The Miami Heat got killed by the Indiana Pacers in Game 6.
They played some awkward lineups, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had their worst combined game of the Big 3 era, and no one outside of LeBron James and Mike Miller could make a shot.
Some small tweaks are coming for tonight’s massive Game 7.
Here’s what to look for:
1. LeBron stops playing like he’s on the Cavaliers.
LeBron has played differently this series than he did during Miami historically good regular season.
He’s taking three more shots per game, two more three-pointers per game, and passing less (his assists rate has gone from 34% in the regular season to 26% in this series).
He knows it too. After Game 5 LeBron said, “I just kind of went back to my Cleveland days.”
That’s not a good thing. LeBron is best when he’s playing efficiently and unselfishly — when every shot he takes is a good shot, and every pass he makes puts the defence out of position. That’s what he has been doing all year. That’s what makes Miami a juggernaut.
It’s understandable why he’s shooting more and playing more iso-ball. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have been awful. But the best bet is still to have the LeBron play how he played during Miami’s winning streak, not how he played in Cleveland.
2. Birdman plays a ton.
Based on every advanced stat, Chris “Birdman” Anderson has been Miami’s best rebounder this series.
He’s the only guy who gets offensive boards, and he’s much better at keeping the Pacers off the glass than both Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem.
Haslem is a better player than Birdman if he’s hitting jumpers. But give his erratic play this series — and Indiana’s utter dominance in all rebounding categories — Birdman is a better option, even if he’s just as hopeless as every other Heat player when guarding Hibbert.
3. Mike Miller becomes the new Shane Battier.
One of the underrated story lines in this series is that Shane Battier has been effectively benched. He played 21 minutes in Game 3, 17 minutes in Game 4, 8 minutes in Game 5, and 4 minutes in Game 6.
He was in Miami’s crunch-time lineup during the season, and now he’s out of the rotation. The Heat sorely miss his three-point shooting and spacing.
A guy who could step in to that Battier role in Mike Miller. He gave the Heat a huge boost in Game 6 — hitting two threes, fighting for rebounds, and generally looking more lively than anyone else on the court besides LeBron.
With Battier missing in action, Miller could be huge.
4. LeBron guards David West when it matters.
If LeBron tried to guard West all game, he’d be totally exhausted by the fourth quarter. But West has been destroying Miami both off the dribble and on the boards.
In Games 4 and 6, West got big 4th-quarter offensive rebounds that ended up being some of the biggest plays of the game.
LeBron has spent time on West (see: the double-flop), but they’ve mostly kept him on Paul George. George might be a more dangerous offensive weapon one-on-one in crunch time. But when you consider the abuse that West is dolling out on the offensive boards, putting LeBron on him is a more sensible allocation of resources.
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