Breakdown: The Miami Heat 3/4 court alley-oop

By Zach Harper | NBA writer
Lights, camera, action. (Getty Images)

The Miami Heat do spectacular things. I know people don't like the way they were put together and they don't like the components that were put together, but having Dwyane Wade and LeBron James together on a basketball court just brings about some ridiculous highlights.

I was talking to Matt Moore on the Eye on Basketball Podcast Thursday morning, and we were talking about this play in particular. The insane thing about a play like Wade throwing James a 3/4 court alley-oop is they've done it now so many times, it's almost become commonplace. You see Ricky Rubio throwing a fancy pass or Blake Griffin doing a ridiculous dunk or Chris Paul or Kyrie Irving shake a guy enough times, and one highlight begins to blur with the next one.

However, if anybody else connected on a play like this or had a similar highlight as those incredible performers, we'd probably be going nuts over such a spectacle.

I decided it would be fun to break down this play as if it were a set play because it's definitely something they've practiced. It's not something they'd end up using on every jump ball, but the occassional eye contact between the two right before the ball goes in the air is enough understanding to know it's go time.

Going into the play, you have Udonis Haslem and Jeremy Lin in a jump-ball situation. It's unlikely Lin is going to quick jump Haslem enough to steal this jump (although he does a fantastic job on the effort), so Wade and LeBron know they have a chance to capitalize on this by catching the Rockets off guard.

As soon as it's obvious that Haslem has won the tip in the direction of Wade, LeBron is slipping behind his defender and using a strong direct step to get his body to top speed right away. If you notice Omer Asik, he isn't prepared for this play. And really, it's the best person for Houston to have back if you're Miami because there is no way he's reacting quick enough and moving fast enough to keep up with LeBron in a foot race. Asik is watching the ball while LeBron is getting a head start.

When you used to watch Eddie House play basketball, it almost seemed like he was shooting the ball before he even caught the pass. He had such a quick release and such an appetite for taking jumpers that he'd almost be in his shooting motion before the ball even touched his hands. Wade does the same thing with this pass. He doesn't have any Rockets near him, so he can let the ball bounce while he winds up for the pass.

LeBron has almost made up the intial 15 feet (rough estimation) between him and Asik. And if you look at Asik in that frame, he's in terrible position to get back on defense. Both of his feet are pointed toward the sideline, his hips aren't rotated, and he doesn't have much balance in his posture as he realizes what is about to happen.

Remember when we talked about footwork with Corey Brewer on his leak outs? Everything LeBron did on this play is textbook Corey Brewer leaking out while everything Asik is doing exactly what you'd want him to do if you're Miami.

From this angle, Wade has already thrown the pass and it looks a lot like a deep route in a football game. Asik is trying to figure out where the ball is, where it's headed, and where the receiver is in the process. LeBron is able to track the ball without anybody in front of him.

Asik's only chance at stopping this play is to get in the way of the trajectory of the pass. If he can't knock the pass away at any point, it's a score because he's definitely not capable of catching LeBron and getting in front of him to contest the shot.

LeBron has to slow his steps a bit here to time the catch perfectly, and it pulls Asik almost even. There isn't much distance between the two, but Asik still has no idea where James is, as he figures out if he can knock away the ball.

Again, James has a clear path to the basket and just has to catch the pass at this point.

Once the ball clears Asik and LeBron just has to catch it, Omer accepts his defeat at the feet of Miami and decides to check out how LeBron is going to finish this play.

Let's take a look at it in the video:

Wade and LeBron manage to do this in some form a few times a season. Whether it's on a quick inbound pass, coming off of a defensive rebound, or being opportunistic on a likely jump-ball win, the chemistry they've developed on plays like this is pretty incredible.

Even if you don't like them, it's hard not to appreciate execution like this.

 
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