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Heat Vs. Mavericks, Game 2 Adjustments: Continue Pick-And-Pop Towards Sideline, Put Dirk Nowitzki On Chris Bosh

After losing Game 1, the Dallas Mavericks trail the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. With the 2-3-2 Finals format, winning one of the first two games is even more important for the Mavericks, who would have a chance to close out things at home if they can win Game 2. To do so, the Mavericks are going to have to make a few adjustments on both sides of the court.  

Continuing The Sideline Pick-And-Pop

In Game 1, the Heat showed their hand defensively, revealing that they would be determined to keep the basketball out of Dirk Nowitzki's hands and force the rest of his teammates to beat Miami. Maybe the strongest example of this was Miami's pick-and-roll defense when Nowitzki was the screener.  While trapping/hedging hard on the ball man, the Heat sent a third man at Nowitzki, forcing the basketball out of his hands.

Even though the Mavericks performed better in the pick-and-roll during Game 1 vs. their postseason numbers (0.937 points per possession in Game 1 vs. 0.92 in in the playoffs), I still think they left opportunities on the table, and to take better advantage, they should try to run more pick-and-pops with Nowitzki moving toward the sideline.  The reason why it works is because it forces the third defender that Miami is sending at Nowitzki to come from quite a distance (the opposite block).

Here, Nowitzki sets a screen for Jason Terry and pops out towards the corner.  This is by design as it forces LeBron James to come from the opposite corner to make sure Nowitzki doesn't get a clean look off.  Instead of panicking, Nowitzki makes the catch, surveys the area, and spots the open man, hitting him with a pass.  In this case, it is Shawn Marion, who makes the extra pass to Jason Kidd, who hits the shot as the defense attempts to rotate back to him.  The initial rotation and Nowitzki's pass forces Miami to rotate to the basketball, which eventually leaves Kidd open.

What this pick-and-pop towards the corner does is it opens things up for passing/cutting lanes.  This is because with how Miami is defending the pick-and-pop, you now have three defenders on one side of the court covering two defenders.  In the above clip, Chris Bosh steps up to him, forcing a rotation from LeBron to Bosh's man.  This leaves the middle wide open for Marion, who gets the easy lay-in.

Miami was so determined to prevent Nowitzki from beating them that they were even willing to send an extra defender his way before he caught the basketball.  Again, this is where the pick-and-pop toward the corner creates openings.  As Nowitzki pops towards the corner, you see that Dwyane Wade is already way over there, taking the pass to Nowitzki away from him.  That leaves DeShawn Stevenson wide open for the three, one that he takes, and even though he misses it, it is an open look I am sure Dallas would take time after time.

The Mavericks pick-and-roll game all postseason has been designed to get Nowitzki, Terry or J.J. Barea open.  With the way Miami is defending the pick-and-roll, neither of those things are going to happen constantly. However, if they do run their pick-and-pop towards the corner, they will be able to get open shots for guys like Kidd, Peja Stojakovic and Stevenson.  If they are able to make Miami pay for the way they are defending the pick-and-pop, Dallas can force Miami to make adjustments and maybe open things up for guys like Dirk, Terry and Barea.  

Switch Nowitzki On Bosh

Much has been made of Miami's success against Dallas and their zone defense (20 points on 18 zone possessions); nine of those points came off of shots that Dallas was willing to give up (threes by guys like Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers).  Perhaps more troubling for Dallas was their man-to-man defense in the front court, where they had Nowitzki covering Joel Anthony and Tyson Chandler covering Bosh.

Now the idea of putting Nowitzki on Anthony makes sense because you are going to hide a pretty poor defender (Nowitzki) on a poor offensive player (Anthony).  However, Anthony has an incredible work rate on the offensive glass, and that is where Nowitzki and the Mavericks got burned:

With Nowitzki covering Anthony, he got absolutely bullied whenever a shot went up.  It wasn't even because Nowitzki wasn't trying to box out, because he was, but Anthony just outworked and outmuscled Nowitzki, leading to offensive rebounds and second-chance points for Miami.  

While Anthony gave Nowitzki a lot of trouble, Chandler had trouble himself trying to defend Bosh on the outside:

Chandler is far more comfortable defending in the paint and being a help defender.  When he is covering Bosh, he can't really do either of those things.  He can't protect the paint because Bosh is an outside shooter and he is pulling him away from the rim.  Also, Bosh is usually the screener in Miami's pick-and-roll sets, meaning Chandler is defending the pick-and-roll rather than helping on it on the Heat's pick-and-roll in the video clip above, Stojakovic is the man ranging over and helping (a huge dropoff from Chandler, who is normally the man who protects the paint). 

What switching Nowitzki onto Bosh and Chandler onto Anthony means is it allows Chandler to be that guy to protect the paint, something he has been doing all season.  Also, Nowitzki isn't going to get posted on a ton because Bosh is more of a face-up outside shooting type of big instead of a back to the basket guy, so Nowitzki on Bosh isn't a huge match-up problem.

If the Mavs put Chandler on Anthony, they will be able to limit the Heat's dominance on the offensive glass because now Chandler is boxing out Anthony.  What this means is that they are able to grab the defensive boards and run out, something that Dallas wants to do more of in Game 2.