As basketball fans everywhere know, the Miami Heat won their 2nd straight NBA Championship last week. Sure having LeBron James, Dawayne Wade and Chris Bosh should make you the better team in most games you play, but that wasn’t the case two years ago when the Dallas Mavericks took down the Heat in six games. Since the Mavericks haven’t won a playoff game since then, it’s easy to simply state that it was a fluke or that the Mavericks were the ‘hotter’ team, but saying that would be a disservice to both teams.
The Mavericks may have been the perfect team to beat the Heat that season. While the Mavs had Tyson Chandler in the middle to protect the rim when James and Wade drove to the hoop, they also were the league’s best at playing zone defense. This plays right into Miami’s biggest weakness in 2011: perimeter shooting. Wade has never been a great long-range shooter which can be illustrated in the following stats from the last three years:
2011: 31% 3-pt, 53% everywhere else
2012: 27% 3-pt, 51% everywhere else
2013: 26% 3-pt, 54% everywhere else
In 2011, James shot just 33% from 3-point range.. The only other reliable long-range shooters on the Heat were James Jones (43%), Carlos Arroyo (44%) and Mike Bibby (46%). Bibby started the first five games and averaged 17 minutes a game before getting benched in the last game, and neither Arroyo nor Jones played in the series. As a result, the Heat shot a paultry 34% from behind the arc, allowing the veteran Mavericks to win games against a team that was definitively more athletic and arguably more skilled.
Fast forward to 2013, the Heat is once again matched up against a team with a tough center surrounded by a veteran team. Unlike the 2011 Dallas Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs had won four championships previously, so how did Miami manage to avoid the mistakes of 2011?
First, LeBron James just keeps getting better with age and experience which is frightening. In the 2013 Finals, King James shot 41% from behind the arc including 5-5 in the decisive game 7, but the Heat roster also included an improved Mario Chalmers (41%) and veterans Mike Miller (42%), Shane Battier (43%) and Ray Allen (42%). Also, one guy who didn’t see action in the Finals was Rashard Lewis who once one led the league in three-pointers made in a single season. LeBron James absolutely did more damage himself with his improved shooting abilities, but his pinpoint passes led to easy shots for great shooters.
By having so many great shooters on their roster, the Heat hedged their bets against one or even two guys having off nights. Mike Miller came up huge in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals, Ray Allen saved the Heat’s season with a clutch shot late in regulation of game six of the NBA Finals, and Shane Battier was deadly hitting 6 of 7 threes in game seven. Overall for the series, the Heat shot 43% from three-point range, almost 10% percentage points better than in 2011.
The Heat looked at their biggest weakness and addressed it, increasing the likelihood it would force teams to adjust away from that former weakness and play to Miami’s strengths.
What are your team’s biggest weaknesses? What are you doing this off-season to address those weaknesses? Take a look at your roster and last season’s stats to see where improvements can be made and how certain players could help, even if they only do one thing really well. It may allow your strengths to shine through and lead to a championship of your own.
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