Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
The turning point in this series many would argue happened in Game 2 when a certain superstar made a little extra contact on another certain superstars game tying attempt. While this was a big moment, OKC would have been coming back to steal a game they had no business being in.
The real turning point in the series came in game 4 with under 6 minutes left. As LeBron went to the bench with cramping we all wondered exactly what Miami would go to offensively without LeBron, who had become the full-time 4th quarter go through guy in games 2 and 3. Wade had taken on a secondary playmaking role in those two games and it seemed to work.
With LeBron either on the bench or hobbled on the court Spoelstra went to an extremely simple set that put Wade in a great playmaking situation. The set used LeBron as a screener and decoy when he was in the game. I love this set because sometimes keeping it simple down the stretch and just creating something that puts your best playmakers in their spot can be the best thing you can do as a coach. We saw this effectively work with OKC’s down screen set in the Western Conference Finals.
The set starts with the ball in Wade’s hands up top as he dribbles to the left top to set up a ball screen angle. 4 sets a down screen for 5 who comes off it to sprint into a ball screen. 4 stays put on the short corner. Two best shooters are on weak side.
Having something organized to go to in this situation was huge for Miami. At many points this post season we have seen Miami go to simple ball screens in these situations which has been easy to guard and made things tougher on the playmakers. Props have to be given to Spo for having this particular alignment ready to go with LBJ not able to be the go through guy during this key time. Miami ended up running it for two easy layups (one Bosh missed) and a pick and roll rejection for a layup.
They were able to dominate the paint down the stretch and score time and again at the rim while OKC turned it over and settled for long twos. Being able to go from down 94-92 to up 99-94 in only a few possessions was the turning point. This set contributed 4 points in this run, with the LeBron dagger pull up three being the other points.
I said before the series began that the big 3′s would pretty much cancel out this series in my mind and the winner of the series would be the team that got more from their supporting cast. I thoroughly believed OKC’s role guys were going to give far more than Miami’s but that ended up being completely wrong. By my calculations the team whose big 3 won the battle only won 2 games.
In game 1 OKC’s big 3 outscored Miami’s by 9 points and won the game by 11. In game 3 Miami’s big 3 outscored OKC’s by 11 points and won the game by 6. These were the two games where the premier players were the difference and the teams split those two games.
In the other 3 games Miami was able to win despite having no edge in the big 3 battle. In those 3 games OKC’s big 3 outscored Miami’s by a total of 23 points (Miami’s did not outscore OKC’s in any of the 3 games) yet Miami won those 3 games by a combined 25 points. This means Miami role players outscored OKC role players by a total of 48 points in those three games.
For the series OKC won the battle of the big 3′s by 21 points total. This was not enough as they got beat because of their lack of scoring coming from anywhere else. Miami showed that if your top 3 can stay close to theirs then all you had to do was outscore the role guys. Sam Presti and Scott Brooks need to revisit the bench and figure out how they can get more from elsewhere next season.
While LeBron and Wade were huge down the stretch and made some game changing plays the credit goes to Miami role players for significantly outscoring OKC’s. Without a drastic improvement and huge performances from guys like Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier, LeBron ringless jokes would still be alive.
The world has spent the last year crushing LeBron and I have spent the last year wondering who he would be in the big 4th quarters this year. LeBron was consistently a guy you could count on to be aggressive, make plays for others, and attempt the big shot when his team needed. Was he MJ or Jerry West? No! But he never will be. He has some form of the Magic Johnson DNA and as you recall Magic didn’t start taking the big shots consistently until he had been there and failed multiple times.
LeBron shut the door with authority on the “best in the world” debate. There has been no arguing he has the most talent on the planet for the last 5 years but to become the “best in the world” you must show it on the biggest stage. LeBron did that with the Boston game 6, the fade away jumper in game 2 of the finals and the monster 3 that turned game 4 late. No more debate and no more jokes, you may not like it and you may not like him, but LeBron James is the best player in the world, PERIOD!
How long that lasts is up for debate though. There is an interesting rivalry brewing between he and Durant. KD and OKC will only get hungrier and better the next four years and Miami will only get older as James, Wade and Bosh head into their 30′s. LeBron mentioned Durant motivating him in the same way Magic and Bird used to feed off each other in the 80′s. For the sake of the league and us I hope we see these guys matched up in the finals multiple times over the next 4 years. Durant will have plenty of opportunity to reopen the debate if this is the case.
Here is the set in full (copy and paste image into Word to save or print set):