54 points in the paint
As poor as the Miami Heat played on the defensive end, their offense beat up on the Indiana Pacers’ interior as it rarely has before, dropping 54 of their 96 points in the paint.
56% of their total points came from the painted area, with both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade scoring at least 59% of their points in the paint. Chris Andersen also thrived in the paint with 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting and a pair of free throws.
Miami shot an impressive 51% against Indiana, the best field goal percentage they’ve given up in these playoffs, and was getting plenty from their two slashers. Unfortunately, their shooters, for a fourth straight game, shot well below 35%, despite, according NBA.com/stats, getting a fair number of open looks.
The Heat shot 44% on uncontested shots, just days after nearly dropping Game 5 against Brooklyn thanks to 34% shooting on uncontested looks. Lowlights from Game 1 included 1-for-7 shooting from Chris Bosh, who struggled heavily finding his stroke from beyond the arc, and Mario Chalmers going 1-for-5, including a pair of wide-open threes from the same corner.
The Heat were 0-for-6 overall on corner threes. LeBron James, 1-for-5 from beyond the arc, shot a pedestrian 4-of-8 on uncontested shots.
Meanwhile, the Pacers, who only took 21 uncontested shots to Miami’s 36, shot 57%, with Lance Stephenson, David West and Paul George combining to shoot 9-for-14.
Plain and simple, the Heat are going to need their shooters to step up if they want a shot at winning another title. Norris Cole, Ray Allen, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, James Jones, and Chris Bosh all had their moments in the past three playoff runs with their shooting.
The same obviously applies to this season. LeBron James already had to score 49 points for a below average shooting effort in Game 4 against Brooklyn. They can’t rely on him to be better than great every night. At some point, more of his passes need to turn into assists.
For a moment there, the Heat looked poised to begin shooting the ball at an elite level after such an uncharacteristic year from beyond the arc. Expectations certainly rose as the Heat crushed Charlotte with 43% shooting from three, with Bosh, Chalmers, Cole and Jones all shooting 44% or better.
The shooting kept up in Games 1 and 2 against Brooklyn, but has petered off with four consecutive games of sub-34% shooting. Miami shot less than 36% overall against Brooklyn, but, as stated prior, it nearly cost them Games 4 and 5.
Miami opened up the Conference Finals with 26% shooting in Game 1. Although Indiana has held the Heat’s three-point shooting at bay over the course of the season, Miami has also failed to capitalize on open looks in just about every meeting.
Needless to say, it’ll be tough to see the Heat’s uncontested shooting percentage continue to teeter around 40%.
26 bench points
More strong numbers from Miami, but from too few of names. Miami may have gotten 26 points from its bench, but all of those points were scored by two players, with Andersen scoring 14 and Ray Allen scoring 12.
Ray was the only Heat player with more than one three-point conversion, although he was only 2-for-6.
Norris Cole and Udonis Haslem were the only other bench players to play more than ten minutes, but both responded with no points to contribute to the effort. James Jones missed his only shot attempt and went scoreless in four minutes.
After hitting at least one three-pointer in his first seven playoff games this year, Cole has gone scoreless on 0-for-8 shooting in the past three games. He also has only two assists and is losing trust from the coaching staff, playing less than 15 minutes in the past three games with the team electing to go without a point guard entirely for stretches.
By comparison, Norris Cole scored a point in all but two games of last year’s playoffs, and those came in the NBA Finals. He was imperative in Miami’s semifinals victory over Chicago, shooting 9-for-11 from three, and played well in the Game 7 victory over Indiana, contributing eight points and four assists.
Without Mike Miller, and with Michael Beasley perpetually in the doghouse (as he should be), it’s going to be up to guys like Cole to step into a role that asks of him to occasionally make threes and make wise decisions.
Shane Battier, who will likely come off the bench next game in favor of starting Udonis Haslem, will also be asked to shake the malaise of the entire season. After failing to shoot 35% from three this season, the second worst 3-point percentage of his career, Battier has had his playoff moments already, but not nearly on a consistent basis.
He only has one made three-pointer, on only three attempts, in the past four contests, and is becoming increasingly more hesitant when it comes to shooting. Too many times has he already dribbled or passed out of a feasible shot, which only leads to a hitch in the team’s offense on that possession.
Even if the Heat aren’t shooting well, you have to believe something has to got to give in the near future. The team that was mediocre all year shooting from three, after finishing second in 3-point percentage last year, will need guys like Battier and Cole to begin making their shots if they want to get through Indiana, and then face off with the well-balanced, well-oiled machine of San Antonio.
Miami is still reluctant to unleash James Jones for too long to fully scrap any Battier minutes.
Cole, too, has yet to lose complete trust. Although he’s losing minutes, the Heat have not trotted out Toney Douglas in his place. There still hope that he’ll catch fire as he has done in the playoffs many times before.