In Game 4, we saw another fourth quarter comeback by the Dallas Mavericks, sparked by a poor Miami Heat performance on the offensive end. If the Heat are going to win Game 5 and take a commanding lead 3-2 NBA Finals lead, they are going to have to fix their fourth quarter offense while trying to figure out how to stop Dallas' go-to play.
Offense: Run Meaningful Offense Late
Much has been made of LeBron James' passive nature in the fourth quarter, but when mentioning that we seem to forget that most of the Heat were passive on offense, reverting to their "stand around and watch" offense that gave Miami so much trouble during the regular season. The lack of an offensive game plan hurt the Heat as you got a lot of dribbling and a lot of simple screen and rolls that resulted in a lot of missed shots:
During these possessions, there is simply not enough movement to put pressure on the defense and force them to rotate. Sure, there is some movement before the play starts, but once the Heat get into their offense, there is a lot of standing around. You have Chris Bosh isolated at the elbow as everyone else just stands around. This allows the defense to feel free to help, forcing the turnover.
The problem for someone like me, who has no rooting interest in this series (other than wanting to see great basketball), is that the Heat actually do have a good offense when they want to use it. They have sets that do a good job of getting their players open in space:
The three plays above were run in the second quarter of game four. Why doesn't coach Spoelstra have his team run this play when he sees his offense stalling? I know that the defense ratchets the defense up in the fourth quarter, but makes us think that this play won't work in the fourth? If you don't want to get into an elaborate offensive set late, I don't see the problem in trying to the Wade/James pick and pop. It is something simple that has worked late in the game against Dallas already:
This isn't an amazing offensive scheme, but it forces the defense's hand. It makes them rotate and it puts the defense out of position. The result is a wide open jumper for Chris Bosh.
When the Heat struggle in the fourth, they make it easy on the Mavericks' defense. That happens when you have one player dribbling the basketball up top with the rest of the team standing and watching him. If the Heat want to win Game 5, their offense in the fourth quarter needs to be better.
Defense: Don't Hedge Off Of Dirk Nowitzki On Dallas' Staggered Ball Screens
When the Dallas Mavericks broke out their staggered ball screens in Game 2, it gave the Heat a world of trouble, as they were able to score eight points in four possessions on 75 percent shooting. While we didn't really see the play in Game 3, the Dallas Mavericks used it again in Game 4, and it is obvious that the play is still giving the Heat trouble. In my post about Dallas' pick and roll adjustment over at NBAPlaybook, we saw that the Mavericks ran their double staggered ball screens twice, scoring five points. When rewatching the possessions, you can see that Miami is still searching for a way to stop this set. They tried two different ways to stop the play, but both times, it was effectively the Heat using Nowitzki's man to hedge:
On this first play, Joel Anthony is the man defending Nowitzki. As J.J. Barea comes off of the staggered ball screen, Anthony hedges, but he doesn't hedge far because he doesn't want to leave Nowitzki. This soft hedge allows Barea to turn the corner, attack the paint, and force the help, allowing Barea to kick the ball out for an open three point shot.
On this play, Udonis Haslem leaves Nowitzki to try and trap the basketball. Nowitzki reads it and slips the screen, putting Wade in a position where he has to try and defend two players at the same time. The result is Wade rotating over to Nowitzki late, and fouling him.
So how would I defend this play? I would try to trap the ball handler (like Miami have tried in the past), but not use Nowitzki's man to do so. I would use whoever is defending Tyson Chandler and have him trap the basketball along with the man who is defending the ball handler. I know this leaves Chandler open for a roll, but I'd be willing to take my chances of having a smaller guy (either Barea or Terry) trying to throw a pinpoint pass to Chandler rolling to the rim. In addition to that, it keeps Nowitzki from beating you and keeps the ball handler from getting to the middle of the lane.