As Erik Spoelstra was choking away another Game 1 in the 2013 NBA Playoffs, Frank Vogel saved him with a Heimlich maneuver that forced defeat from the jaws of victory so he could swallow Spo's chewed up loss for himself.
After 80 substitutions in the most over-coached playoff contest so far (there were only 24 substitutions for Game 5 vs. the Bulls), Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals played out as expected. Spoelstra didn't have the team ready despite a week of preparation, didn't implement a game plan to exploit the opponent's weaknesses in the playoffs and he played Shaved Monkey Nuts (aka Shane Battier) and Norris Cole too much.
How does the coach who finished 2nd in Coach of the Year voting NOT have the 2nd best offense in the NBA ready to score more than 37 points in the 1st half against the NBA's best defense after a WEEK to prepare - FOR THE SECOND SERIES IN A ROW? I don't know because nobody in #HEATMedia asked him during the press conference televised on NBA TV.
How does the coach many proclaim to be "Filipino Jackson" NOT exploit the Pacers short rotation filled with key players that are hurt (George Hill), asthmatic (Roy Hibbert), slow (David West) and turnover-prone by pushing the pace and running them into the ground or the bench, whichever comes first, by pressing, trapping, rebounding and running? I don't know. I guess the HEAT couldn't play fast and go deep into their bench... Oh, wait - the bench has 3 of the 4 most productive HEAT players in the playoffs and 3 more that have been productive in previous playoff runs! Vogel told Dan Patrick his players need to rest on the off day because they played so many minutes in Game 1. The Pacers faltered at the end of the season because they were dealing with fatigue and injuries. How can the game plan NOT be to run them into the floor?!
How does a coach whose 3rd-most-used lineup featured no point guards this season play a no-point-guard lineup for JUST 3:38 after Chalmers left the game with a shoulder injury and 17:35 remaining in regulation? I actually know the answer to this one: Battier's a friend of the owner who's played too much since he joined the team and Spo's not great making changes to his rotation on the fly.
Glass half-full view of the game? Besides getting a win, HEAT fans are 1 game closer to the Shadow GM hiring Tom Crean to coach the team in 2014.
The numbers from the boxscore show just how bad Shaved Monkey Nuts and Cole were in the game. The numbers also show how LeBron James and Dwyane Wade tried to Spo-proof the game but fell short. They needed a lot of help from #CradleRobber aka Chris Andersen to get the job done.
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.
Most Productive HEAT Players
#CradleRobber was the most productive player in the game with 0.997 est.WP48 (almost 10 times better than an average player) despite playing only 18.3 minutes. He increased the HEAT's chance of winning the game by 34% with 16 points, no missed shots, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks and just 1 foul. It would be nice if #CradleRobber could play 20+ mpg but he can't. He's almost 35 years old and his knees are close to shot. Fans have to look at him like Alonzo Mourning in the 2006 title run. He's instant energy off the bench on the glass and in the paint. In fact, if he comes up with another performance like Game 1 in this series, I'll stop calling him #CradleRobber and call him #WhiteZo or #ZoWhite on twitter. Whichever's better.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were the 2nd-most productive HEAT players. They combined to increase the HEAT's chance of winning the game by 45%. On a per-48 minutes basis, they increased the HEAT's chance of winning by 56% but that's not enough. When they Spo-proofed the Pacers series last year, they combined to increase the HEAT's chance of winning by 62% over 6 games and 77% in the four victories. The good news is that Wade's knees didn't look like a problem in Game 1, but I wonder if the 6 fouls in the 2nd half were a sign of fatigue.
Wade's 2nd half wind will be something to keep an eye on if Chris Bosh isn't going to help he and LeBron Spo-proof the games in this series. Bosh's production was below average with just 0.065 est.WP48. He only increased the HEAT's chance of winning by 4% with more fouls (3) than rebounds (2). He called himself the X-Factor before the series. Let's see if he stays out of early foul trouble and plays like an X-Factor in Game 2.
Least Productive HEAT Players
Shaved Monkey Nuts was the least productive HEAT player with -0.321 est.WP48. He decreased the HEAT's chance of winning by 19% with more fouls and turnovers (6) than points, steals and rebounds (5).
No, Battier can't guard David West but West wasn't a big problem. He was in foul trouble and kept off the glass while shooting 3-6 from the floor and just 2-6 from the free throw line in the 2nd half. The bigger problem was Tyler Hansbrough who came off the bench and destroyed Shaved Monkey Nuts for 8 points and 4 rebounds in the 3rd quarter. Hansbrough ended up the most productive Pacer in the game with 0.555 est.WP48 and increased the team's chance of winning by 13%.
Shaved Monkey Nuts has been terrible the entire playoffs, but the other reserves have carried him to make the bench an advantage for the HEAT. That wasn't the case in Game 1 of the ECF.
Ray Allen and Norris Cole combined to decrease the HEAT's chance of winning by 18% with 1-12 shooting from the floor (Allen's fault) and 6 turnovers (Cole's fault). Combined with Shaved Monkey Nuts, they completely negated #CradleRobber's impact on the game and turned what was supposed to be a HEAT advantage into a weakness. The HEAT reserves decreased their team's chance of winning by 2% while the Pacers reserves increased their team's chance of winning by 13%.
It's not like any of this was unexpected, however. The pregame post on this blog warned about Allen possibly struggling against the Pacers' big perimeter defenders and Cole cooling off against the best defense in the NBA at shutting down the shooting percentages of point guards.
Yet, Erik Spoelstra didn't have any counters ready for those scenarios. He played Cole MORE minutes after Chalmers went out with injury instead of going with Wade at PG and left Mike Miller sitting on the bench as Ray launched bricks - as if he forgot that Miller's shooting efficiency was 53% against the Pacers in last year's series... #CreanIn14.
The spreadsheet below lists the wins produced stats estimated for all players from the box score and play-by-play for Game 1.