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John Schuhmann

Jermaine O'Neal will have to be more aggressive in Game 2 for the Heat to even the series against Boston.
Elsa/Getty Images

Heat now on O'Neal to get Miami's offense untracked

Posted Apr 19 2010 11:35AM

BOSTON -- Though Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra says that he'd rather beat the Celtics at full strength, he and his team will deal with the news that came down Sunday night, when the NBA suspended Boston's Kevin Garnett for throwing an elbow at Quentin Richardson in Game 1.

Boston's defense, with Garnett as its anchor, suffocated the Heat in the second half of Saturday's series opener, allowing Miami to score just five times in a 30-possession span, turning the game around. Without Garnett for Tuesday's Game 2, the Heat should have an easier time getting to the basket.

Garnett's absence alone will not even the series, though. The Celtics' may have rediscovered their fire in that second half Saturday, and they're likely to get better performances from Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, who combined to shoot just 6-for-21.

So the Heat will have to find ways to play better Tuesday, especially on offense. There's a myth that Miami is a one-man team, and Dwyane Wade's teammates did little to disprove that myth on Saturday. After practice Sunday, Wade called for more help from a supporting cast that scored just 50 points on 33 percent shooting.

"We had a lot of guys who weren't aggressive," Wade said. "I thought we relied on me too much at times to make the plays and get into the paint, when they weren't allowing me to do that at certain times."

Wade's teammates know they have to play better. Jermaine O'Neal, in particular, took a look in the mirror after Game 1 and didn't like what he saw. O'Neal made just three of his 14 shots Saturday, scoring eight points.

At the hotel afterward, O'Neal watched the game from start to finish, trying to figure out what went wrong. "Normally we get edits per position," O'Neal said Sunday, "but I watched the entire game to see why I was shooting so poorly from the field, why I wasn't making efficient moves and why I was going so quickly."

With the team watching more film together the next day, O'Neal probably spent more time in front of a TV than he did in bed between Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Spoelstra said that the Heat's biggest problem was that they weren't getting enough penetration. "The pressure went up and that's when you could pretty much draw a line at the free-throw line, and we didn't have anybody breaking that line near the paint," he said.

It didn't help that they were always attacking from the perimeter and never working inside-out. O'Neal got the ball in the low post only twice in the second half.

"We certainly need a little bit more diversity and to be able to play inside-out," Spoelstra said. "That's what's been successful for us. We'll try to get some of that out of his post-ups, but also off dribble penetration, where it's not just going east and west."

O'Neal didn't make much of his two post-up opportunities anyway. They both started too far from the basket and both ended with a bad shot. On the first, O'Neal made no move at all and just kicked the ball out to Mario Chalmers, who missed a three from the wing. On the second, he got the ball late in the clock, hesitated, and was forced into an off-balance fadeaway that missed badly.

Part of the problem was that O'Neal's timing was off after sitting out the final two games of the regular season. His mentality was the bigger issue.

"I've got to be more aggressive on my positioning, not fading out to the perimeter," O'Neal said. "I allowed missed field goals to alter the way I was thinking as far as my position on the court. I will look to get the ball deeper, and be more efficient and quicker when I get it, rather than holding it and catching it too far off the box."

O'Neal is matched up with Kendrick Perkins, one of the best low-post defenders in the league. Still, O'Neal made Perkins' job easy on Saturday.

"More than anything, [Game 1] wasn't necessarily about what they did," O'Neal said. "It was more about what I allowed to happen. And that's guys shading off me to go help on other guys. And that hasn't happened in years. And I just absolutely just sat on the other side and let them do it. That's one thing that I was really disappointed about when I looked at the film. And I can guarantee that won't happen again."

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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