The Miami Heat squandered a 27-19 first quarter edge by allowing a 33 point final quarter in their 112-109 loss to the lottery-bound Orlando Magic. In Sioux Falls, the Skyforce turned a 51-52 halftime deficit into a 112-105 victory for a sweep of their first-round playoff series 2-0, and advanced to the semi-finals against the Canton Charge.
Justin Benjamin wrote an excellent game summary of the meltdown in Orlando, where opportunity after opportunity was blown by the Heat. The game book shows an incredible picture of a fourth quarter where Hassan Whiteside did not attempt a single shot or score a point in his 7 minutes of action. The Magic effectively neutralized him after reviewing the film of the Chicago game. Josh Richardson was the only Heat player coach Erik Spoelstra decided to play all 12 minutes in the final quarter.
For the entire game, the starting five netted a cumulative total of -32 +/- points and the bench five totaled +19 +/-points. The youthful Orlando team lead by Elfrin Payton's ten assists ran the older Heat starters off the floor.
The Heat hoisted an astounding 100 shots and converted on two more field goals, 45 to 43, than the Magic. Orlando won the game at the charity stripe, outscoring the Heat, 21 points to 11 points. Defenders were slow in their coverage of Evan Fournier, who alone made 12 free-throw baskets, compared to the 11 by the entire Heat team.
In Sioux Falls, Briante Weber recorded a +25 in only 31 minutes, highlighted by 5 steals, 21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 turnover. Weber's 6'2" height compares closely to Payton's 6'3", with the same ability as a disruptive influence on the court. The new-look NBA favors lightening-quick, shorter guards, who can blow by slower defenses. The Heat lack any such player. Goran Dragic is already past 30 and Tyler Johnson, while a good shooter, is slower than Weber.
The other distributor for Sioux Falls was DeAndre Liggins, who had 10 assists, 5 steals, 7 rebounds, but only 8 points and 5 turnovers. Rodney McGruder lead all scorers with 33 points and 5 of 10 from 3-point range.
The box score for the game showed a total Sioux Falls defensive effort that lead to 23 Westchester turnovers and a playoff series sweep. The Skyforce's 42-10 record speaks for itself, as does the Heat's record. Miami has a difficult time against speedy guards like D'Angelo Russell or Payton, but can handle older players such as Pau Gasol, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant.
I am NOT saying the Skyforce would dominate NBA teams like they do in the D-League. But there are a couple of stats that give a clue of what their success formula.
First, they lead the NBADL in forcing turnovers at 18.4 per games. They are extremely active defensively, that leads to second, the highest FG%, at 49.3%, in the NBADL. The combination of a tenacious defense leading to easy baskets from turnovers leads to a very efficient offense.
The standard of high opponent turnovers does not apply in the NBA though, because the top five teams in forcing turnovers after the all-star break all have losing records, including the Magic. After the break, Miami leads the NBA in defending against 3-point shooting and assists per game.
Surprisingly the Heat topped all teams in FG%, but dropped to second in blocks per game behind the Hawks, Whiteside not withstanding. The numbers can be juggled all sorts of ways to make whatever case a person wants to prove. The bottom line is winning, and avoiding inexcusable losses against lottery teams.