Film Session: Bosh in Motion

CHICAGO – We’re now two mornings removed from Game 1, a loss so thoroughly defined by the offensive rebounds of the Chicago Bulls and the third-quarter mental letdown of the Miami HEAT that, at this point, there’s not a ton of nuance left to uncover.

That’s why by the second media session, the narrative turned to new ways to say the same things. Cavalry was the word of the day, in that Erik Spoelstra said that no brigade is coming in the form of a lineup change or some other deus ex adjustment. Support will only come in the form of Miami’s mentality, in the habits they’ve built all season.

In other words, the HEAT just need to play their game better, and more focused.

With that in mind it seems appropriate to look at the functions of their game the HEAT executed well against the Bulls. Given that Miami’s offensive efficiency dipped from 103.45 to 89.01 points per 100 possessions between the first and second halves – now a definite playoff trend – and Chicago’s defense is largely given credit for closing the game out, let’s focus on the attack.

There are a few things that jump out at you when combing through the game. The HEAT had one of their better, but still mediocre, spot-up shooting games they’ve had against Chicago, shooting 30.8 percent in and scoring 0.93 points in such opportunities. They only ended a play with one hand-off and scored more than 0.4 fewer points per possession they usually score on cuts. Miami averaged 12.4 isolation plays this season, scoring 0.92 points in those possessions, the top mark in the league. Against Chicago, just 0.64 points per isolation, of which they ran 14.

So where was the success? They still got the usually efficient numbers out of the transition game despite a number of blown fast-breaks, but as tends to be the case against any strong defense, Miami got its best looks when multiple players were in motion. Sometimes that was a well-executed elbow set:

But for the most part, the HEAT did well when active in screening situations. When the player setting a pick popped out to a spot, leaving only the ballhandler in motion, the offense suffered, as evidenced by Miami’s 0.8 points per possession used by ball handlers off screens.

When the screen setter was in motion, however, sufficient pressure was put on the Bulls defense that the net result, whether a shooting foul or a look at the rim for either player involved, was a positive.

The HEAT finished nine possessions with the screener rolling to the basket, they scored 13 points, shooting 4-of-6 and getting to the free-throw line 22 percent of the time. On slightly over two-thirds of these possessions, Miami scored at least one point. Sixty-six percent of the time, passing to a screener in motion worked every time.

In most cases, the harbinger of pick-and-roll success was Chris Bosh, he of 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting. As long as Bosh didn’t pop out to a spot above the free-throw line – where he still earned some looks – the Bulls had to account for two players encroaching on the paint.

Chicago played this a few different ways. As you’ll see in the video below, it began the game hedging on Mike Bibby as he came off a Bosh screen. With help coming slow across the lane, in part due to good floor spacing, Bibby was able to drop a pass to Bosh for a score and a foul. In other instances, the defense stayed two arm’s lengths from a cutting Bosh, and layups were earned:

The final play in that set, where Noah was non-committal to either Wade or Bosh, was largely representative of how the Bulls had to play the pick-and-roll when Bosh made himself an active threat. Unless Chicago trapped the ballhandler with a quick decision and cut off passing lanes, Bosh’s defender was stuck in the middle, unable to fully leave Bosh as he crept toward the rim, making himself an available target. Of the eight pick-and-roll man possessions SynergySports has tagged for Bosh, he was fouled three times, got two layups and two dunks with just one missed jumper and a single turnover (in the paint).

Even as Chicago’s defense ramped up and Miami’s offense stagnated in the second half, this continued to work, including three-possessions within a two-minute span of the fourth quarter. Note that even when the ballhandler goes away from the screen Bosh is setting, the play is still a screen-roll.

This is again dependent on floor spacing to keep a help defender from picking up Bosh too early, and sometimes the HEAT have to go to a smaller lineup, one susceptible to Chicago’s offensive rebounding, to get its shooters on the floor. But if the boards are figured out, through both improved effort and a few doses of improved luck, then the HEAT have a play almost guaranteed to force the Bulls into high-tension situations.

Better yet, having Bosh screen and keeping him in motion can be an excellent in-case-of-emergencies action. If Miami can get more execution out of their base elbow and high-horns sets as they did in the first video, then Bosh’s screens could be a series-long compliment, one they didn’t have at all against the Boston Celtics.

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