First Round Recap: Miami’s Clean Sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats

For once, I was right on one of my predictions.

But selecting the Miami Heat in four games over the Charlotte Bobcats should have been what the consensus was predicting going into the series. Even had Al Jefferson remained healthy, the Bobcats simply didn’t have the offensive firepower outside of him, and spurts from Kemba Walker, to combat the Heat’s small lineup of shooters surrounding LeBron.

In an odd realization, the Heat were actually outscored by Charlotte when Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh were playing together. As a three-man lineup, their net rating of minus-9.5 and defensive rating of 107.7 points per 100 possessions actually hindered the team’s effort against Charlotte.

A lot of that, however, has to do with the slow starts Miami got out to in three of their four games. The starting lineup’s net rating of minus-19.4 was the worst lineup that played at least ten minutes Miami used. They only mustered 87.3 points per 100 possessions with the starting lineup, which was arguably limited by Udonis Haslem.

It was only when the bench hit the floor when the Heat were able to get things going. When Udonis, who finished the series with a team low minus-9 net rating, was on the floor, the Heat’s offense stalled, and failed to get off the type of shot they could have passed into had more shooters been on the floor.

Miami’s best lineup of the series featured Norris Cole, Ray Allen, LeBron James, Rashard Lewis and Chris Andersen.  Those five had a net rating of plus-27.9, scoring 127.7 points per 100 possessions and giving up 99.8 points per 100 possessions.

But that was only one of four Heat lineups, among those that played at least 15 minutes together, that had a net rating of at least plus-20.4.

Haslem also had a team-low 91.6 offensive rating. By comparison, no other player on the Heat had lower than an offensive rating of 102.9, surprisingly owned by Dwyane Wade, who trailed off after a stellar Game 1.

Meanwhile, the players with the top offensive rating all came off the bench. James Jones led the way boasting an ORTG of 130.5 points per 100 possessions, while Chris Andersen finished close behind at 125 points per 100 possessions. Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen and Norris Cole rounded out the top five.

Decently impressive numbers against a Charlotte team that ranked sixth in defensive efficiency in the regular season. With the team focusing all of its attention on LeBron James, on account of there being no individual who had a chance at stopping him, the shooters thrived, but not nearly as much as LeBron did.

What a welcoming change it was to see the shooters actually make their shots. After finishing the season in the middle of the pack in three-point percentage, the Heat shot as well as they did in the 2012-13 season when they were second in the league in that category.

Although Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis struggled, and combined to hit only three of their 16 three-point attempts, it was refreshing to see Norris Cole regain some confidence lost, James Jones to get some minutes and respond with quality play, and Chris Bosh to regain the stroke he had earlier in the year.

It’s only Charlotte, but guys like Cole and Bosh hitting shots is going to be huge in the long run. Ray Allen will eventually come around, because that’s just what he does, but someone’s going to have to replace Mike Miller when it comes to the team’s shooting, and Cole, who dominated in the first two rounds of last year’s playoffs, will be a necessity beyond the perimeter.

The same goes for Bosh, as he continues to push his game further and further away from the rim.

While the team shot 43% overall from three, led by Chris Bosh’s 69%, Mario Chalmers’ 45%, Norris Cole’s 50% and James Jones’s 44%, it was LeBron James that proved to be as overwhelming as we envisioned he’d be.

Without astute defender Jeff Taylor available, the Bobcats were forced to go with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who is a good defender in his own right, but lacks the size and strength to combat LeBron. As expected, LeBron abused MKG, as well as Gerald Henderson, Chris Douglas-Roberts and whoever else was unfortunate enough to get the call from Steve Clifford, in the post, and on pick-and-rolls.

Near the end of Miami’s Game 4 win, with LeBron scoring with ease over Henderson in the post, two points were as close to a guarantee every time James went into the post. It truly is remarkable when you recall just how poor LeBron’s post game was as recently as the 2011 Finals, and compare it to what it has become today.

LeBron finished the series with averages of 30 points per game on 56% overall shooting and 35% three-point shooting, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 2.3 steals per in 39.3 minutes per game. He didn’t make it look difficult, either. LeBron feasted on Charlotte’s lack of a sizable perimeter defender, as well as their reduced frontline.

With Jefferson already being limited, getting to the rim and scoring against the likes of Josh McRoberts and Bismack Biyombo was as easy as you could imagine for a player of LeBron’s caliber.

But that’s what we’ve come to expect from LeBron, which is why I didn’t expect Miami to drop a single game of the series. As many strides as Charlotte took this season, and as much of an All-Star Jefferson appeared to be, Charlotte didn’t have the all-around talent or depth to compete.

TOP THREE HIGHLIGHTS

3. The JAAAAAAMES JOOOONES Show

2. LeBron gets kneed in the thigh, immediately knees Charlotte’s playoff chances in the groin


1. LeBron stares into Michael Jordan’s cold, envious soul

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2014 NBA Playoffs: Miami Heat Stats of Significance Through Game 3

The Heat are really, really, really good when James Jones is on the floor

We asked, incessantly, and got our wish for more James Jones minutes. And while it’s doubtful coach Erik Spoelstra reads the suggestions offered to him on social media, it’s obvious that, in the right situation, the Heat are a better team, especially on offense, when Jones is on the floor.

Jones, who possessed a plus-19.5 net rating in the regular season, is currently posting an absurd net rating of plus-41.8 in 42 playoff minutes through the first three games of the playoffs. The Heat are generating 139.5 points per 100 possessions when James in on the floor, and giving up 97.7 points per 100 possessions on defense.

No other player is garnering more than 125.1 points per 100 possessions, owned by Chris Andersen, and it shows. The Heat are far more efficient on the offensive end when Jones is on the floor, stretching the floor and spacing Charlotte’s top ten defense, and obtaining quality shots for their sharpshooter.

Although Jones was 1-for-6 overall in Miami’s Game 3 win, three of those looks were categorized as uncontested, and he finished the night a plus-18. Only LeBron James, who went off for 30 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists, had a better plus/minus rating.

You can only wonder how much longer the Heat can continue getting away with playing him, though. He’s a good fit against Charlotte because the Bobcats don’t have the shooting guard or small forward that’s capable of dropping 25-plus on any given night, rendering Jones a liability on the defensive end.

If Brooklyn makes their way out of the first round, one has to wonder how much time Jones would see playing against the likes of Paul Pierce or Joe Johnson.

For now, we’ll revel in Jones shooting lights-out, and allowing us to momentarily forget about Mike Miller.

The starting lineup has been less than impressive

While lineups featuring Jones have been extremely productive, the starting lineup has been an absolute bust. Featuring Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem, the starting lineup has a net rating of minus-28.4, and is garnering only 77.5 points per 100 possessions.

They’re no better on defense, giving up 105.9 points per possessions, and it’s been resulting in a slew of slow starts against a Charlotte offense that ranked 23rd in offensive efficiency in the regular season.

In 33 minutes together, their true shooting percentage is a paltry 40.5 percent, and they’re shooting 36 percent from the field. The second-most used lineup, meanwhile, featuring Norris Cole, Ray Allen, Wade, Bosh and Andersen, is shooting 50 percent and has a net rating of plus-26.4.

The three players with the lowest plus/minus rating on the team are a part of the starting lineup, including Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem. Wade and Bosh, however, thrive in the other, more productive lineups, while Haslem, who is seldom-used after his first and third quarter stints, has the lowest plus/minus rating of any rotation player.

The starting lineup’s problems are palpable. There’s little spacing, because of Al Jefferson’s lack of respect for Haslem’s capability of being a consistent shooter, and the lane doesn’t open up nearly as much as it does when guys like Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, or James Jones are on the floor.

Udonis is a good fit for the right series. If you need a physical matchup that can help beat up on guys like Carlos Boozer or David West, Haslem is your guy. Putting a shooter in there, however, forces Charlotte to make significant adjustments in their defensive gameplan.

In previous games, they’ve been hiding Jefferson’s lack of mobility by placing him on Haslem, and McRoberts on Bosh. Put a shooter in there, however, and Jefferson would have no choice but to either be matched up with either Rashard Lewis or Jones or even Shane Battier, or go one-on-one with Bosh.

Either way, this is all rendered moot by Jefferson likely not being available for Game 4, and the fact that Miami’s up 3-0 and should have the series wrapped up by the end of the night.

Chris Bosh is shooting lights out from beyond the arc

Hopefully the law of averages doesn’t hit Chris Bosh in future series’.

These aren’t forced shots from Bosh, either, as they’re all coming in the rhythm of the offense. The only worrisome part of the lucid shooting display is how comfortable Bosh can get shooting from far out. That shot’s not always going to be there, and the Heat will need the prince of the mid-range and post-player at some point over the next month.

Then again, the playoffs have belonged to Bosh, especially in big-time moments. In the 2011-12 postseason run, Bosh shot 54 percent on 13 attempts, including a big 3-for-3 performance in Miami’s Game 7 win over Boston in the Conference Finals.

Last year, he shot 41 percent on 37 attempts, which was on par with Ray Allen and Mike Miller’s shooting prowess in the same postseason run. Fully transitioning in attempting to move his mid-range game further out beyond the three-point stripe, Bosh shot a respectable 34 percent on a career-high 218 attempts.

He had taken no more than 74 three-pointers in a season prior to this year.

 

LeBron James Elbows Charlotte’s Title Chances in Throat, Leads Heat to Game 2 Win

Before we get into the seemingly endless, meandering event that is a Miami Heat playoff victory, let’s get one thing out of the way first.

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Game 1 Recap: Stats of Significance in the Miami Heat’s Game 1 Win

Chris Bosh shot 2-for-8 on uncontested field-goal attempts

After a feverish rush wanting to get to the postseason, Chris Bosh’s Game 1 was forgettable, with the exception of a pair of three-pointers and a late block on Kemba Walker. He was 4-for-13 overall, was not looking for his shot, and didn’t take as much advantage of Al Jefferson’s injury as he should have. 

Expect the Heat to take note of that injury to Jefferson in future games this series. Bosh’s advantage of already being faster than Jefferson has grown exponentially, with Al being limited by a foot injury he suffered in the first quarter of Miami’s 99-88 win. 

Bosh will likely be more aggressive in Game 2, but should also have the benefit of not shooting 25 percent on uncontested shots. 

Dwyane Wade shot 6-for-8 on contested field-goal attempts

While Bosh struggled with his shot, Dwyane Wade was automatic with his. After sporadically missing 28 games this season, Wade had the look of a player capable of leading his team to a championship, as the team’s number two guy of course. 

He limited Gerald Henderson to six points on nine shots, while shooting 4-for-9 on jumpers beyond ten feet himself. He even hit a rare stepback three-pointer to exacerbate Charlotte’s deficit to 15 points midway through the fourth. He was everything you wanted him to be, if you were a Heat fan/coach/teammate, finishing with 23 points on 16 shots. 

With Jefferson being injured, and losing whatever agility he had, Wade, and the rest of the Heat, should be able to feast on Charlotte’s weakened interior. 

As for Charlotte, when it came to their percentage on contested shots, Kemba Walker struggled on 1-for-6 shooting, but did get 5-for-11 shooting from Gary Neal, and 3-for-4 shooting from Josh McRoberts. 

Al Jefferson allowed 67% shooting at the rim

Although the Heat were outscored 38-34 in the paint by Charlotte, they found a great deal of success when they were able to penetrate the Bobcats’ top ten defense. 

The Heat shot 6-for-9 at the rim when Jefferson was on the floor, but he was hardly any worse than his teammates. Josh McRoberts held the Heat to 60% shooting, but Bismack Biyombo allowed the Heat to make both of their field-goal attempts at the rim. 

Charlotte’s defense caused initial frustration for the Heat, with Miami scoring only 19 points in the entire first quarter, but it tapered off once the Bobcats had to go their bench. Watching Chris Douglas-Roberts attempt to guard LeBron James was cringe-worthy bad at some points, and Wade abusing Gary Neal and Gerald Henderson in the post was child’s play. 

Miami ended up with a significant advantage in the free throw attempts department because of Charlotte’s interior defense, and their incapability of providing the defense with a fortified second line. 

2014 Playoffs: Miami Heat Apathy Withers, Effort Takes Over in Game 1 Victory

Not even Game 1 of the 2014 playoffs, the game we thought the Miami Heat had been waiting for all year, could wake the team up from their regular season malaise.

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2013-14 NBA Season Predictions: A Look Back at How Bad I am at This

I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong. So when I decided to take a look at my record predictions for the 2013-14 season, I knew I’d end up way off on a few.

Now that I look at them, though, they’re not that bad. My prediction is the record I predicted, while the second record is how they actually finished. The number next to those records is how far off I was.  Continue reading

Miami Heat Continue to Ruin New York’s Season, Win by Double-Digits

It was as typical a game between the Miami Heat and New York Knicks as you would imagine.

The Heat need a few minutes to wake up. The Knicks come out firing, and continue to do so for the rest of the game. The Heat play with effort for five minutes and almost look they’re going to run away from it. The Heat relent. The game is close for the next 20 minutes.

In the end, it’s usually a Knicks’ player making an unsubstantial amount of threes, but not enough because of too much LeBron James.

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