Sunday, May 26, 2013

HEAT Need to Improve Defense & Turnovers to Defeat the Pacers

LeBron James' brilliant performance in Game 2 was ruined by poor defense and turnovers. The HEAT need to improve those areas if they want to win Game 3 and the series.

4 Factors impact the outcome of a basketball game: shooting, turnovers, offensive rebounds and free throws. The HEAT lost all 4 of those factors to the Pacers in Game 2. In order for the HEAT to make a 3rd consecutive Finals appearance, the defense needs to improve against the Pacers' shooting, force the tempo to create turnovers and keep them off the line. The HEAT offense needs to cut down on it's turnovers. Let's get into the numbers to explain...

This article uses the Estimated Wins Produced statistic created by sports economist David Berri. Average players increase a team's chance of winning 10% by producing 0.100 Estimated Wins per 48 minutes (Est.WP48) because an average NBA team produces a 0.500 winning percentage. See the HEAT Produced Page for more information.

The Pacers are shooting with 50% efficiency against a HEAT defense that ranked 9th in shooting efficiency allowed this season at 48.7%. The league average shooting efficiency was 49.6%. The Pacers ranked 22nd in shooting efficiency during the regular season with a below average 47.9%. The defense has to improve.

LeBron James called George Hill the X-factor in Game 2 and his shooting efficiency was a big reason for that. Hill shot 6-8 from the floor and led the Pacers in estimated wins produced by increasing the team's chance to win Game 2 by 34%.

The HEAT only allowed 48% shooting efficiency by point guards during the regular season, but are allowing the Pacers PGs to average 59.5% shooting efficiency after Hill's Game 2 effort. Hill only shot 2-9 from the floor in Game 1. If the HEAT held Hill to the 48% shooting efficiency they normally allow, it would have decreased the Pacers' chance of winning Game 2 by 18%. Mario Chalmers and the HEAT defense need to get back to that for a chance to win Game 3 and, more importantly, the series.

The other Pacer the HEAT defense needs to improve against is Paul George. He averaged 49% shooting efficiency during the season but is scoring with a 56% shooting efficiency against the HEAT in the Eastern Conference Finals. Dwyane Wade starts off games defending George, but he and LeBron James switch on and off him during the game. George made 6 of his 9 shots in Game 2 with LeBron defending him (based on video from Only 4 of George's shots have been scored on Wade so far.

George's production in Game 2 increased the Pacers' chance of winning by 12%. If the HEAT held George to his season average for shooting efficiency in Game 2, it would have decreased the Pacers' chance of winning Game 2 by 10%. That change wouldn't have been a big enough difference for the HEAT to win the game, but every little bit helps in a series where the first two games came down to the last two possessions.

The problem with Wade guarding George is that he's put the Most Improved Player on the line for 12 free throws while LeBron has only put him on the line for 1 so far. 10 of those free throw attempts from Wade came in Game 1, when he fouled out. He only put George on the line twice in Game 2. George averaged 4 free throw attempts per 48 minutes during the regular season but is averaging twice that in the Eastern Conference Finals. It's important that Wade and LeBron find a balance between contesting George's shots while keeping him off the line to give the HEAT a larger margin of error to win Game 3 and the series.

The other part of the defense that needs to be addressed is tempo. The Pacers have committed less turnovers than the HEAT despite ranking 27th in turnover percentage this season. The HEAT picked up the  Pacers fullcourt for most of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters but the energy applied to the press varied and it didn't result in any overall success. The HEAT could turn the pressure up on the press, but the fact of the matter is the Pacers PGs averaged the fewest turnovers in the NBA this season. Trapping the ball to get it out of the PG's hand and force more turnover-prone players to make decisions could result in turnovers the HEAT can exploit to get out on the break. Traps in the halfcourt could also be effective when the Pacers post-up David West or let Paul George initiate the offense. Whether it's with a press or a trap, the HEAT have to find a way to increase the tempo of the game.

Turning the ball over against the Pacers is suicide for the HEAT. They can't give the Pacers extra plays with offensive rebounds while giving themselves less opportunities by turning the ball over. Case in point: LeBron James in Game 2.

LeBron increased the HEAT's chance of winning Game 2 by 52% but threw it away with 2 turnovers at the end of the game. Of course, the game wouldn't have come down to those last two possessions if LeBron's HEAT teammates gave him any support in the game. Birdman aka Chris Andersen and Mike Miller were the only other players that made a positive impact on the HEAT's chance of winning Game 2.

Miller's 3 before the buzzer at halftime increased the HEAT's chance of winning by 6% and his chance of getting injured by 100%. Birdman increased the team's chance of winning by 9%, but he was only on the floor for 1.4 minutes in the 4th quarter because he hit his 15-minute limit playing for an extended stretch in the 2nd quarter after Chris Bosh got his 3rd foul. Bosh needs to stay out of foul trouble so he AND Birdman can stay on the floor when the HEAT need them. Bosh's performance decreased the HEAT's chance of winning Game 2 by 10%. His 17 points on 50% shooting efficiency with 5 rebounds was dwarfed by Roy Hibbert's 29 points on 67% shooting efficiency with 10 rebounds. Hibbert increased the Pacers' chance of winning Game 2 by 20%.

As bad as Bosh was outplayed in Game 2, he wasn't the least productive HEAT player. Norris Cole decreased the HEAT's chance of winning by 15% in Game 2 despite only playing 19 minutes. Cole committed 5 turnovers in Game 1 but only 1 in Game 2. In Game 2, the problem was that he shot 1-6 from the floor and finished with 0 assists while George Hill dominated the PG position in the game.

The only value Cole brings to this series comes from applying pressure with pressing and trapping. The problem with that is his value's limited because he won't be able to turn the Pacers' point guards over enough. Taking all that into consideration, Cole should be benched for the rest of this series. He leads the rotation in turnovers with an average of 6.1 per 48 minutes and his shooting efficiency is in the toilet at 25%.

Erik Spoelstra should put Cole under glass and only break it in an emergency if the HEAT need to apply pressure on the ball.

The spreadsheet below lists the wins produced stats estimated for all players from the boxscore for Game 2.

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