Spo Must Help Chalmers Rise To Occassion
Entering Game 3 tonight, the Miami Heat are coming to grips with the terms of their celebrated 2010 off-season. With three major talents combining to one team, the Heat knew, thanks to the salary cap, finding a productive core of role players would be an exercise in futility. They were banking on their stars carrying the limited cast around them to multiple championships. But that strategy brought along substantial risk: lose just one of three and with little help behind them an “elite” team becomes just a “very good” one.
This risk became reality in Game 2. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 52 of the team’s 75 points. All other Heat members shot a combined 9-34. Perhaps the most damning piece of evidence is that despite astronomically high usage rates from Miami’s two stars (42.7 for Wade, 37.1 for James), they still had less turnovers (5) then the rest of their teammates (7). (A quick aside, that last stat is stunningly awful. Can’t overstate how poorly that reflects on the non-James/Wade Heatles)
Simply put, all the adjustments in the world won’t save the Heat unless their supporting cast steps up and starts making plays. Someone needs to step up and perhaps that someone is Mario Chalmers. Age/injury-related-decline or just plain awfulness knocks out the majority of the Heat’s rotation, so despite being 2-13 from the field thus far, the former KU product is Miami’s best hope.
The question is: what are things Erik Spoelstra can do to get him going?
The answer is: a little bit of everything. Throughout the early parts of the game, Spoelstra could look to use Chalmers in a variety of ways. From single-double action, to pick-and-rolls with whoever is being checked by Roy Hibbert, Miami’s head man must experiment a bit until he finds something that works.
Spoestra could even try some inverted ball screen action where Chalmers, when marked by Leandro Barbosa in particular, screens on the ball for Wade or James then pops into a quick isolation on the wing. Against Collison’s quickness and Hill’s size, this wouldn’t be successful, but against Barbosa, whose calling card is terrible defense, it could result in a few baskets and a boost of confidence for the young point guard. And at this point, Miami will take whatever they can get from their maligned supporting cast.
Diaw the Scorer
Entering Game 2, it’s hard to see too many adjustments Chris Paul and company can make in order to get level in this series. Despite hot shooting from the outside (9-19 from 3), L.A. still found themselves on the wrong side of a 108-92 loss. The scarier part is that 16-point defeat came on a night where the Clippers by and large contained the Spurs’ new offensive catalyst, Tony Parker.
Thanks to some very solid pick and roll coverage on the ball, L.A. held Parker to a rather pedestrian performance and, most importantly, forced him to be a distributor. Unfortunately for the Clips, several of his 11 assists on the nights found shooters like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green spotting up behind the arc. While some of those looks are inevitable one concept Vinny Del Negro and his staff can look to is forcing Charlotte cast-off Boris Diaw to play a larger role.
Diaw struggled finishing at the rim in Game 1 and despite his 1-2 performance from 3, isn’t exactly a floor stretching big. The Clippers should keep trying to contain Parker off ball screens involving Diaw with their gamut of hard hedges, aggressive corrals and a handful of select traps, but be less assertive rotating to Diaw, even on dives to the rim. L.A. should instead ask their wings to stick closer to shooters on the perimeter, make Parker negotiate a tough pass to Diaw on the roll and let the opposite big rotate over late to try and bother any attempts the Frenchman gets at the rim.
In 27 minutes in Game 1, Diaw attempted 9 shots while Leonard and Green combined for 19 with 9 of those being 3-point attempts. If the Clippers can force Diaw to hit double digits in field goal attempts, they will stand a fighting chance against the unstoppable juggernaut that is the Spurs offense.
On the other side of the floor, L.A. needs to really focus getting multiple actions and ball reversal in their possessions. While San Antonio isn’t an elite defensive team, they are still a great positional defensive unit. In other words, Spur defenders will normally be in the right spot, but they lack the elite defensive talent up and down the roster to snuff out secondary actions once their alignment has been shifted.
Some hot shooting, especially early on, made a few of the Clipper’s trips look much better than they really were, but they can’t keep playing with fire. If their goal is to slow the game down (which it should be), L.A. needs to make their offensive focus to wait for shots late in the shot clock after the ball has changed sides of the floor a few times and perhaps more than one pick-and-roll or post up has occurred.
This doesn’t mean they need to eliminate things like Blake Griffin finishing on the run in transition. Far from it, actually, as they must continue to look for both Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on the break. It just means they should eliminate things like Griffin/Kenyon Martin 18-foot jumpers with 14 seconds left on the shot clock. In short, to hang around for long against San Antonio, L.A. needs to play as close to perfect as possible.