Paul Pierce asked for this. All of this.
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