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Heat Vs. Mavericks, Game 5 Adjustments: Look For The Roll Man Late, Go Back To Trapping Ball Screens

Returning home for Game 6, the Miami Heat have found themselves in a 3-2 hole in the NBA Finals, a situation that requires them to win two games in a row at home against the Dallas Mavericks.  If the Heat want to win Game 6 to force a Game 7, they are going to have to make a few adjustments on both sides of the basketball.

Offense: Look For The Roll Man Late

Once again, the Heat's offense in the final minutes struggled in Game 5.  It wasn't as bad as the other games Miami has lost (in my opinion, Miami's poor defense was more to blame for the loss), but to me, the Heat are still struggling in terms of shot selection.  Maybe the best example for this is the Heat's pick and roll play in the fourth quarter of Game 5.

In the fourth quarter, Miami scored 12 points on 10 pick and roll possessions.  That looks really good.  Breaking it down further, you can see why they were so successful.  When the Heat hit the roll man (six times), they scored nine points.  When they didn't (four possessions), they scored just three points.  Instead of settling for jumpers coming off of screens, Miami needs to be aggressive and look for the roll man.

The reason why the roll man is so open against Dallas is because of who is coming off of the screen (either LeBron James or Dwyane Wade).  With all of the attention going to James or Wade, the roll man has a pretty easy roll to the rim:

On all of these pick and rolls, you can see how focused the defense is on Wade or James as he comes off of the ball screen.  When that happens, the roll man is able to come open, get the pass, and finish at the rim (or draw the foul).

Where Miami's pick and roll game struggled is when the ball handler (either James or Wade) ignores the roll man and looks to force the issue themselves:

On these three possessions, you have the roll man open and available for the pass.  Instead, you have the ball handler trying to turn the corner or settle for the three point shot.  The result is a miss or a turnover (Wade actually hits a three-point shot, but it is one of those "fool's gold" situations where it is a bad shot but a make).  

This is the one area where Miami was really exploiting Dallas on the offensive end.  If they continue looking for the roll man, they should continue to have success.  

Defense: Go Back To Trapping Ball Screens

In Game 5, Dallas really hurt Miami with their pick and roll offense.  The Mavericks ran the pick and roll 33 times, scoring a whopping 49 points off of those possessions (good for a PPP - points per possession - of 1.48, well above their regular season average of 0.94).  Out of those 49 points, the Mavericks scored 24 points off of three-point shots.  It is interesting to see Miami struggle defensively with the pick and roll, because it is something they are so good at defending usually.  

In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat trapped Derrick Rose every time he came off of a ball screen, really negating his effectiveness. This wasn't an unique situation, but their defensive strategy for most of the season.  However, while playing Dallas, the Heat have gotten away from trapping the ball handler due to their fear of trapping off of Dirk Nowitzki when he sets screens.  Miami's strategy of playing the pick and roll differently than they are used to really hurt them in Game 5, especially when J.J. Barea was the ball handler.  The Heat decided to go under ball screens when Barea was using them, allowing him to pull up and knock down threes (he hit four of them in Game 5):

When the Heat are going under ball screens, they are allowing Barea time and space to survey the situation and make proper decisions.  In Game 5, that decision was to use the space to pull up for a three-point shot.

In my opinion, the Heat need to go back to trapping guys like Barea when he comes off of a ball screen.  During Game 5, the one time that they did trap Barea, they forced him into a turnover:

With the defense quickly showing on Barea, they are able to force him to pick up his dribble and make him make a quick decision.  The result is Barea trying to throw a pinpoint pass that sails out of bounds.  Another reason to go over ball screens with Barea?  His shooting in the paint.  According to, Barea is 7-22 inside 10 feet during the Finals.  The reason why the Heat go under Barea's ball screens is because they fear his speed, but if he isn't hurting you when he is getting in the lane, why try to prevent him from doing it (especially when he is hurting you so much going under screens)?

Barea probably won't shoot as well in Game 6, but if you continue to give Dallas' ball handlers space when coming off of screens, you are putting your defense at a disadvantage.