When the season started, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were playing next to each other. Basically taking turns with shockingly little action unless they were in transition.
Slowly that has evolved as the season has worn on.
Now, they are working in unison — sometimes as a pick-and-roll pairing, sometimes with James working off the ball on the weak side, sliding up the baseline and exploding to the rim for a pass — to devastate the Boston Celtics. Beckley Mason writing for ESPN emphasizes quotes from LeBron James to talk about that evolution.
“I’ve definitely played off the ball this year more than I have in my previous seven years,” James said. “I knew coming into this situation that D-Wade is & you know we’re just sort of the same guys when it comes to pick-and-roll basketball throughout our careers. So I knew I would definitely have to watch film and adjust my game plan off the ball and finding spots and creases underneath the rim or on the weak side where I could still help the team without the ball in my hand.”
Mason notes that in this series in particular Miami has exposed the Celtics overload defense with quick ball movement, which has led to a secondary pick-and-roll on the weak side before the defense sets. With two great wing penetrators spread on the floor, they can make it very hard for the Celtics — or any defense to recover.
But it took time to get here. For the first part of the season the guy on the weak side — James or Wade — just seemed to float and wait for a kickout and his turn. There were no dives to the basket, no actions set up to free the weak side player. Just you go then I go.
Now, it’s different.
“If there’s nothing going on for D-Wade I can be on the weak side when he swings it to me then I have the ability to get away from the defense because all of them are on the strong side,” James said.
The Celtics are paying the price.
But maybe the scariest thing — they are only going to get better at it.