Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Miami HEAT Offense is SkyNet

The Miami HEAT offense improved in each game of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals. What's in store for Game 4?

Coach Erik Spoelstra said the Miami HEAT were focused on getting to their identity in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers and they got the closest they've been since the series started. The HEAT offense led the NBA this season by scoring an average of 1.01 points per play. The Pacers defense led the NBA by allowing 0.83 points per play. Here's how the offense progressed over the first 3 games of the ECF (stats from mysynergysports.com):
  • Game 1: 0.89 points per play
  • Game 2: 0.94 points per play
  • Game 3: 1.21 points per play

The HEAT offense is systematically learning to beat the Pacers defense as it works its way back to its identity. The HEAT scored 74% of their points this season off the following 5 types of plays (listed in order of points scored):
  1. Spot-Up
  2. Transition
  3. Pick & Roll, Ball Handler
  4. Cut
  5. Isolation

Here's the percentage of points the HEAT scored from those 5 play types in Games 1-3 of the ECF:
  • Game 1: 74%
  • Game 2: 67%
  • Game 3: 56%

From this perspective, it looks like the HEAT offense is getting away from its identity, but it's really like a liquid aluminum terminator shape-shifting to become a more lethal and efficient machine against the Pacers defense.

The spreadsheet below ranks the HEAT's offensive plays by points scored for the season and each game in the ECF. Plays that rank within 1 spot of where they would be expected to rank based on the HEAT offense and Pacers defense this season are marked with a 'Y'. Plays where the HEAT offense averaged more points in the ECF than the Pacers defense allowed this season are highlighted in green and plays that averaged less are highlighted in red.

Here's a summary of how the HEAT's offense performed, based on its identity in Games 1-3:
  • Game 1: Ran 5/10 play types to identity, scored above average on 4/10
  • Game 2: Ran 7/10 play types to identity, scored above average on 8/10
  • Game 3: Ran 7/11 play types to identity, scored above average on 9/11

The 2 types of plays the HEAT haven't consistently ran to their identity are transition and isolation. If they learn to execute those as part of their attack, there's no way the Pacers can win if the defense continues to improve, too. The HEAT offense appears to be programmed to eliminate the Pacers in 5 games.

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