Coach's Corner: Don Casey on Heat vs. Pistons
By Don Casey (As told to Andrew Pearson)
The Heat visit the Pistons Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The Heat, on the other hand, has been on a roll since the All-Star break. There has been some question of whether or not Pat Riley will rest some of his players down the stretch, but if he does, it will be in practice time and intensity, not game minutes. Recently, Dwyane Wade has been leading the way and they are really utilizing him excellently. Similar to how the Bulls used Michael Jordan in the triangle offense and how the Lakers use Kobe Bryant, Wade is all over the place on the offensive end and clearly feels comfortable. He is up in the middle of the floor, he is coming off the base. Against New York, they ran excellent backscreens for him. When he does have the ball, they put him in the middle of the floor, they open up and say make your play. If he is on the side they give him a screen or a clear out. As a result, Wade has scored 25 or more in eight of his last 10 games.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Can they do that with Miami? I think they can. Jason Williams is the type of player that could come unglued under such pressure or he could burn them. In their game against the Knicks, I was pleasantly surprised to see that he seems to have the freedom to bring the ball up quickly and if there is a shot available, to take it. If there isn't, they wait for Alonzo Mourning or Shaquille O'Neal to come down. Both he and Wade seem to have an open floor policy, which is a little different than the last two teams that Riley had. They were really structured and there was a tight leash.
However, on the defensive end, their perimeter people get beat off the dribble. A lot of people were impressed by Mourning's eight blocks against New York, but that demonstrates how much they were getting inside. With Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, and even Tayshaun Prince, this could be a problem if they are able to penetrate and dump or penetrate and create fouls.
Both teams pride themselves on the pick and roll, both in defending it and utilizing it on the offensive end. Early on watch to see what both teams do against the pick and roll. How will Miami handle the pick and roll, particularly Shaq's weakness, which is in the middle of the floor. He hasn't been able to manage that and I believe you'll see Detroit involving Rasheed Wallace frequently. Wallace can cause all kinds of problems for Miami. He can shoot over you from deep or post up on the low block. Who are they going to defend him with? Will Riley play both Mourning and Shaq at the same time? Riley will go to Heaven before he double teams, so you can be pretty sure that you will see a mano-a-mano there. Detroit will also use both Wallaces, drive off him and see what Shaq does, and then one Wallace might slide down, while the other Wallace will come up. They're good at that and they're going to put that type of pressure on Shaq.
It will be interesting to see how Riley uses Shaq, not only in this game, but in the playoffs as well because of his horrendous free throw shooting this year. He is back to shooting it like a dart. Riley will throw the ball to Shaq early to see how they're going to defend him. What they're looking for when that happens is if the Pistons are going to double team after the pass or as he dribbles. If he comes into the middle to shoot, are they always going to foul him? Detroit has a lot of people that can waste fouls. If they double up on Shaq to try and get it out of his hands, Miami is very good in spotting up and cutting people and getting them open. This will be very good for Wade
THE BOTTOM LINE
In the last game between these two teams, Wade was chasing Rip around for a good portion of the game and admitted afterwards that it tired him out. Now you would never know it based on Wade scoring the final 17 Heat points in that one, but that can't happen again. The Pistons are smart enough, if they see that, they will go to their baseline, they will go to those curls, they will run him up, and they will tire Wade out. I see Detroit taking this one at the Palace in a 92-85 type game.
-- Don Casey appears courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association