Monday, June 17, 2013

Points In The Paint: Game 5 Recap

Danny Green is a mean lean three-shooting machine.
Here are five (mostly) unrelated observations from Game 5.

1. Danny Green Is Not Human and I Don’t Care What Your Evidence Says

Seriously, he’s shooting 25-for-38 from three in the series, which is just under 66 percent. It’s the most ridiculous display of unsustainable shooting I’ve ever seen.

The way he gets open is incredible to watch, so much so that Jeff Van Gundy used a replay opportunity to show it on TV. Most guys who specialize as spot-up shooters will stand in one spot waiting for a pass to come to them. Green does not. He floats around from spot to spot, trying to create a passing lane between him and the ball-handler. On the play that Van Gundy highlighted during the broadcast, Green started in the right corner while Ginobili ran a high pick-and-roll. Mario Chalmers, guarding Green in the corner, took his eyes off Green for a split second and started to move towards the paint (to cover the big man who would soon be rolling to the rim). Green recognized that Chalmers had his head turned, and darted down the baseline to the left corner, where Ginobili hit him with a bullet pass and Chalmers was nowhere in sight.

Green does this stuff constantly.

When we think of players that move well without the ball, we tend to think of guys who curl off a bunch of pin-down and flare screen to get open (Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, Reggie Miller), or guys who make hard cuts to the rim behind the defense (Dwyane Wade, Tony Allen, etc). We don’t really think of guys who float around the perimeter without the use of screens.

This is the big key to Green’s success. Modern NBA offenses aren’t about tricking the defense, per se. For the most part, the defense knows what action is coming, but it’s arranged in such a way that it forces them into difficult decisions (i.e. - Do I trap this screen and give Chris Bosh an open jump shot or do I switch and create a mis-match guarding LeBron?). What NBA defenses aren’t equipped to guard very well is freelance, unstructured movement by perimeter players. Green floats around the perimeter, and he’s ending up with wide-open looks.

2. The Return of Manu Ginobili

Manu Ginobili played like, well, Manu Ginobili Sunday night, pouring in 24 points and dishing out 10 assists on top of that. It was his best game of the postseason, and it wasn’t particularly close, either.

The key change for Ginobili was being inserted into the starting lineup. Spending more time alongside Tony Parker allowed him to play away from the ball more and subsequently created new ways for him to attack a porous Miami defense. When he plays next to Gary Neal, there is an impetus on him to be the primary ball-handler and creator for the Spurs, and that’s been a major problem in this series. Playing next to Parker, however, created multiple opportunities for Ginobili to exploit mis-matches after Parker’s initial attack broke down Miami’s defense and sent them scrambling.

He also found a great deal of success on the right side of the floor. Many high screens for Ginobili are designed to go to his left, his strong hand. Miami has been overplaying to the left for most of the series, and in Game 5 Ginobili adjusted and took the creases Miami gave him. He ended up shooting 4-for-4 on the right side of the floor below the free throw line:

3. Miami’s Big Problem

Chris Bosh played 38 minutes in Game 5. During those 38 minutes, Miami out-scored the Spurs by seven.

Udonis Haslem played 9 minutes in Game 5. During those 9 minutes, the Spurs out-scored Miami by 20.

Miami might need to play Bosh all 48 minutes on Tuesday, or (wait for it…) experiment with LeBron at center (!!!) for extended stretches.

4. Wade’s good and/or bad game

Offensively? Lovely.

He picked up where he left off in Game 4, attacking seams, timing his cuts well, knocking down mid-range jump shots, and generally bending San Antonio’s defense into uncomfortable positions. He also facilitated, passing along 10 assists, including a few nifty ones for Ray Allen threes in key moments.

Defensively? Train wreck.

In Game 4, Wade’s activity on defense was a revelation. His rotations were impeccable, generating multiple turnovers with aggressive hands and wreaking havoc by roaming around. In Game 5, he tried to do the same thing, only the pep in his step from Thursday was missing, so all of his rotations were a step slow. As a result, San Antonio shot 60 percent from the floor.

His laziness in transition, which has long been a problem, created issues too. In addition to his savant-like movement away from the ball in the half-court, Danny Green also feasted on Wade’s slow trips back on defense, either knocking down a three himself, or forcing Miami’s defense to contort in a way that created openings for other Spurs. Miami’s defense had a number of failures, but the biggest were Wade’s.

5. Lineup changes

Miami started the series big – with Bosh and Haslem together in the front-court. That generally didn’t work, and Miami’s best lineups were with LeBron at power forward. So in Game 4, they changed up, inserting Mike Miller into the starting lineup.

It turned out that Miller’s shooting didn’t really make a difference (he only attempted one shot in Game 4), but the fact that he was on the court forced San Antonio’s defense to space outward, creating driving lanes for LeBron and Wade to attack.

How did San Antonio respond? They went small too, swapping Tiago Splitter (not a great series for someone who’s about to hit free agency) for Manu Ginobili.

All of a sudden, Miami’s speed and quickness advantage disappears, and it’s the Heat who are scrambling to cover shooters and rotate.

So if San Antonio is also going to play small, is Mike Miller the guy that makes the most sense for Miami? The reason they started him isn’t just his shooting – he’s also a very strong rebounder for his position, which is an imperative if San Antonio is playing big. But if the Spurs aren’t playing big, wouldn’t it make more sense for Miami to put Shane Battier back in the starting lineup (the move that saved their season last year)? He’s not a defensive liability and he can provide the same spacing Miller does. If Miami wants to extend this series to a seventh game, that’s the move they should make.

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