Posted May 3 2012 9:56AM
MIAMI -- Mike Miller and Shane Battier have the green light.
Though LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are the primary offensive options for the Miami Heat, head coach Erik Spoelstra wants his reserve wings to shoot. A lot.
"I don't even care about the makes that they had," Spoelstra said after Miller and Battier combined to shoot 5-for-15 in Game 1 of their first-round series with the New York Knicks. "I just like seeing Mike hunting down for nine 3-point attempts. I really wanted him to get 10. I told him before the game I wanted him to get 10 attempts. He could make zero of them. It doesn't matter."
That's the kind of encouragement a shooter loves to hear from his coach. But Spoelstra knows that he needs those guys to let it fly, because the Heat can't win a championship with their Big Three doing all the work. And while it would help if some of those attempts went in, for Spoelstra, just the threat of perimeter shooting can keep defenses on their toes.
"We need them hunting down shots. We need our guys finding them in rhythm with timely passes, and for them to let it go, with absolute confidence. That helps our game, obviously."
Spoelstra has talked often about the "symbiotic relationship" between his team's attackers and its shooters, especially important in the postseason when transition opportunities are limited and your half-court offense can make or break you. The attackers create open shots for the shooters, and the shooters create driving lanes for the attackers.
James and Wade are the attackers. And thus far, they're doing their job, shooting a combined 27-for-36 (75 percent) in the paint and totaling 30 free throw attempts through the first two games of this series.
Battier and Miller are doing their job too, combining to shoot 11-for-25 (44 percent) from 3-point range. And as a result, the Miami offense has scored a ridiculously efficient 117 points per 100 possessions against what was a top five defensive team in the regular season.
That's an encouraging sign, because the Heat were pretty awful offensively in the second half of the regular season. They had the league's best offense before the All-Star break and seventh-worst offense after it. The biggest difference? 3-point shooting.
|Miami 3-point shooting|
|OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions|
Though he missed two stretches of 12 games or more, Miller had a strong shooting season, hitting 45 percent of his 3s. Battier, on the other hand, had the worst shooting season of his career and made just 32 percent of his 3s after the break.
The Heat signed Battier to give them an extra wing defender against the best players in the league. And with his defense on Carmelo Anthony in Game 1 of this series, that signing has already paid dividends. But Battier must also be able to knock down the corner 3-pointer when he's open.
So far, so good in the playoffs. It's early, but the Heat have had the most efficient offense through the first four days of the postseason. They've been most efficient with Miller on the floor, and amazingly, they've scored 25 points in less than 7 ½ minutes with James, Wade, Bosh, Battier and Miller all on the floor together. That includes 5 ½ minutes in Game 2 where the group shot 7-for-8.
The Heat could probably get past the Knicks, now down three starters, without major contributions from Miller and Battier, especially with the way James has played in the first two games. But they will absolutely need perimeter shooting as they get deeper into the playoffs.
They'll also need Mario Chalmers, who led the team in 3-point attempts and shot just 30 percent after the break, to get into the act too. He's 3-for-8 from 3-point range through the first two games, but his quickness has been a more important weapon against the Knicks' older point guards.
Last year, the Heat shot just 33 percent from 3-point range in the postseason. They shot 19-for-43 (44 percent) in their two Finals wins, but just 26-for-87 (30 percent) in their four losses.
Miller shot 11-for-37 from 3-point range in last year's postseason. Dealing with a myriad of injuries, he didn't get much playing time until Game 2 of the conference finals, and attempted just 29 3s over the Heat's last 10 games.
If Spoelstra gets his wish, that number will be closer to 100 this year.
"It opens up lanes," Spoelstra said, "make or miss."
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