 15 pounds lighter than West, but he held his own against bigger power forwards when he played for the Orlando Magic. And now that he’s rediscovered his shot (he hit six of his nine threes in Game 5 on Wednesday), he can provide even more spacing for James offensively.

So with 25-30 minutes of Lewis, a dash of Battier and a fourth quarter that features their three-guard lineup, the Heat don’t have to play big, save for a few Bosh-Andersen minutes, in which they still have solid floor spacing. That floor spacing  has made Indiana’s No. 1 defense struggle to get stops.

“They spread you out,” West said Thursday. “We’re not matching up in transition as well as we should. They’re getting us cross-matched. We just got to get a man to a body in transition.”

If they can do that, there’s still the question of what they should try to take away.

“We expect LeBron to have a huge night and be able to play his game,” Paul George said. “But we can’t let Rashard Lewis go for 18 from the 3-point line. That’s an area that we feel like we can cut out, the whole team in general. We do a great job of being able to guard the paint as well as the 3-point line.”

West, the guy who’s responsible for defending Lewis, says it’s a balance.

“We’re not going to overreact,” West said. “A lot of it is the system stuff that we’re doing, just having some breakdowns, maybe putting too many guys in front of LeBron. But we got to take our chances. We have to load to LeBron, load to Wade, and force those other guys to make plays and beat us.”

Lewis hadn’t hit six threes since the 2009 Finals. He probably isn’t going to hit six again. But whether he’s making shots or not, his presence on the floor is working for the Heat.

Thirteen different players have started playoff games for the Heat over the last four years. Spoelstra isn’t afraid to make changes when needed. Don’t be surprised if Lewis, who played just 47 minutes in last year’s postseason, is starting in The Finals.

Allen in, Andersen out for Game 5


VIDEO: Game 5 Preview: Heat vs. Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS – Ray Allen will play for the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals  on Wednesday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). But Chris Andersen will sit his second straight game with a left thigh bruise.

Allen went through his normal pregame shooting routine and then received treatment for a right hip injury suffered late in the third quarter of Monday’s Game 4 victory. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said that the full shooting routine wasn’t necessarily an indication that he would play.

“Ray is going to do that one way or another no matter what,” Spoelstra said. “Nothing is going to stop him from that routine.”

But Allen is good to go. Andersen is not. Rashard Lewis will start his second straight game, with Udonis Haslem backing up Chris Bosh at center.

“It’s mobility,” Spoelstra said of the concern for Andersen. “He doesn’t have much of it right now. It is getting a little bit better, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of mobility.”

Andersen out for Game 4, Lewis to start

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: GameTime: Rachel Nichols

MIAMI – The Miami Heat are down a man (or a bird) for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Chris Andersen is on the inactive list with a left thigh contusion.

This is not a minor note. The Heat have been at their best in this series with Andersen on the floor. He’s a plus-28 (tied with Ray Allen for the series-high) in 70 minutes.

“This is a big-muscle series,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before Game 3, “so we need what he brings to the table.”

In a related move, Rashard Lewis will get just his seventh start of the season in place of Udonis Haslem. That allows the Heat to use Haslem as the backup center behind Chris Bosh. But without Andersen, Miami loses its ability to play big much more than a few minutes, unless Spoelstra decides to dust off Greg Oden.

Bosh and Haslem are a minus-38 in just 34 minutes together in the series.

24 — Second thoughts — May 24

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen helped the Heat carve up the Pacers in Game 3

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The first man in the building helps the Miami Heat erase an early 15-point deficit and break the spirit of the Indiana Pacers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Ray Allen hits the floor early for Game 3 of the #ECF, 8:30pm/et on @espn. #nbaplayoffs

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

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They call him Jesus … SHUTTLESWORTH! Four, count ‘em 4, fourth quarter daggers from deep for Ray Allen. They were back-breaking buckets for the Heat as they rebounded from that sluggish start to mash the Pacers.

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The Big 3? Not so much. The Heat lead this series 2-1 thanks to the work of their bench mob!

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Pacers paying no penalty for leaving Bosh open in series

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: GameTime: Pacers-Heat Talk Game 3

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Miami Heat started small, with Shane Battier and LeBron James at forward. In Game 2, they started big, replacing Battier with Udonis Haslem.

The Heat won Game 2, but the bigger lineup didn’t really work. They were outscored by 18 points in 17 minutes with Haslem and Chris Bosh on the floor together. Add that to the combination’s Game 1 numbers and Miami is a minus-28 in 25 minutes with Bosh and Haslem both in the game.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Heat are better off playing small, because they’ve played well when Bosh has shared the floor with Chris Andersen. That pair is a plus-15 in 22 minutes together.

Still, that’s a minus-13 in 47 minutes with two bigs on the floor vs. a plus-7 in 49 minutes with just one big on the floor.

These small sample sizes, though, could be swung by one stretch of 5-6 minutes where James takes over (as he tends to do sometimes), where the Heat defense takes a rest (as it tends to do) or where the Pacers go ice cold (as they tend to do).

But all you have in a playoff series are small sample sizes. And they don’t get much bigger if you add in regular season meetings when one or both teams could have been playing the second night of a back-to-back. You sometimes have to make decisions and adjustments based on what’s happened in portions of games here and there. And it has to be a combination of what the numbers say and what your eyes are seeing.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will continue to mix small lineups with big lineups, in part because Battier can’t give Miami what he used to. When this version of the Heat won its first title in 2012, Battier was the guy – as a small-ball four who could shoot and defend – that really unlocked their floor-spacing identity.

He averaged more than 33 minutes per game in that postseason, but has played less than half that in all but three games in these playoffs. And neither Rashard Lewis nor Michael Beasley has been able to take over that role (or has seen the floor in the conference finals thus far).

“We’ve balanced [big and small] as much as we have in the three years this year,” Spoelstra said before Game 2. “And that was what this season required. So we’ve played a lot of different lineups. We have enough experience, different rotations to be able to play different styles of basketball without compromising what we do best.

“That might be what this series requires, but we have great versatility. We have confidence in our versatility. If we have to utilize all of it, whatever’s necessary.”

Not only has Lewis been removed from the rotation in this series, but so has James Jones, whose on-court numbers have been ridiculously good in the playoffs. So it would help if Bosh could make some shots.

Haslem is a decent mid-range shooter, but decent mid-range shooting doesn’t hurt the opposing defense. Andersen is a strong finisher and his well-timed dives to the rim have been successful against the Pacers in the past, but his range doesn’t extend beyond three feet.

It’s Bosh’s shooting that can really take Pacers center Roy Hibbert away from the basket or punish him for staying there. He did the latter on the one 3-pointer he’s hit in this series (which sparked Miami’s Game 2 comeback), but Bosh has missed the other eight threes he’s taken. And according to SportVU, six of the eight misses have been uncontested, including the very first shot of the series.

In six games against Indiana this season, Bosh is 4-for-20 (20 percent) on uncontested threes. Against other teams, he’s shot 37 percent. In the first two rounds of the playoffs, he shot 15-for-33 (45 percent) on uncontested threes. Then he went to Indiana and hit the side of the backboard.

For the most part, Hibbert has remained in the paint against the Heat. And for the most part, Bosh hasn’t been able to do anything about it. It’s become clear that this is not a good matchup for him, but open shots are open shots and they’ll continue to be there if he’s being defended by Hibbert. But whether the Heat are playing big or small, he’s going to have to start making some.

Bench shooters giving Heat a lift

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Through the Lens: Heat vs. Pacers, Game 2

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Shooting is important in the game of basketball. (This is not breaking news, by the way.)

Not only do good shooters put the ball in the basket at a higher rate than bad shooters, but their presence on the floor typically provides spacing for their teammates looking to score in the paint.

To see the importance of shooting, you only need to see the Miami Heat’s numbers with Ray Allen and/or James Jones on the floor in the playoffs.

In 328 minutes with at least one of the two veteran bombers on the floor, the Heat have scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions. That’s 14 percent better than the the league average in the postseason (105.6).

In 200 minutes with neither on the floor, the Heat have scored fewer than 98 points per 100 possessions. That’s less efficient than the Charlotte Bobcats’ offense was as they got swept by the champs in the first round.

Somehow, the Heat defense has also been better with Allen and/or Jones on the floor. So, in those 200 minutes, they’ve been outscored by 50 points, the equivalent of losing a 48-minute game by 12. With at least one of the two on the floor, they’re a plus-16 per 48 minutes.

20140521_mia_ra_jj

Both Allen and Jones come off the bench, of course. So yeah, their starting lineups have not been very good. Their starting lineup with Shane Battier at the second forward spot is just a plus-1 in 83 minutes. Their starting lineup with Udonis Haslem in place of Battier is a minus-39 in just 65 minutes.

It should be noted that 64 of Jones’ 107 postseason minutes came against Charlotte and that he’s a plus-0 in his 43 minutes since.

But the importance of shooting is also illustrated in some SportVU numbers from the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals.

In Game 1, the Pacers shot 11-for-19 (58 percent) on uncontested jumpers, according to SportVU. The Heat shot 8-for-27 (30 percent).

In Game 2, the numbers were basically reversed. Indiana shot 10-for-28 (36 percent) on uncontested jumpers, while Miami shot 15-for-27 (56 percent).

It stands to reason that the team that knocks down their shots in Game 3 on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) will be the team that takes a 2-1 lead. Again, this is not breaking news.

Improving Wade leads Heat to Game 2 win

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Dwyane Wade and LeBron James talk about the Game 2 win

INDIANAPOLIS – Sometimes, Dwyane Wade is back to being the best player on the Miami Heat.

In the biggest game of the Heat’s season to date, Wade picked up the slack for his two struggling co-stars, leading the Heat to an 87-83 victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, tying the series at one game apiece as it heads to Miami after a three-day layoff.

This was a high-leverage game. There’s a huge difference between a 2-0 Indiana lead and Miami taking away home-court advantage.

But LeBron James did not look to take over offensively as we’ve come to expect when his team is desperate for a win. And he didn’t improve on his poor defensive performance in Game 1 either, looking slow and disinterested on that end of the floor for most of the night.

Chris Bosh‘s struggles against the Pacers continued. This was the seventh time in his last 10 games against the Pacers that he scored fewer than 10 points.

A lineup change — starting Udonis Haslem instead of Shane Battier — didn’t really work. Haslem was a minus-20 in less than 19 minutes and Roy Hibbert destroyed the Heat on the offensive glass.

But the Pacers came back to earth offensively, shooting 5-for-22 from outside the paint in the first half. And Wade’s postseason revival continued.

Wade scored 13 of the Heat’s 41 points in the first half, more than twice as many as any of his teammates. He scored five of those 13 as the Heat took the lead with James on the bench early in the second quarter.

He was stuck on that 13 until the fourth, when he and James took the game over and put the Pacers away. Going back to the last three minutes of the third, James and Wade scored or assisted on Miami’s final 33 points of the game. After a sluggish first 33 minutes, the Heat scored those 33 points on just 24 possessions, turning a six-point deficit into a four-point win.

“Tonight was one of those nights,” James said, “where we were making plays, finding guys, and finding each other, finding a good rhythm with the ball in our hands.”

Wade shot 5-for-5 in the fourth, finishing off the Pacers with a personal 8-3 run in the final minutes. James woke up from his slumber just in time, but his co-star helped him, on both ends of the floor, get to those closing moments.

Not only did Wade carry the offense early, but he defended Paul George for most of the fourth quarter, with the Pacers’ star attempting only one shot (a contested, pull-up 3 late in the shot clock) and two free throws in the final 11 minutes. Once again, the Heat turned up the defense once they absolutely needed to, and it was Wade who took on the toughest assignment.

“He understands that as well as anybody that you can impact a win on both sides of the court,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Wade. “So that wasn’t only creating the offense for us on the other end, it’s taking a challenge on one of the best scorers in the league. And just trying to be there. That is all you can do. It’s trying to be there in front of him so he doesn’t get open looks and free throws at the rim.”

Wade doesn’t have the explosion he used to. He still, amazingly, does not have 3-point range. But he’s crafty. He finds ways to get the space he needs to get off a shot, and he has a remarkably soft touch.

Most importantly, Wade is fresh and strong at the right time. He played just 54 games this season in order to leave some gas in the tank and some lift in his legs for the playoffs. And the rest is paying off.

Wade has shot 50 percent or better in each of his last five games. And he has averaged 26.0 points on 32-for-52 (62 percent) shooting in his last three. He played his best game in a long time in Game 5 against Brooklyn, and that performance has carried over into the conference finals.

“I just want to continue to keep going,” Wade said, “continue to keep getting better. There’s a lot of basketball left, but I feel good.”

Though the Heat are now 9-2 in the postseason, their last four wins have come down to fourth-quarter execution. They haven’t been as dominant as they’ve been in the past and their defense has been inconsistent, to put it nicely.

But it could be that they’ve yet to play their best basketball, because Wade is looking stronger every time he takes the floor. And on nights when James doesn’t look like the best player in the world, it helps that he has a pretty good wingman with plenty of experience in being option No. 1.

24–Second thoughts — May 20

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: Dwyane Wade has LeBron’s back at crunch time … they’re not done yet, folks

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Born Ready?

Not yet.

Not Lance Stephenson and the Indiana Pacers, who made it interesting until the very end of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.

Born Ready?

Not ready. Not yet.

Not when LeBron James (12 points) and Dwyane Wade (10) own the floor at crunch time in the fourth quarter.

The Heat have never trailed 2-0 in a series since they joined forces. They still haven’t. James and Wade 22 in the fourth quarter, Pacers 20!

Game 3 is Saturday in Miami.

The Heat are taking their talents and that always crucial 1-1 series split back to South Beach!

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LeBron and Wade either scored or assisted on every single basket in the fourth quarter for the two-time defending champs. Real Champs wore black!

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LeBron with the sick bounce pass to Wade for the reverse baseline jam and essentially the game!

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Play big? Heat need to play better

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: GameTime: Heat-Pacers Game 2 Preview

INDIANAPOLIS – The Miami Heat got beat up in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday. David West and Roy Hibbert combined for 38 points and 17 free-throw attempts. West was able to get most of his shots in the paint instead of having to settle for mid-range attempts.

LeBron James doesn’t like playing the four and was downright awful in defending pick-and-rolls on Sunday. Chris Bosh doesn’t like playing the five and has averaged 9.1 points on 34 percent shooting in his last nine games against the Pacers.

All that might call for a lineup change, or at least more minutes with two Miami big men on the floor together in Game 2 on Tuesday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). But the Heat should just try to play better before they admit that they need to make adjustments.

No one was hinting at any lineup changes after shootaround Tuesday morning. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra won’t even disclose his lineup when he meets with the media at 7 p.m. But Pacers coach Frank Vogel said he expects to see more of Udonis Haslem, who hopes to be on the floor more in Game 2.

“We all know Indiana is a physical team,” Haslem said, “so hopefully I get the opportunity to bring a little more physicality to our lineup.”

“We’re all for whatever works,” Bosh added.

Haslem sparked one of the Heat’s best defensive possessions upon entering Game 1 late in the second quarter. And he replaced Shane Battier in the lineup to start the second half, pushing James to small forward.

But the Heat weren’t any better with Haslem on the floor on Sunday. He was a minus-8 in less than 11 minutes. And in about 13 minutes with two bigs on the floor (Bosh and Chris Andersen or Bosh and Haslem), the Heat got outscored 32-22.

So, it’s hard to say that the answer is to play big. The answer is to play better.

“You always have to get back to the basics first,” Spoelstra said Tuesday morning, “and then make your evaluations. It was so tough to evaluate whether we need to do what we do better, do what we do differently, or just do what we do. We didn’t even do what we normally do first. And then we can get to the next layers of it. But we start with that, and then you make adjustments as necessary.”