The Miami Heat evened the NBA Finals at one game a piece on Sunday night thanks to their ability to make adjustments and rely on perimeter shooters to help LeBron James handle the scoring burden.
Through three and a half quarters it looked like the Spurs may find a way to steal another one, but in just four consecutive offensive possessions the Heat were able to adapt their offensive game plan to spark the beginnings of what is becoming a rather famous 33-5 run.
On three of those four possessions, the ball was where San Antonio wanted it when the shot was taken, not in James’ hands, but it’s how Miami executed the plays that made it so easy for the Heat players to score. Yes, there were other factors to the Heat winning the game, such as Chris Bosh showing up on the boards for once and pulling down a double-double and James’ epic block on Tiago Splitter that has dominated the highlight reels, but it was these four plays that got the crowd back into it and blew the gap between the two sides wide open.
POSSESSION No. 1
Trailing 62-61, Eric Spoelstra made an adjustment by switching LeBron James to play the power forward role essentially to become a screener for Mario Chalmers. The point guard immediately took advantage of this tool as James set a screen for him which he used, and when the Spurs defenders hesitated to help because they were too concerned with James getting the ball back for an open jumper, Chalmers was able to score at the hoop and draw a foul on the late arriving defender. He would make the free throw and put the Heat up for good.
POSSESSION No. 2
After a steal on the defensive end, James broke out and led a fast break in true point guard fashion. Sticking to that mentality, he drove toward the lane and quickly dished the ball out to three point land for Chalmers who unselfishly dished it to Ray Allen for a wide open three. Allen knocked it down and American Airlines arena hit another level on the decibel meter.
POSSESSION No. 3
James went back to playing the four, coming down after a Heat rebound to set a screen for Chalmers again. This time, the help came and James rolled to the hoop. Chalmers slid a pass between the two defenders perfectly and James made an unabated drive to the hoop for a lay up.
POSSESSION No. 4
Miami went to James as the screener for a pick and roll again realizing that it was working, but this time the Spurs closed down all avenues to the hoop for either James or Chalmers. But being the incredible passer that he is, James immediately recognized this after receiving the pass from Chalmers, jump stepped into the lane to draw the defenders in a bit and dished out to Mike Miller for a wide open three which Miller drained.
At that point the momentum swung entirely in the favor of the Heat who were up by nine. The following possession saw James and Chalmers run another pick and roll, complete with Chalmers earning another three point play. The change to a James and Chalmers two man game resulted in Chalmers scoring a game high 19 points and was a fresh look from the Heat offense, something we haven’t seen all playoffs long.
Miami’s offense can’t do its usual thing against San Antonio with everyone camping out on the perimeter so that James and Dwyane Wade can slash to the basket, so they have to make the adjustment and look at different ways to beat the Spurs. Anything they can do to get open looks from deep or involve either Chalmers or Wade in a way that gets that player scoring close to 20 points is crucial, so expect to see more of James as a screener in a power forward role, playing in the post and defending close to the basket, at least until San Antonio makes their counter adjustment.