NBA Playoffs 2013: Miami's pick-and-roll defense and a question of identity

Mike Ehrmann

The Pacers used Roy Hibbert's size to their advantage and exploited Miami's defensive identity. Now, the ball is in the Heat's court to either adjust their pick-and-roll defense, or stand by their philosophy.

The Indiana Pacers won Game 2 in the Eastern Conference finals in large part because Roy Hibbert scored 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting. The Pacers adjusted their offensive attack by using Hibbert as a roll man out of high ball screens and effectively exploited the Miami Heat's defensive gameplan.

The Heat's strategy to trap Indiana's ball-handlers backfired. Since Indiana is using Hibbert to screen, they are pulling Miami's only big man out of the post. The Heat's lack of size is being exposed as they run small lineups.

Here, Hibbert sets the screen and rolls to the middle of the key. LeBron James is playing power forward and has to stay with David West. West pulls James away from the post, leaving the Heat's point guard, Mario Chalmers, to rotate onto Hibbert. Forcing Chalmers to rotate also spreads the floor for Indiana.



Hibbert doesn't kick the ball out to the perimeter, but takes advantage of rolling to the rim against a player who is a foot shorter than him. The Heat can't recover to help in time, Chalmers ends up on the floor and the Pacers get an easy basket.


The Heat can't use Chalmers as a help defender against Hibbert, but can they use James when he is the rotating big? Here, the Heat pull Chris Bosh out of the paint so they can trap the ball-handler. James is defending West in the low-post and will immediately rotate to cut off Hibbert as he rolls.


The result? Hibbert scores over the top of James.


Can the Heat continue running small lineups while Indiana pounds the ball inside? Miami's insistence to trap out of the pick-and-roll has given Hibbert space in the post, and Miami isn't able to swarm him like they did in Game 1 when he touches the ball.

It isn't just Hibbert taking advantage of Miami's pick-and-roll defense. Here, the Heat don't trap and George Hill easily penetrates to the rim. Neither Shane Battier or Ray Allen are able to contain Hill. This forces Bosh to rotate in front of Hill, and James (who is covering George) to rotate and cover Ian Mahinmi.


The entire Heat defense is sucked into the paint, which leaves George on the perimeter to drain a wide-open three.




Eric Spoelstra has a few tough decisions to make in this series. As Paul Flannery discussed, the heat is on Miami to respond to Indiana:

Here's where some of this falls to Erik Spoelstra to juggle his lineups and resist the urge to continue riding with some of his combinations that have been incredibly productive up to now. Loyalty is one of the great attributes of a successful NBA coach, but a short memory in the playoffs is even better.

Udonis Haslem has given them nothing. Mike Miller might give them a boost. One way or another, the shooters have to make shots and the Spoelstra has to find some way to bring Hibbert away from the basket and deal with him on offense.

If Miami continues playing small, what can they do to slow Hibbert down out of the pick-and-roll? The first option is to stop trapping the ball handler and have Hibbert's defender sag back in the paint. This puts pressure on players like Allen, Wade and Battier to play well enough as individual defenders to deter Indiana's ball-handlers. As we saw in the play above, that doesn't appear likely.

The other option is to play big. Slide James back down to small forward and have two big men on the floor. One to trap out of the pick-and-roll, and another big (say, Chris Andersen) prepared to rotate when Hibbert rolls to the rim.

Indiana had to question their identity after Game 1, but stuck to the script and tied the series. Now, the question looms over the head of Spoelstra and the Heat.

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