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Justise Winslow played so well in first half, Suns adjusted to stop him in second

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Suns focus in the second half was to change coverages on the best players from first half of the game.

NBA: Miami Heat at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Justise Winslow had quite a game for the Miami Heat against the Phoenix Suns. He lead Miami in plus/minus, fantasy points, and net rating for the first half.


Plus Minus

PLAYER 1st 2nd diff game
PLAYER 1st 2nd diff game
Justise Winslow 20 -12 -32 8
Goran Dragic 16 -10 -26 6
Hassan Whiteside 12 -7 -19 5
Josh Richardson 9 4 -5 13
Dion Waiters 8 4 -4 12
James Johnson 7 -2 -9 5
Wayne Ellington 6 0 -6 6
Kelly Olynyk -3 3 6 0
TOTAL 75 -20 -95 55

Fantasy Points

PLAYER 1st 2nd diff game
PLAYER 1st 2nd diff game
Justise Winslow 24.0 6.7 -17.3 30.7
Goran Dragic 23.8 21.0 -2.8 44.8
James Johnson 20.5 15.4 -5.1 35.9
Josh Richardson 11.8 2.9 -8.9 14.7
Dion Waiters 11.9 6.2 -5.7 18.1
Hassan Whiteside 11.8 34.9 23.1 46.7
Kelly Olynyk 10.1 12.7 2.6 22.8
Wayne Ellington 9.4 9.2 -0.2 18.6
TOTAL 123.3 109.0 -14.3 232.3

Net Rating

PLAYER 1st 2nd diff game
PLAYER 1st 2nd diff game
Justise Winslow 52.3 -10.4 -62.7 41.9
Goran Dragic 38.9 -10.1 -49.0 28.8
Hassan Whiteside 37.0 -5.2 -42.2 31.8
Josh Richardson 35.5 2.9 -32.6 38.4
Dion Waiters 34.0 5.7 -28.3 39.7
James Johnson 26.1 18.0 -8.1 44.1
Wayne Ellington 19.3 18.6 -0.7 37.9
Kelly Olynyk -7.3 23.4 30.7 16.1
TOTAL 235.8 42.9 -192.9 278.7

Wednesday night Winslow had more assists than Goran Dragic, although Dragic was only one rebound shy from joining Hassan Whiteside with a double-double in points and rebounds. Justise made two of his four 3-pointers, and displayed some nimble moves in the paint against one the NBA's worst defenses.


The win in Phoenix masked a defensive letdown after halftime by several Heat players, who had Drtgs below a 100 in the first half. Only Josh Richardson and Dion Waiters had a Drtg below a hundred for the entire game. Interestingly JRich scored less points than any rotation player, yet the Heat as a team scored 16 points more than Suns with him on the court.

Defense Rating

PLAYER 1st 2nd diff game
PLAYER 1st 2nd diff game
Josh Richardson 98.2 87.3 10.9 93.3
Dion Waiters 92.8 90.1 2.7 91.6
Kelly Olynyk 139.7 91.2 48.5 116.8
Wayne Ellington 113.5 110.9 2.6 112.3
James Johnson 104.9 116.2 -11.3 111.3
Hassan Whiteside 84.7 128.4 -43.7 108.2
Goran Dragic 99.1 133.2 -34.1 116.1
Justise Winslow 90.4 134.3 -43.9 114.4
AVERAGE 102.9 111.5 -8.5 108.0

Coach Erik Spoelstra recognized keeping a tight 8-man rotation kept turnovers way down and resulted in a season's best 126 point outburst. There’s no law though which requires Miami to start both halves of the game with the exact same 5 men.

Many Miami fans have labeled the third quarter as the "turd quarter," due to opponents making adjustments to stop the Heat's hot hands in the first half, perhaps a slight change in the starting five for the second half could throw a monkey wrench into the other team’s plans.

Keeping the rotation in place, but mixing up the starting combination might throw off the halftime adjustments other teams make. Kelly Olynyk had a better second half than first, as the Suns didn't focus on him after a forgettable first half performance.

Perhaps starting Olynyk at forward instead of Winslow in the third quarter, and bringing in Winslow off the bench with James Johnson, would have disrupted the Suns' second-half plans to stop Justise from being served. An 8-man rotation would remain to keep continuity, but confusing the opponent's carefully planned half-time schemes might prevent Miami’s familiar second half meltdowns.

In the Suns' game the difference between first and second halves weren't the player's fault, since both teams were equally fatigued towards the finish. From the tables above it's obvious Phoenix changed coverage on certain players (Winslow, Dragic, Whiteside) who performed exceptionally well in the first half. Knowing teams follow that strategy, a proactive approach might be show a look the other team hasn't planned for during the break, but still using the same tight player rotation.

In the Utah Jazz game somebody else will probably start off hot for Miami and the Jazz will play a different tune after halftime to stop him. A slight change could disrupt whatever melodies the Jazz perform to cool down the Heat in the second half. Who knows, the Heat might even burst into flames after intermission.