Miami Heat Predictions and Expectations
By Charles Klask, Advance Scout, Orlando Magic
Plummeting Offense: If the Heat are trailing and things are getting progressively worse, they like to use Dwyane Wade at point guard and will exploit their dynamic tandem of Wade and Shaquille O'Neal more frequently. Coach Pat Riley will let the duo play a two-man game either with the ball or without it. The Mavs might look to trap this action or could go to a zone.
Similarities: Both teams are similar in a few areas. They both work for quality shots and rebound. They are both capable of pushing in transition, both have a dynamic tandem, and both finalists play aggressive and energetic defense. Their differences are in the functionality of their personnel. Dallas has more versatility at nearly every position than Miami does. Miami does have the most imposing low post threat and most potent guard off the dribble in the league, but the wave of the future is the Mavs with multiple players being able to do multiple things. The last three Champions have all embodied the notion that it takes a team to win a ring.
Jump Shooters: Dallas can still get into streaks where they settle for jump shots and Miami must promote this mentality. Without being stockpiled with hyper-athletic defenders like Dallas, Miami will need to play a step off quicker matchups. The more they force Devin Harris, Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse and Josh Howard into perimeter shots, the better chance they have of rebounding, running and staying out of foul trouble. Conversely, with Dirk they need to crowd his catches, get him leaning toward half-court and lure him into taking fadeaways.
Ball Screens: In their Feb. 9 matchup, the Mavs made 24 baskets on 76 ball screens attempted (32 percent) to defeat the Heat by 36 points. Exactly 50 percent of the Mavs' points were a direct result a ball screen of some sort. They exhaust this concept more than any other team in the league and will use multiple ball screens in the same possession. Whether random or designed, the Heat will need to adapt to an abnormally high volume of ball screens. The Mavs will involve Shaq as much as possible on defense, which will make it difficult for him to show hard like he has been doing in past series. Look for Miami to adjust and allow him to stay inside while the guard fights the pick by himself. Shaq does a good job of showing in regards to his girth but can get into trouble when having to rotate and show to multiple picks in the same possession. The Shaq-era question remains: Do you want him 20 feet from the basket chasing down smaller players half his size, making him vulnerable for cheap fouls and possibly adding to the roadblock? Or do you want him staying home and defending the safe? (For a comparison, Miami used 28 ball screens on Feb. 9 for 16 points, 21 percent of their total points.)
Defending Deutschland: Miami will key heavily on defending Dirk by denying his post catches and crowding his jump shots. Haslem is the key to the ring, but must make Dirk play defense. If Haslem gets into foul trouble, look for Miami to play Walker, James Posey and even Shandon Anderson on Dirk. Miami will also switch any screen that makes sense when involving Dirk. While he is good at utilizing his advantages by shooting over or posting up smaller defenders and speeding past bigger ones, he can still get into phases where he settles for jump shots versus aggressive defenders. Miami might want to hold off doubling Dirk because the Mavs are effective at beating double teams and are willing to make the extra pass.
Wade must Defend: Every player that Wade is matched up against must challenge him on defense. He will not be able to rest and must be able to defend without fouling. Look for Howard, Harris, Stackhouse, Terry and Adrian Griffin to attack him. Riley has stated that the key to Miami's defense begins and ends with Wade’s defensive mentality.
Last Opponent: Detroit was a much better primer for Miami’s next opponent than Phoenix was for Dallas’ next opponent. Detroit was quite similar to the Mavs in the sense they prefer the half-court game, are stocked with quality players at each position, are equipped with a perimeter based power forward who can shoot from deep, and rely on a hyper-athletic and lengthy small forward who can do anything. The Mavs also mirror the only team to have the Heat reeling all postseason, the Bulls. Miami has trouble vs. quicker, athletic teams that play extremely hard and move the ball. Unfortunately for the Mavs, they have been playing the non-posting Suns in a small-ball atmosphere and now have to switch from a speed-and-perimeter game back to a strength-and-penetration game, like their San Antonio series, when meeting the Heat. If any team can alter its defense from an outside-in opponent to an inside-out opponent, it is the Mavs. The Spurs and Heat comparison, in regards to point distribution and team design, might be an indicator in predicting the Mavs-Heat outcome.
X-Factor: Haslem. Again, I cannot think of another player or position that is more critical to the Heat’s success. He has to guard the opponent’s best player, again. Udonis cannot be overanxious and pick up unnecessary fouls, which he has a tendency of doing. Not only does he have to play intense defense, he has to make himself a threat on offense so teams cannot afford to play off of him. His duty of defending an MVP-caliber player on the inside and out will be the determining factor in the series.
Charles Klask is an advance scout for the Orlando Magic, holding the position the last three seasons after spending the previous three as a video scout. Prior to joining the Magic, Klask spent one season with the WNBA's Detroit Shock in the role of video coordinator.
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