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Was the 89-point game and return of Josh Richardson a coincidence?

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Did the poise of Dwyane Wade mask the inexperience of Richardson last season?

Miami Heat v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Rick Carlisle took advantage of inexperienced Miami Heat players in Dallas by playing a zone defense, which he guessed they were not prepared to handle. A veteran such as Dwyane Wade, with his vast knowledge of game, would have known how to adjust to the situation and lead the rookies when the game plan changed.

While the dramatics of the Mavericks game was at the end, the contest unraveled in the second quarter when the Heat was outscored by ten points, 33-23. The box score had the Mavs eleven points better with Tyler Johnson on the court and ten points superior when Josh Richardson was in the game for his brief 8 minutes. Already without Willie Reed, the minus 11 and 10 were too much to overcome in a 7 point loss.

One particular statistic reveals Richardson’s failed attempt to become a point guard: his reluctance on driving to the net and kicking the ball out to give shooters open looks. His numbers on scoring in terms of distance from the rim are,

less than 5 ft: 1.6 FGA, 47% made
5-9 ft: 0.6 FGA, 50%
10-14 ft: 0.8 FGA, 54%
15-19 ft: 2.0 FGA, 43%
20-24 ft: 3.2 FGA, 30%
25-29 ft 2.3 FGA, 32% (most FGA of all Heat players at this distance)

Most of his field goal attempts (FGA) are at his lowest conversion rate of 31%, while he takes the fewest shots within his optimal 5-to-14 foot zone at a rate of 52% makes. That’s a significant 20% difference in shot selection.

Richardson’s staying 15 feet and out from the basket permits defenders to effectively guard the 3-point line against the Heat. Ball-handlers such as Dragic, Waiters and James Johnson all get deep into the paint to draw defenders away from the 3-point threats, leading to Miami’s recent success.

Richardson happens to be the Heat’s best pull-up shooter at 45% and eFG of 49%. He’s more suited to a DeMar DeRozan type of game. Back to finishing at the rim to create space, Wayne Ellington leads all Miami players at an insane 77% success rate. He beats out Reed (68%), Hassan Whiteside (66%), Rodney McGruder (62%) and Goran Dragic (61%) in that category.

So far this season Okaro White leads the team in 3p%, 48%, and FT, 89%, followed by Dragic, 42%, 79%, Luke Babbitt, 40%, 73%, Dion Waiters, 39%, 66%, respectively. Digging deeper we look at the catch and shoot EF% numbers, defined as “Any jump shot outside of 10 feet where a player possessed the ball for 2 seconds or less and took no dribbles,” the leaders are White 75%, Dragic 66%, Waiters 64%, Babbitt 60%.

Because White excels at the free-throw line, his “Points Per Paint Touch” numbers surprise: Reed 1.23, White 1.17, Whiteside 1.04, McGruder 0.655. Okaro struggles with making his own, but as finisher in the paint or outside marksman, he’s a team leader.

Interestingly Miami is the league leader in eFG% off the screen at 57%. Why did the Heat score only on 89 points versus the Dallas Mavericks? Perhaps they went from scoring by spacing the floor to a lower-percentage pull-up type of offense that works best for Richardson, who feels most comfortable operating 15 feet from the basket and beyond.

Hopefully the Heat go back to their winning and fun days, which made the last months of the season meaningful. Watching a team simply going through the motions on the court until next season takes all the joy out of going to AA Arena.