Prized Possession: HEAT - Nets

The Miami HEAT’s recent four-game road trip was hardly the finest stretch of the season. Inconsistencies plagued the HEAT to such a degree, against four rebuilding teams, that it’s difficult to glean much of anything in the way of useful analysis.

Not that that’s a condemnation of the way the HEAT are playing. There will simply be stretches, particularly at this stage of the season, when Erik Spoelstra isn’t rolling out any new offensive sets, when the defensive is finding its way and when rotations are shuffling with players heading in and out of the lineups.

So, rather than using a possession that may contribute more to the discussion on the over-arching themes of this season, we find a nugget from Sunday's win that offers useful reference for very specific encounters the HEAT may have in the postseason.

At first glance, this is yet another example of good Miami offense, featuring a side pick-and-roll and the same ball movement the HEAT use whenever they are operating at their highest level. But what’s pertinent here is what happens immediately after Erick Dampier sets the initial screen.

It’s a trap.

In theory – though not quite in New Jersey’s execution – this is a hard double on the ball-handler, meant to disrupt the flow of the offense and possibly force a turnover. As well as Dampier has been playing, the Nets are all too willing to leave him alone outside of the paint in order to swarm LeBron James.

And this is exactly what the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls will do.

The key to beating this, as with any double team, is James recognizing the aggressive defense and moving the ball as quickly as possible to the open man. The trouble after a wing pick is that the trap tends to force the ballhandler backwards, and with the sideline acting as the extra defender, the offensive player is either left trying to force a pass between the two defenders or retreat and go the long way around.

Here, James is never quite in trouble, as he has the size advantage over Mario West while Brook Lopez doesn’t get out quick enough as he lunges. James whips the ball to Dwyane Wade, whose man is shading down to Chris Bosh, on the opposite wing and in turn, Wade enters the ball to Bosh at the free-throw line.

Bosh is then able to take advantage of Lopez’ momentum carrying him across the paint as he recovers, Bosh making a quick up-fake and then getting the first step, where only Travis Outlaw is left to stop him at the rim.

This is all well and good, but Chicago and Boston are likely the two best teams in the league at this trap. Going from the Nets to those two teams, you are not only going from the No. 19 team in defensive efficiency to the top two teams, but the speed at which both the trap and the ensuing rotations will come is incomparable. And if the HEAT don’t beat it with decision making like they displayed on this possession, their playoff opponents will bring the double again and again.

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