Miami Heat Winning, Even without the Aid of their Shooters

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The Miami Heat are one of the few teams in the league that can rely heavily on their jump shooters, yet somehow live without the risk of becoming too dependent upon seemingly low-percentage jumpers.

According to SynergySports, 25 percent of the Heat’s offense stemmed from spot-up opportunities. Miami ranked first in the league on spot-ups, garnering 1.08 points per possession, shot 43 percent overall, and converted 42 percent of their 1,174 three-point opportunities on the season.

Shane Battier and Ray Allen, the Heat’s two best shooters from deep for the season, ranked 14th and 18th, respectively, in points per possession on spot-ups.

By signing Allen and Battier, as well as other perimeter contributors in Norris Cole and Rashard Lewis, over the past two offseasons, the Heat have emerged as arguably the league’s most efficient shooting squad.

Not including Chris Andersen, the Heat had seven players shoot at least 35 percent from beyond the arc, with five converting at least 40 percent of their three-pointers. As a result,  Miami ranked second in the league in field-goal percentage, only ranking behind a Golden State Warriors team that took three less three-pointers per than Miami.

Rather than investing in big men who could patrol the rim, the Heat organization instead chose to invest in shooters. The purpose was to open up the floor for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, all while having veteran shooters who were going to thrive off of their superstar teammates.

The Heat ended up raking first in offensive efficiency this season, averaging 110.3 points per 100 possession, and also led the league in field-goal efficiency by a full two-percent over second-place San Antonio. 

Meanwhile, the Heat’s three best scorers all shot career-highs from the field, becoming the only team this season to have its three top scorers shooting at least 50 percent.

Naturally, there are going to be lulls from the numerous shooters of this Heat team. In case you haven’t seen Miami’s first two postseason games, those lulls are occurring now.

Miami, a team that shot nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc, has shot 31 percent in the same range in two playoff games.

Allen, Battier, James and Mario Chalmers have all been slow out of the gate. Ray is shooting 31 percent on 13 attempts, Battier is 25 percent on 12 attempts, James is 20 percent on 5 attempts, and Chalmers is 50 percent but on only 2 attempts.

Chalmers is one of only two Heat players who have converted at least 35 percent of their three-point attempts. The other is Chris Bosh, who converted all three of his attempts in Game 1 and has only attempted five perimeter shots.

The Bucks have made the Heat work for their offense during a few stretches, but Miami is more missing shots they should be making than Milwaukee properly closing-out and disrupting Heat shooters.

So, the result of the Heat’s poor shooting out of the gate? Two wins by an average of 17.5 points. The offense hasn’t been too shabby; 110 points on 56 percent shooting in Game 1 and 98 points on 45 percent shooting in Game 2.

Game 2 was about as bad as the Heat could have played a playoff game. In fact, they replicated quite a few of the mistakes they made in Game 1, including failing to take advantage of open jump shot opportunities.

Besides shooting, the Heat have already coughed up the ball on 33 occasions. Only the Warriors, averaging over 12 more possessions per game than Miami, have committed more turnovers in two playoff games.

These first two games of the playoffs have the Heat missing open shots, turning the ball over, and not getting the best out of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, yet they look like the best team by miles.

Partly because of their 38-44 opponent, but also because their defense has already brought out the worst in just about every Bucks player worth noting.

In Game 1, Miami survived a 45-point combined effort from Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis thanks in part to getting Larry Sanders in foul trouble (he played only 18 minutes) and running Ersan Ilyasova (1-of-7 in 28 minutes) and Mike Dunleavy off of the three-point line and into off-the-dribble mid-range jumpers.

Miami appeared not ready for the adjustment of Sanders guarding Udonis Haslem and Ilyasova defending Bosh, but they made excellent adjustments on Jennings and Ellis, who combined for 15 points on 22 points, 10 assists and 6 turnovers.

Game 1 had those two combining for 5 assists and 5 turnovers. Although Ilyasova and Dunleavy were able to establish their scoring touch and Sanders was able to play ten more minutes than previously, Miami proved that Milwaukee is not going to have their cake and eat it too.

Milwaukee may look it at as, “If only we can get the backcourt AND frontcourt scoring consistently!”, but it’s more of Miami picking-and-choosing who to allow open shots to, as well as the Bucks’ backcourt clearly not capable of being facilitators from a scoring and passing standpoint in the same game.

Game 2 was Milwaukee’s to steal. For 36 minutes they worked the ball inside to Sanders, got open look for Ersan and Dunleavy, and watched as Miami clanged every open look they got.

It was a 68-65 Heat lead going into the fourth quarter. With 9:38 left in the same fourth quarter, Miami was up 80-65.

What seemed ready to be a fourth quarter nail-biter, at least to Bucks’ fans, turned into a laugher as a Joel Anthony jump shot with 2:02 left gave Miami a 19-point lead. Miami outscored Milwaukee 30-21 in the final frame, supported by that 12-0 run at the beginning of the fourth.

The run was capped off by a Norris Cole three-pointer. Allen would hammer in two nails in  Milwaukee’s coffin in the final frame as well.

That’s why nobody wants to play Miami. Because the Heat winning by nearly 18 points per game is considered struggling to this team.

In two games, the Heat have turned the ball over an unreasonable amount and are failing to convert on the shots they survived off all year. Not to mention LeBron James having one of his worst offensive outputs in the form of 18 points on 14 shots in Game 2.

And what does all of that add up to? An extremely disappointed Milwaukee Bucks team and a Miami Heat team that’s winning playoff games playing regular-season basketball.

Wake me up for the second round.

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