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How The Heat Defend Bigger Big Men, And Why It Works

After Chris Bosh's injury in Game 1, you might have watched the Heat and Pacers Sunday and wondered why the bigger, badder Pacers weren't dominating Miami's big men inside. But it's not that simple.

Ethan Strauss does a nice job explaining the problem at Hoops Speak today, and it all centers on the rule changes that legalized zone defense. It's part of what allows Miami to be so dominant on defense (with or without Bosh), and part of why Roy Hibbert isn't as dominant as you'd think.

Here's an example of how the Heat defend the post:


Above the blue line you see 6'8" Udonis Haslem fronting the 7'1" Hibbert, forcing the Pacers to throw any entry passes over the top. But with the green arrow you Shane Battier lurking in the lane to defend any lobs, and likewise, there's LeBron James sagging off his defender. Either one would've been called for illegal defense ten years ago, but in 2012, it's no such thing.

This makes post-entry almost impossible. Even if he catches it, Hibbert's going to be swarmed. Strauss has more slides over at Hoops Speak, including plays from the past, with guys like Hakeem Olajuwon and Rik Smits. But the slide above tells the story of the Pacers-Heat in Game 1 and the Heat defense going forward.

It's how a team full of uber-athletic swingmen can successfully neutralize someone like Hibbert, who would theoretically dominate one-on-one. And it's also how a team without any dominant post defender can put together the most dominant defense in the league. It would be hard to beat a team with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in any era, but in 2012 it's even harder.