Heat stealing offensive sets from the Lakers, Celtics

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During those dark, ugly games at the start of the season the Miami Heat offense seemed more like taking turns than some kind of actual offensive sets your high school coach would be proud of.

Now that they are winning… there is still a lot of simple sets. Against Utah the other night there was a crazy amount of LeBron James/Zydrunas Ilgauskas pick-and-roll. Which was working and you run something until the other team proves they can stop it, but it all seemed so simple.

However, the Heat are starting to figure out how to activate their players at the same time. Erik Spoelstra has borrowed some ideas from the Lakers and Celtics playbooks, something Zach Lowe broke down at Sports Illustrated’s Point Forward.

First, some triangle.

The Heat have started to position James, Bosh and Wade in a triangle on the same side of the floor. They don’t do it often, but they’re trying it and are getting good results so far. Perhaps the best example happened about four minutes into the first quarter Wednesday. As Carlos Arroyo brought the ball up the left side, the three Miami stars took up residency on the opposite side — Wade in the right corner, Bosh at the right elbow and James on the right wing beyond the three-point line. A nice little $340 million obtuse triangle. James’ defender (Raja Bell) stood facing the middle of the court, with his back turned to LeBron. He did not see Bosh, who stood right behind Bell, effectively setting a back screen for James. Arroyo passed James the ball, and as Bell shifted over to James, he turned right into Bosh’s chest. This forced Wade’s defender (Andrei Kirilenko) to rotate up from the right corner to help on James. Wade cut free along baseline, James slipped him a bounce pass, and Wade slammed the ball home over Paul Millsap.

Okay, that is not a triangle in the way the Lakers run it or Tex Winter dreamed it up. (What Tex dreamed up is often not what the Lakers run anyway.) The Lakers triangle is a read-and-react offense based on spacing. But the basic set is what Miami has started to use with its three big stars — form a triangle on one side and dare a team to figure out how to defend it. Too often before the sets had Wade with the ball on the wing and LeBron standing with his hands in his pockets on the weak side (or visa versa). This gets everyone on one side. Smart.

Now on to the Celtics playbook.

The Heat are using what I’ve nicknamed the “rugby scrum” play, a staple in Boston’s offense and now Chicago’s as well. The two big men on the floor run out to the top of the key as a tag team and set a monster double screen for a ball-handler — and in Miami’s case, it has been Wade handling the ball almost every time they run this action. The play has been a devastating weapon in Boston, and it works especially well when both big men are capable pick-and-pop shooters. Hurry back, Udonis Haslem.

One other thing to watch for is the James/Wade pick and roll, which also can be devastating.

Still a ways to go, but the Heat are getting there, starting to figure it out.

Manu Ginobili receives standing ovation upon exiting what may be his final game

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Manu Ginobili is a four-time NBA champion, a two-time All-NBA player,  two-time All-Star, and a Sixth Man of the Year.

He’s also the most popular Spur of his generation — walk around San Antonio, even at the peak of the Spurs runs, and you saw more Ginobili jerseys than Duncan or Parker or Robinson or anyone else. Ginobili is beloved.

When he was taken out near the end of Game 4, maybe his final game as a Spur, the fans erupted into a standing ovation (joined by Stephen Curry, who stepped away from the free throw line to let the moment happen).

Ginobili hinted during the season this would be his last, but has said repeatedly during the playoffs he didn’t know what he would do during the season. He looked like he had game left in the tank during the Western Conference Finals (he had 15 points in Game 4 and was one of the Spurs best players in the series). The question is, at age 40 next season, will he want to go through all the work it takes to get physically ready for the next season.

Warriors take control early, hold off Spurs to sweep series, advance to NBA Finals

Associated Press
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This series was decided early in the second half of Game 1, when Kawhi Leonard’s ankle rolled. He never got back on the court in the next three games, the Spurs were +21 when he was on in that first game and -85 the rest of the way. Without his defense on one end and shot creation on the other the Spurs could not match up.

The Spurs didn’t play like it was over Monday night — while the Warriors would hit threes and go on runs, the Spurs would answer back never let them completely pull away. They got buckets from Kyle Anderson (20 points off the bench) and 15 from Manu Ginobili in what may have been his final NBA game (he got the start, and the crowd erupted when he was taken out near the end).

It wasn’t enough. The Golden State Warriors were the better team — maybe even if Leonard had played — and they were in control of this game the entire way, getting 36 points from Stephen Curry and 29 from Kevin Durant.

The Warriors went on to win 125-110 and sweep the Spurs 4-0. Golden State swept through the West undefeated at 12-0, and they will take on the winner of the East (we all know it will be Cleveland). The Finals don’t begin until June 1.

This is the Warriors third straight trip to the Finals.

“Our chemistry is getting better and better,” Durant said after the game. “We’re going to need it even more in the next series, whoever we play, we’re just looking forward to it. I’m glad we got this done.”

There was a lot of respect between the teams after the series, particularly for Ginobili.

“Somebody I grew up watching, amazing competitor, even more fun playing against him,” Durant said after the game. “I got nothing but love and respect for him, plus he wear my shoes every year so that’s a plus. He was phenomenal this series.”

There also was a feeling among fans that we were robbed of a good series by the injury to Leonard (and the cheap play by Zaza Pachulia that caused it). Without Leonard (and Tony Parker) the Spurs struggled to create shots and generate consistent offense against a stout Warriors defense.

It was evident at the start of Game 4. San Antonio opened game 3-of-16 shooting, but the bigger issue is they went 1-of-8 in the paint against a Warriors team that started small (Patrick McCaw instead of JaVale McGee). Meanwhile, the Spurs were 7-of-7 in the paint to start the game. That is why the Warriors raced out to a quick 12 point lead midway through the first quarter.

The game hung around the 10-point era until an 11-0 Warriors run midway through the second quarter. The Spurs kept fighting, they had 13 more shots than the Warriors in the first half — thanks to 9 Golden State turnovers and 8 San Antonio offensive boards — but the Spurs shot 34.5 percent in the first half, and it wasn’t enough because the Warriors shot 60 percent. The Warriors shot 74 percent (14-of-19) in the second quarter. Because of that it was Warriors 65, Spurs 51 at the half, and Curry and Durant each had 18 for Golden State; Kyle Anderson has 10 points to lead the Spurs.

The second half saw the lead bounce between 10 and 20 most of the time, the Spurs would make a little run and the Warriors would answer with some crisp ball movement and a three. Curry was 5-of-13 from three on the night to lead the way.

Draymond Green added 16 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists for the Warriors.

Now the Warriors get more than a week off to rest and prepare for the Finals.

Kevin Durant blocks Dejounte Murray twice on one shot (VIDEO)

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Kevin Durant was doing it all in the first half — he had 18 points to lead the Warriors (tied with Stephen Curry) and was making plays all over the court.

That includes racing back on this play and blocking Dejounte Murray‘s layup. Twice. On one shot.

The Warriors have led by 20 and been in control through the start of the third quarter. KD was at the heart of that.

Draymond Green flops to sell call, Gregg Popovich just laughs

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That was a foul. Jonathan Simmons caught Draymond Green in the face as he reached in.

But the delayed then overly-dramatic reaction by Green is a classic flop.

We’ll see if the NBA fined Green for this, but Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich was amused.