Did the Heat settle for too many jumpers?

May, 2, 2011
5/02/11
10:37
AM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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LeBron James
Victor Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesThis was one of LeBron James' 13 jump shots in Sunday's win, a total that the Celtics will happily take again in Game 2.

MIAMI -- In Game 1, the Heat beat the Celtics in decisive fashion, but Miami should proceed with caution. Sure, Dwyane Wade delivered a virtuoso performance with 38 points on just 21 shots, and James Jones blew up for 25 points of his own. But the underlying shot selection on Sunday was far too reliant on midrange jumpers and desperation shots at the end of the 24-second clock.

Put simply, the Heat got away with this one.

To illustrate this point, here are the Heat’s first 10 field goal attempts of the game:
  • LeBron James misses 15-foot jumper
  • Chris Bosh misses 14-foot jumper
  • Dwayne Wade makes 20-foot jumper
  • Dwyane Wade makes 16-foot jumper
  • Zydrunas Ilgauskas misses 19-foot jumper
  • LeBron James misses 25-foot jumper
  • Mike Bibby misses 19-foot jumper
  • Zydrunas Ilgauskas misses 8-foot two point shot
  • Chris Bosh misses 18-foot jumper
  • Dwyane Wade misses 25-foot jumper

That looks a lot like the November version of the Miami Heat.

The Heat should feel fortunate their defense stifled the Celtics in the first quarter, because it shielded the early shot selection from a shower of criticism. Shooting jump shots is not a recipe for success, especially for a foul-drawing team like the Heat, but they escaped with a win despite their love affair for the 19-footer. While the Heat drew a few fouls inside the paint in the early going, the Heat were clearly engaged in jump shot mode.

Going forward, that's troublesome. The Celtics understand the best way to beat the Heat is to tempt them into jumpers and, on Sunday, the Heat were quick to oblige.

According to basketball analytics warehouse Synergy Sports Technology, the Heat took 24 jumpers inside the 3-point line in Game 1 and 19 shots beyond the arc, a jump shot total that was far above their normal distribution when the offense was humming at the end of the season. Below is the shot chart of the Heat's shots in the half court (note: transition shots are not included), labeled by player number.

Heat shot selection
Synergy Sports Technology

As we can see here, Wade (3) and LeBron James (6) took a barrage of jump shots in this one, but they were fortunate enough to hit many of them. Combined, the two superstars shot 12-for-26 (46 percent) on their jumpers, which is far above their collective norm of 38 percent on the season, according to Synergy.

Reviewing the film, some of those shots had no business going in.

See that circled 6 there on the left beyond the arc? That was LeBron's step-back desperation 3-pointer that he took with the shot clock expiring in the second quarter.

See that circled 3 downtown just right from the top of the key? That was Wade's hero-shot with the 24-second clock winding down at the end of the first half. After dribbling around idly, Wade pulled up from 3-point land instead of using a pick from Joel Anthony. Delonte West contested it extremely well, causing Wade to dart in for the likely offensive rebound. Turns out he made the shot, pushing the Heat's lead to 13 points.

Other times, Wade would impulsively shoot a contested 3-pointer with the shot clock well over 10 seconds, for no particular reason. He did it in the opening quarter and again in the fourth quarter. LeBron, too, fell into this trap early in the third quarter, but a long offensive rebound from Bosh masked LeBron's rash gamble.

Speaking about Wade's shot selection after the game, Spoelstra stressed the importance of showing restraint on jumpers.

"It’s a delicate balance," Spoelstra said. "Dwyane Wade is one of the most dynamic midrange pull-up jumpers in this game. If we settle for too many 3s, particularly early in the clock, that’s falling right into their hands."

When it comes to shot selection, there's a thin line between settling and "taking what the defense gives you," a popular ex post facto rationalization for passive-aggressive shot taking. If a team misses their ill-advised jumpers, we tend to hear the former. If they make the shots, we tend to hear the latter. We let the results taint our judgment whether a particular shot was healthy or not.

The Celtics' defense predicates itself on overloading the strong side of the ball, which leaves their weakside corners open for opposing sharpshooters. The Heat took advantage with 11 3-point attempts from James Jones, Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers, but the eight 3-pointers from LeBron and Wade? The Heat could do without a few of those.

"We don’t want to settle," Spoelstra said after the win. "At a couple junctures during the game, I think we needed to be a little more aggressive and patient to try to get something in the paint. But that’s something we’ll improve on."

The Heat hit tough shots on Sunday. On Tuesday, they may not be so lucky.



Synergy Sports: Inside the Celtics-Heat series

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Chris Bosh
PTS AST STL MIN
19.9 2.9 1.4 35.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Bosh 8.7
AssistsD. Wade 6.4
StealsL. Deng 1.5
BlocksD. Granger 1.0