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In Pictures: Heat in the clutch against Bucks

[caption id="attachment_3902" align="aligncenter" width="435" caption="In a herd of towering deer, a lilliputian buck stands above the rest. His name is Earl."] [/caption]
Few teams have been capable of defending the Miami Heat like the Milwaukee Bucks have shown fully capable of in their three encounters this season. The Bucks are a feisty herd, impeding their opponents through a blockade of the sacred paint, impeccable rotations, help defense and a dare to defeat them with contested long twos and threes. Patience is their virtue, grinding by nature, as they handed the Heat a laborious 48 minutes of play in their do-over from just a few days before. The Bucks gave all they could muster along their sub par offensive efficiency and the Heat was all too kind to furnish it with a paltry performance in the clutch.

Arroyo in the Clutch?

Diverging from what lately had become common in the fourth quarter, Coach Spoelstra went with his starters for the final minutes of the game instead of the more defensively equipped unit of a scrappy Chalmers at the point and the shot affecting Anthony at center. Chalmers was shooting well (3-5 FG and 1-2FG) but had picked up 4 silly fouls on Mario-like judgement. Having an able shooter like Jones (2-2 3pt FG) to spread the continuously collapsing floor was also ignored. Anthony would not enter the game at all, collecting another DNP. With the Heat down 85-87 and 2:20 to go, a 3-on-4 "fast break" results in a rushed, missed three from Arroyo with 18 seconds left on the shot clock. Surely not what anyone would have intended. Not just talking about coaches. After a staggering stop on the defensive end, Wade does Wade and drives for a beautiful floater over Bogut for the and-1 to tie the game 87-87. Wade would miss the free throw but Luc Mbah a Moute, dazed and confused, would fall asleep on his box-out duties allowing Bosh to swoop in for the tip in, putting the Heat up 89-87 with 1:39 to go. Either Mbah a Moute erroneously assumed there were two free throws coming or he was over analyzing People Magazine's decision to name Wade in their top 50 most beautiful people. Either way would be equally scandalous. Another stifling defensive stance later, Wade takes the ball up the court and uses a screen from Bosh to aggressively drive the middle. The Bucks are well read in their scouting report, allowing Wade space to pull up for a long jumper only he fakes the shot and passes to James at the wing. Boykins has read the play and rushes in for a steal attempt only to be too small, too late. James follows with a touch-pass to Arroyo in the corner for an open three, which he misses. Speedy somehow recovers enough to somewhat bother the shot. There's debate of Arroyo shooting at a high percentage from long range but one must remember it is merely the product of space allowed by the penetration of Wade and James. Arroyo, although well meaning and a savvy veteran, should in no way shape or form end up with the final shots in clutch time of a close game. It's not a championship habit, to quote Wade. It might not qualify as a resourceful basketball habit at all.

Movement Vastly Improved, Not Yet Fully Developed

After a hustling sequence from both teams and a botched jumpball tossed out of bounds by the Bucks, Miami would once again have the upper hand as they led 89-87. Wade would drive left using a Bosh screen at the top of key. The dreaded superstar in the corner is no more as James makes his way to a curl away from the corner. Bosh has rolled to the basket, drawing enough attention from defenders to give James enough room for a catch and drive. At this point, Bosh should be either setting a screen to create more space for James to enter the paint or rolling out to the side to draw defenders out or worst case scenario, be open for a catch-and-shoot. Not sensing the possibilities of the play unfolding at the time, he does neither and stays in the paint with Ilgauskas adding bodies to the crowded area. Thanks to the convention under the rim, LeBron finds himself in a deer sandwich and gets stripped by Mbah a Moute, creating a fast break for Chris Douglas-Roberts. CDR is fouled and misses both free throws. Heat leads 89-87 with 26 seconds remaining. Avoiding the cardinal sin of James or Wade standing in the corner is clearly feasible. With a few minor tweaks and play awareness from the bigs, such play could be virtually unstoppable. Another pick your poison moment, per say.

The Deer Strike Back + Arroyo Strikes Out

After a failed inbound attempt and a timeout to regroup, a 2nd attempt almost fails as LeBron inbounds a lob to Bosh who must chase the ball to save it from going out of bounds. An intentional foul would put Bosh on the line and the Heat up 91-87 after Bosh hits both free throws. The Bucks would counter by successfully executing a pick-and-roll with Bogut, drawing a foul from Bosh and cutting the lead to 91-89 after hitting both free throws.

Arroyo, an 80% free throw shooter, remains in the lineup and asks for the ball on the inbounding play. James obliges by throwing it to him and Arroyo plays butterfingers at a pivotal moment in the game, throwing it out of bounds. The Bucks would have 17 seconds left in the game to score a bucket and Earl Boykins would dribble around the towering brethren surrounding him for what seemed like 30 seconds. Arroyo would keep up with Boykins for most of the ride, until he gets picked by an Ilyasova screen at the top of the key, allowing Boykins to drive the lane past Bosh and a helping Wade. He would put up an impossible floater over the outstretched arms of Ilgauskas to tie the game at 91 with 1.5 seconds to go. Enough for one last Heat hoorah.

Inception, Deception, Imperfection

With 1.5 seconds, the Heat would run a fascinating play with two of the top five best basketball players in the world as the main protagonists. James would set the engines in motion by setting a screen for Wade to escape his defender. Immediately after, Arroyo sets a screen for James to get free in the corner. Jones decides to bypass the option for James, instead opting for plan B. He told the Sun-Sentinel: "I'm reading the defender, as 'Bron broke to the corner . . . to make that pass, (Bucks forward Ersan) Ilyasova was leaning toward LeBron, so I'd have had to kind of lead him outward, take him to a fadeaway shot." While James has drawn eyes to him in the corner, Wade is driving a hard right getting a screen from Bosh only to counter in the opposite direction with another Bosh screen. Bogut has stayed afar guarding the area from the original drive to the right. The screen from Bosh sets Wade free and the defenders' instincts follow Arroyo towards the basket, guarding the player closest to the rim. Wade finds himself infinitely open for a jumpshot. The sea has parted, the crowd is flashing their lights for the moment and Wade succumbs to the rarity of the space allowed to him, missing the shot at the buzzer.

Extra Time

Overtime was a concoction of individual talent, wretched ball handling, bad judgment and savory shots. The nefarious sequence:

delicious James stepback jumper

retaliation Salmons pull-up jumper at the free throw line

Wade dribbles around for a long contested two which fails to hit rim

Salmons turnover off a botched under-the-legs dribble

James misses shot off a triple-threat, offensive rebound

missed wide-open shot from Arroyo thanks to a James pick

Boykins turnover on a travel

Bosh is fouled, makes both free throws

Salmons bumps a fragile Arroyo who makes a case for a Grammy with a aerial flop, missed corner three

Bosh posts Ilyasova and resorts to a heavily contested fade-away shot instead of taking it hard to the rim, misses

Arroyo deflects a pass resulting in a wide open layup

uncanny sideways jumpshot banked in by Boykins from 20 feet

James stepback air-ball

Boykins misses three-point shot a foot away from the 3pt line

Arroyo is fouled, makes both free-throws

Boykins misses a 30 footer

James is fouled, makes both free throws

Heat win in gruesome fashion

A win, is a win. Right?