2020 NBA Finals | Lakers vs. Heat
Film Study: 5 plays that tell the biggest story of Lakers' Game 2 win
Lakers attacked the zone from multiple angles, but the Heat shouldn't abandon it
The Miami Heat were in a tough spot in Game 2 of The Finals on Friday, trying to defend LeBron James and Anthony Davis without their best interior defender. Bam Adebayo was out with a neck strain, leaving Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard (who had played just once in the postseason) as the Heat’s only rotation players taller than 6-foot-7.
With Leonard in the starting lineup, the Heat played man-to-man to start the game. But after Olynyk checked in, made a 3, and committed a non-shooting foul, the Heat went to their 2-3 zone for the first time, having played it for just two possessions in Game 1.
They would go on to play zone for 58 defensive possessions, 63% of Game 2. And it sort of worked. It’s not good that the Lakers scored 74 points on those 58 possessions (1.28 per possession), but L.A. scored 50 points on just 34 possessions (1.47 per) otherwise.
Here are some key possessions against the zone…
1. Seal in the paint
The Lakers mostly attacked the zone by having somebody — James, Davis, Alex Caruso or Rajon Rondo — flash to the middle of the paint. The Heat would try to close that passing lane, but on a couple of occasions, James sealed the nearest defender off to create a passing lane…
James got a layup for himself with similar seal late in the fourth quarter.
2. Over the top
The Lakers have the best set of lob threats in the league. Kyle Kuzma isn’t one of the top four, but late in the second quarter, he was looking for a lob behind the zone. He didn’t get it, but he flashed to the middle of the paint, pulling Olynyk up from the basket. James then followed behind Kuzma, catching a lob from Rondo.
One thing to note on that play is the lack of pressure on Rondo, making it easy for him to throw the lob.
3. Crashing the glass
The Lakers had 21 second-chance points in Game 2, with 16 of the 21 coming against the zone. Six of those 16 came from Davis on a three-possession sequence midway through the third quarter, with the middle of the three offensive rebounds being the most spectacular…
After those three straight offensive boards, the Heat tried harder to keep Davis off the glass. He still grabbed five more offensive boards, totaling eight for the night.
4. ATO – James to the seam
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Lakers drew up a play for James to attack the seam of the zone.
Rondo pitched the ball over to James, who attacked the weak-side seam and got an interior screen from Markieff Morris, keeping Olynyk from being able to step in front of the drive.
5. Some settling
The Lakers’ execution against the zone wasn’t perfect. After scoring 20 points on 12 zone possessions in the third quarter, they scored just 21 on 19 zone possessions in the fourth. There were possessions when they couldn’t get the ball into the paint and settled for long or contested 3s. Here was one low-energy, fourth-quarter possession that helped the Heat hang around a little longer than they probably should have.
Bam or no Bam?
The Heat would have more options defensively with Bam Adebayo, but he’s doubtful for Game 3. Either way, that doesn’t mean they should abandon the zone. As noted above, though the Lakers had the third most efficient Finals performance of the last 24 years, they were less efficient against the zone than they were otherwise.
A lot of that was about the shots they were getting. Against the zone, 36 of the Lakers’ 66 shots came from 3-point range and they had a free throw rate of just nine attempts per 100 shots from field. Otherwise, only 11 of their 31 shots were from 3-point range and they had a free throw rate of 35 attempts per 100 shots from the field.
A lot of the zone 3s were open and in-rhythm, but against the Lakers, those are preferable to dunks, layups and free throws from Davis and James. Whether they’re in man or zone, Adebayo’s presence would help prevent some of the interior stuff, along with some of L.A.’s second-chance opportunities.
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