Prized Possession: Raptors-HEAT

The Miami HEAT’s best play in any given game does not have to be a highlight. It doesn’t have to be a dunk, a chasedown block or a go-ahead shot. It doesn’t even have to lead to a made basket. The best play can simply be the perfect pick-and-roll, or an out-of-bounds play that gets an open look for three, regardless of result.

It just has to represent everything the HEAT would want out of a possession that they can directly control. A possession of such sound execution that any coach would be pleased, regardless of the result. Because it’s nearly impossible to duplicate a specific shot, but it is to earn the same opportunity.

It is, effectively, the sort of possession that gives the HEAT the best chance to win.

In the first half against the Toronto Raptors Saturday night, there were plenty of sequences to choose from. Starting small with a new starting lineup of Chalmers-Jones-Miller-James-Ilgauskas in the absence of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the HEAT displayed some of their best ball movement in past weeks. Miami scored 66 in that half, assisting on 19 of their 24 field goals, with all but one of their 16 total three pointers coming off a pass.

Mike Miller was a catalyst for much of the efficiency, curling off down screens to catch and shoot or attack off the dribble, but the prized possession of the night did not even involve him taking a shot.

The first thing to notice here is that nobody is sprinting to their destination, which brings up John Wooden’s quote about not mistaking activity for achievement. With James and Chalmers exchanging the ball on the left wing, Anthony and Jones are waiting patiently off the right elbow for Miller to cut down the middle. Had they run to their spot too early, the timing of the entire play would be thrown off.

But the timing here is perfect. As James and Chalmers run a slow pick-and-roll that causes Toronto to switch, giving James a mismatch with Jose Calderon on the right block, Miller runs DeMar DeRozan off his pair of screens. Miller gets space to receive the ball from a driving Chalmers, but recognizing that he doesn’t have space to shoot off the catch, immediately takes a dribble to the top of the key.

As Miller was doing this, James was jogging Calderon into the post, setting him up. Again, had James been over eager with his mismatch, he would have given the Raptors ample time to re-switch defenders. So, as Miller curls around the top, James establishes position and Miller hits him in stride with a perfect bounce pass to the target offered.

The key to all this is that James, who impressed often in the post, did not hold the ball. He collects in and makes his decision, getting around Calderon with a strong dribble and, when help came in the middle, pump-faking and finishing around Amir Johnson in a fluid motion.

Everyone is happy with the layup, but this was a prized possession because of everything that came before.