After some missed Indiana free throws that would have sealed game five, Miami had a chance to tie or win the game with 12.8 seconds left.
That’s 10.6 seconds more than the Heat had in game one in 2013, but Miami drew up a similar play. It was Indiana that adjusted an entire year later. So how did we get to Chris Bosh’s missed three?
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The Heat ran some cross-court screening action, but that was mostly for show, as the ball was going to LeBron James for an isolation against Paul George.
George doesn’t do a phenomenal job defending James, as he ends up next to James rather than in front of him. But it is alright, because the Pacers defense is based on Roy Hibbert’s help-side defense protecting the rim.
That’s the big key. Hibbert’s presence forced James to kick the ball out. Instead of the best player in the NBA taking the potential game-tying shot at the rim, Miami got a Chris Bosh corner three.
Bosh shot 9 of 33 (27.3%) from that right corner in the regular season, but is 7 of 14 (50%) from that spot in the playoffs.
Bosh is shooting 40.7 percent from three in the playoffs, but that is the shot Indiana should allow, not James driving to the rim, where he shot 63.6 percent in the regular season.
But this defensive tactic is not what Indiana used in game one of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals when James scored in overtime to take a 1-0 series lead.
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It is nearly identical to the play Miami ran Wednesday night, just more compacted. Same crossing action, James catches for an isolation, Bosh is in the corner (except for a two). But Hibbert isn’t on the court, so there is no rim protection, and James gets the layup.
The lesson is clear. Always force the ball out of LeBron James’ hands.
Back to this year’s game five because Miami had more time. Bosh released his three with over six seconds remaining, as Indiana was rotating after Hibbert’s help.
George Hill has contested Bosh’s three, but the important rotation is David West, who leaves Rashard Lewis to cover Ray Allen. West is taking away an open three for Allen, and for Miami to get a better look at three, they would have to make two passes. Which could be done in six seconds, but the execution would need to be perfect for Lewis to get a quality shot off.
To critique Erik Spoelstra and the positioning of his players around the three-point arc, only Ray Allen was in a spot that would have been a quality look. Allen shot 34.1 percent from the right wing in the regular season. The other three Heat players were below league average in the regular season from the spot they were standing.
So if you allow for very simplistic math and reasoning, preventing James from shooting at the rim meant that the Heat's best shot at winning was 34.1 percent.