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How can the Heat stop Nate Robinson from being a hero again?

By Zach Harper | NBA writer

The Game 1 hero. (USATSI)
Nate Robinson: The Game 1 hero. (USATSI)

The Miami Heat lost Game 1 against the Chicago Bulls for a multitude of reasons. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh didn't step up and provide the proper help. The Bulls dominated the boards with a +14 showing. The Heat shot only 39.7 percent from the field.

The main reason the Bulls were able to close out Game 1 against the Heat was because Nate Robinson broke down the Miami defense and got a lot of easy looks for him and his teammates in the second half of that game. In the second half, LeBron James had 22 points, four rebounds, and four assists while making 7 of 11 from the field and 7 of 9 from the free-throw line. What's stunning is Nate Robinson surpassed that production with 24 points, six assists, and one rebound to go with 7 of 11 shooting from the field and 7 of 8 from the free-throw line.

Why was Nate Robinson so good? How did he account for 38 of the Bulls' 56 points in the final 24 minutes of the game? How was he able to take over in the fourth quarter to lead Chicago to the upset victory?

First, let's take a look at the video:

In this video, we have a lot of examples of how Robinson noticed and took advantage of defensive lapses by the Heat to get points for himself and for others. He was aggressive in the way he attacked the defense, and he showed the same fearlessness that allowed him to get stitches in his lip during the game and not blink an eye when contact presented itself again.

In the first freeze frame, we see Robinson trying to close the six-point deficit the Heat have against Chicago. A bad closeout by Mario Chalmers leaves Nate Robinson with a driving lane for his right hand. Ray Allen is essentially supposed to be guarding both Jimmy Butler and Marco Belinelli (off screen but in the corner) while LeBron James and Chris Bosh close off the lane.

The problem is James and Bosh never rotate over to close down the driving lane. Chalmers didn't close out well, but he also seemed to believe he had help behind him. Bosh never steps up to defend the rim, and James never steps over to cut off the drive. Robinson is never going to hesitate in a situation like that, and he gets the easy bucket.

We see another lazy closeout by Chris Andersen in the next play that allowed the Bulls' guard to drive to his left and sneak in for a relatively easy shot at the rim. And when Robinson was allowed to isolate against Chalmers, he used his quickness to free himself for a midrange jumper.

On this play, Belinelli and Robinson run a quick pick-and-pop to get Wade off of Nate. Once Ray Allen has to switch to defend the Bulls' only perimeter playmaker with time winding down on the clock, the Heat badly need to get into position to keep Chicago out of the paint and force them to take a bad shot.

But that doesn't happen. Robinson waves off Noah on a pick-and-roll. He then proceeds to blow past Allen to get into the lane, and we find the same rotation problems. Wade seems to be watching a potential dump-down pass to Noah. Meanwhile, James and Bosh fail to step up to cut off the lane and defend the rim. By the time Bosh does get there, it's way too late to actually defend the shot. The Bulls go up four with 45 seconds to go.

A lot of Robinson's fourth-quarter playmaking was routine passing within sets to guys knocking down jumpers. But one quick score the Bulls got came from a lazy Miami defense not getting up the floor early in the fourth quarter. Robinson pushed the ball and once Gibson had an easy path to the basket, delivered the ball for the dunk. He wasn't afraid to push the tempo and get the Heat on their heels, which is something Miami has to take more seriously in Game 2.

So how can the Heat stop him? I'm sure you noticed a possession in the middle of the video in which the Heat did manage to contain Robinson to force a bad, contested jumper.

On a pick-and-roll with Noah and Robinson, LeBron picks up the diving Noah to take away his path to the basket. In the process of this rotation, Bosh and Chalmers swarm Robinson on the perimeter and push him out to the side, as opposed to allowing him to turn the corner and get moving toward the basket. Ray Allen was left to defend both Taj Gibson and Marco Belinelli on the perimeter. However, nobody is going to be afraid of Gibson catching the ball 23 feet away from the basket.

Bosh recovers to the key as the Heat set up a pocket for Robinson to settle into. Instead of swinging the ball to the top of the key where Gibson is waiting, Robinson falls for the walled-off trap and takes a long, contested two-point jumper. This is the kind of defense the Heat need to play against Robinson in Game 2.

He's the only creator they have unless Tom Thibodeau is going to trust Marquis Teague with the ball. I'm going to guess he won't, so Robinson is the only guy. If they aggressively trap and pressure him when he has the ball, then they can force other players to beat them. Is Belinelli going to hurt them all game? Are Gibson and Boozer going to rain midrange jumpers on them? Is that something the Heat have to truly worry about?

Miami will have to take Chicago a lot more seriously in Game 2 and treat the Bulls like it would treat a Bulls team led by Derrick Rose. If the Heat don't defend with a sense of urgency, we're going to find them in a massive 0-2 hole heading back to the city of Chicago. That's not how you want to continue the defense of your 2012 NBA title.

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