|Avoiding LeBron is really difficult in the passing lanes. (Getty Images)|
Welcome to the 4-Point Play. Every Thursday we'll give you a look at what's happening in the league, provide some odds and ends, the best photos, and our Tweet of the Week. This week our discussion begins with Miami's pressure defense.
The Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets face off Thursday night and both teams have areas they need to "get right" in. Despite being considered strong playoff teams if not title contenders, and despite a combined 10-7 record, both teams have huge areas of concern that also happen to be huge surprises.
For Miami, it's defense. You don't need the numbers to see the Heat are having a hard time stopping anybody this year, but if you did, their 27th-ranked defensive efficiency at a whopping 104.9 is pretty good evidence. Against the Clippers, the team that has "played on a string" for two years defensively was a tangled mess of wires. The Heat are missing rotations, they're not contesting at the rim -- they're just getting scored on.
Meanwhile, as bizarre as that has been, Denver's offense has been equally squirrely. The Nuggets are 17th in the league, for a unit that has been a top-five team in scoring efficiency since George Karl took over, essentially. The dribble-drive offense has been difficult to implement with as many new components as they have, and their inconsistent shooting from the perimter isn't helping.
So Thursday night, one of these teams is going to get itself right. What's interesting is how. The Nuggets' biggest weakness has been their pick-and-roll offense. They are 27th in the league in scoring out of the pick and roll with the primary ball handler, according to Synergy Sports. Miami's pick-and-roll defense in that same set is 24th. So what's going to win out, the totally-moveable object or the easily-resistable force?
Under Video Review
by Matt Moore
If there's a tipping point, it'll be the Heat's strength in forcing turnovers in that set, where they force a turnover a crazy 36 percent of the time. On the other hand, Denver gives it up 23 percent of the time.
Here you see a pretty standard bad pass by Ty Lawson, but note the trap coming off the ball. Because the Denver screeners aren't terrific, Lawson sees two guys and makes a bad decision.
The other thing that gets Denver into quite a bit of trouble when you watch the video is that it gets burned trying to move away from the screen. Watch how the defense reacts when Andre Miller goes away from a pretty terrible screen by Kenneth Faried.
Again, the pressure caused by the set lures Miller into a cross-court pass with James Harden playing safety -- much like LeBron James does.
Here's an example of what the Heat can do when their pressure traps an opponent and they make the basketball equivalent of throwing a duck into the middle with a great safety lurking.
The minute the pressure escalates, Miami's defense starts salivating. And when the pass comes, James, who has become about as elite at this as anyone in NBA history, intercepts, chases the ball down and does his thing.
Denver, which has had turnover problems all year, has to protect the ball against the Heat. The Heat are on a back-to-back after getting into Denver at 4 a.m. Thursday and they're playing in altitude. But if Denver can't play the more efficient, athletic ball it has shown in the past week without turning it over, Miami's going to show why it's still capable of racking up huge wins, despite the loss in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.
|Scariest moment in basketball for a defense. (Getty Images)|
|"Do I seem amused?" (Getty Images)|
|Appropriately weird. (Getty Images)|
|Warrior. Well, I mean, Hawk. But a warrior. (Getty Images)|
Thunder coach Scott Brooks on if he uses linuep data to influence decisions: "I can barely keep up with my daughter's sixth-grade work and all these plus/minus things and my son, he's already in the 10th grade and I can't even help him out. These lineups, plus/minuses and this and that, I wish I was smart enough to really look at it but all I know if Kevin [Durant] has a bad minus, he's still going to play the next game. I mean, I use it. I'm making a joke of it, but I use it as much as I can. But I use other things, I can't [just use plus/minus]. That's so hard to do. If I knew the guy was going to be a minus I wouldn't have played him. But if I knew that I wouldn't do what I'm doing now, I'd be doing a lot of things and not basketball." -- Royce Young, CBSSports.com
Brooks on if he's ever thought about changing his starting five because of plus/minus: "I definitely see some trends and look at it and try and study it as much as I can and gather and internalize and much as I can. But I also have the eye test is so much important cause it's real game stuff. You don't have time to look at the plus/minus in the live game situation but there are things that stand out and have been a bother. I try and mix things up and put another guy in or give an extra minute or two there with another lineup."-- Royce Young, CBSSports.com
Zach Randolph on what happened between him and Kendrick Perkins: “It wasn't nothing. It was a good, tough, hard-fought game. It was competitive, just out there playing, two physical teams that want to win, a lot of emotions flying, so just part of basketball.” -- Royce Young, CBSSports.com
Randolph on if he and Perkins got things settled: "Man, I play basketball. I don't worry about all that. Perk all right. There's a lot of bluffin' going on the court, that's all, you know. And I don't bluff.” -- Royce Young, CBSSports.com
"I don't use crutches." -- Nikola Pekovich on his ankle injury
"Without going into great detail, some of our guys, I don't think would be very successful in the Triangle," Kupchak said. "Some of our newer players might take a long time to learn the Triangle."
Added Kupchak: "He plays the way we see this team playing and our personnel executing, the guys that we have on this team."
Antawn Jamison on Lakers drama: "I dealt with LeBron leaving Cleveland and guys bringing firearms in the locker room. This is mild."— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) November 13, 2012
Tweet Of The Week
The reason I haven't tweeted in 2 days is because I've been mourning Phil Jackson not being hired as the Lakers head coach.— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) November 14, 2012