Often, the NBA Playoffs are a mind game. This time, Steve Clifford made the right adjustments in Game 3 to get his team the victory. But Erik Spoelstra is up next. The Miami Heat have the chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead heading home if they can win on Monday in Game 4.
Spoelstra has plenty of playoff adjustment experience, and I have none. But I do like to watch a lot of basketball. So here's the 3 adjustments the Miami Heat need to make against the Charlotte Hornets before Game 4 of their First Round series.
1. Give a big more rotation minutes
It pains me to say this -- but Justise Winslow may need to take a back seat for a bit. He's played great, but if Charlotte is going to go big and Winslow is going to be guarding 4's, it may not work. At 6'6, Winslow is strong, but clearly undersized. When Spoelstra moved Luol Deng to guard Kemba Walker, it caused a shift in all matchups. Winslow was abused by Kaminsky and others.
Spoelstra needs to highly consider adding McRoberts or Haslem to get about 10 minutes of play. Kaminsky isn't some super-scoring forward. But his size was too much. Haslem or McRoberts are enough to deter Kaminsky from just backing down or shooting over the top. I think this adjustment will help on defense.
The problem becomes on offense, as it would likely kill the Heat's new created pace and space. McRoberts may be the best option, but Haslem may be more trusted to just do what he needs to do. Dorell Wright could even be an option with his length. Again, I'm just suggesting a few minutes per half, and lessen Winslow's role in playing in the post.
2. Take away Jeremy Lin's tendencies
You can live with Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson getting their points and shots. What you can't live with is a backup point guard, Jeremy Lin, scoring 18 points how he did. He pushed the ball, got Dragic on his back and scored at the line. Miami has ended Linsanity once (thanks to Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole), now they have to do it again. It starts with the adjustments on the pick-and-roll, and then it spills into finding him in transition. Length may be the answer in guarding him.
If Jeremy Lin has another night like this, that's hard to overcome. He outscored the entire Heat bench in Game 3. The Heat have to take away his tendencies and first option on the pick-and-roll and then force him to pass the ball back out.
3. The extra rotation
One of the best parts about the Heat's defense is having Hassan Whiteside down low to erase and mistakes on the perimeter. The only problem is that during a series, teams begin to get used to how you defend. There's no more surprises. So when Whiteside is down there waiting to either block a shot or change a shot, the Heat need to start thinking one play ahead.
What that means is that the weak side needs to slide down and cover Whitesides's man for the dump pass or offensive rebound. Additionally, the top side (usually the man who got beat) needs to let go and release to the corner or wing to cover again who is helping Whiteside. That's a lot to think about.
What it all comes down to is not standing and watching when someone drives at Whiteside. It's thinking ahead and acting ahead. This will help the Heat's defense in what Charlotte will try to exploit. That's just my take. Miami's defense hasn't been the huge issue, it was their 34% shooting in Game 3 that just needs to be fixed.