Originally posted by 49ersMyLife:
I can wait. If you got time - I'd love a super-long preview dealing with potential matchups, or whatever you can think of.
Next 48 hours are going to go real slow...can't f**king wait.
I'm sorry, I just don't have time to do a full breakdown, so I did one from a "what Miami needs to do" perspective. The more I get involved in basketball, the less I like the "this guy vs. that guy" framework to describe, because there's so much screening & pick n' roll action that it's really about how an entire defense matches up against a player. So with that in mind, there are what I think the keys to the series are.
Ball denial on Durant
- The more I think about it, the more I think LeBron actually is going to guard Durant for long stretches of the game. If Durant catches the ball coming off of a screen and in his operational range, you're at his mercy because of his length...no one's bothering that shot. As a result, the work needs to be done before the catch. LeBron is arguably the best ball denial defender in the league, so that's why I can see Miami using him on Durant quite a bit. Stephen Jackson & Kawhi Leonard had success in spots during the last series, limiting Durant's shot attempts. Miami has to be looking to keep Durant's attempts below 18 or so if they want to win. If they're able to play effective ball denial on Durant, that's when Westbrook looks to go 1-on-1, and that style of offense for OKC is Miami's best chance to win.
If Miami goes heavy on the ball denial, I think OKC will increase the frequency that Kendrick Perkins...who is perhaps the best screener in the NBA...looks to set pindown screens for Durant. Basically you'll have the best ball denial guy in the league trying to run around the best screens in the league, which is a fun matchup for a basketball geek.
Harden on the high pick & roll
- IMO, this is when OKC is at their best. Harden's a triple threat on the PnR, in that he can shoot the 3 if you go under the screen, can attack the rack if he gets a step on the defense, and is phenomenal at finding the open man if the defense collapses. Miami's very strong in terms of perimeter defense, but I think their effectiveness in this situation is going to hinge on their big men...specifically Bosh. Looking at the diagram below:
Harden will be going left more often than not, but this will show what I mean nonetheless. If O5 sets a good screen on X1 (and remember, that will be perhaps the best screener in the league setting that pick), it's X5's responsibility to buy enough time for X1 to recover. I would imagine that Miami's strategy will be to "show hard", meaning that X5 will look to meet Harden beyond the 3 point line and make him take a wide route, which will buy X1 time to recover. I think they'll do this because they're not worried about Perkins rolling to the basket.
The problem is, showing hard...despite it probably their best option...has some issues. It requires mobility from the big, and between Bosh's ab issues and Anthony/Turiaf's footspeed, I'm not sure they have anyone that can do it effectively. If the big shows too hard, Harden will split the defense and attack middle. If he doesn't show hard enough, Harden gets around him going to his strong hand. This is going to cause the defense to collapse (X2 in this diagram, although it would likely be the other side in real life since Harden's a left), and is going to result in a lot of corner 3's. X3 will cheat middle as well (again, flipped with Harden), and that's when Harden throws that skip pass to a wide open Ibaka for a 15 footer.
So long story short, Harden on the PnR should result in a LOT of good looks against Miami, largely due to a lack of mobility from Miami's bigs. I'm not sure how Miami adjusts. Maybe just go under the screen and cross your fingers that Harden's cold that day from outside. I dunno.
Keep Westbrook in the mid-range and pray
- Similar to Miami, OKC really gets teams into trouble by their ability to get to the FT line, where they get a ton of attempts and knock 'em down at an 81% clip. I think Durant & Harden are very difficult to keep off of the line for different reasons, but I think you can get Westbrook to fall in love with the mid-range jump shot. He's gotten pretty good at it, but he's inconsistent, and most importantly he's not going to draw fouls on that shot. I think you play off of him and live with the result.
Which team makes their corner 3's
- No shots lead to more transition buckets than missed corner 3-pointers, due to the length of the rebound and the fact that the team that shoots it is positioned very deep in the corner. Both OKC & Miami are fantastic at leaking out and turning these missed shots into layups, so often times this shot can be a 5 point swing against either team.
Get Ibaka out of the lane
- Miami is so heavily dependent on getting to the rack that Ibaka becomes a big problem if he's down there, especially for Wade. LeBron has the strength and size to finish and/or get fouled despite Ibaka's presence, but Wade will be very much bothered by him. IMO, Miami would be wise to run a lot of minutes of LeBron @ PF and Bosh @ Center, because that draws OKC's bigs out of the lane, and OKC's bigs aren't going to burn them on the other end...although they could pose huge issues on the offensive boards.
Either way...Miami's going to have a lot of difficulty in this series if Ibaka's not in foul trouble and can hang out around the rim. They're WAY too dependent upon dribble penetration to have him waiting for them once they get there.
LeBron can't settle for jump shots
- I know this is a "no duh" observation, but LeBron really holds the key here. I think he can get Ibaka, and even Durant in foul trouble. He needs to attack the rack with extreme prejudice in order to get guys open, and collapse OKC's defense. OKC has CONSIDERABLY more team speed than Boston does, so it's going to take 2-3 guys having to worry about LeBron going to the rack to open things up for guys like Chalmers, Miler, & Battier.
Sorry...I don't have time for more.