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How the Sacramento Kings carved up the positionless basketball of the Miami Heat

The Kings ran away from the slow-footed Heat in the third quarter in a decisive win.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat made a game of it against the Sacramento Kings in the first quarter with great position, but gave it all back in the next three stanzas for a disappointing loss.

The Kings aren’t great marksmen since their free-throw percentage is even worse than the Heat’s, 64% versus 70%: for that matter they’re last in NBA.

Yet the Kings, at 49.9%, trail only the Golden State Warriors, 52.3%, and Indiana Pacers, 50.1%, in field-goal percentage, and are fourth in 3-point percentage, 40.4%, just behind the Warriors’ 40.8% from downtown.

At look at the video recap shows how Hassan Whiteside established great position in the first quarter, while Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo were constantly caught playing positionless basketball for easy baskets by Sacramento.

The Kings used their hustle and speed to beat Miami for the most efficient spots on the court and launch high-percentage shots at the net.

Even 50 years ago Bill Russell knew the key to great defense was to get players out of their comfort zones.

”When I played against Wilt [Chamberlain] I used to assess how I was gonna play. He knew that I guarded him different every game. I had five sets, five different ways that I played against him. The main agenda was never to stop him. The agenda was to make him less efficient, so that if he got 40 points, he had to take 40 shots to get it. He was always the first option. So if he’s taking 40 shots, then none of the rest of the guys on his team could ever pick up a rhythm. So their shooting percentages would go down. Because when you’re shooting once every five minutes, there’s no way you can consistently be a good shooter. You can’t maintain any kind of rhythm. So I would never try to stop him and he knew that.

”I had different ways of guarding him and the key was never trying to block his shots. For example, he had a fadeaway jump shot and he liked to take it from a particular spot left of the key. So I would try to move him one step to the left or one step to the right, so they he’s shooting at a different angle. His angle changes without really looking like it’s changing and so the shot would hit the rim and go off. That’s making him less efficient. But if I were to block all those shots, he was also the smartest player I ever played against -- not even close -- and he would constantly be adjusting. That’s why I had to have five different ways of guarding him.”

In the Kings game the Sacramento players got to whatever spot they wanted for scores, and only two Heat players were able to keep up with them, Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson.

Heat Kings NetRatings

PLAYER OFFRTG DEFRTG NETRTG
PLAYER OFFRTG DEFRTG NETRTG
Tyler Johnson 105.3 87.7 17.5
Josh Richardson 111.9 102.3 9.6
Justise Winslow 103.6 108.9 -5.3
Hassan Whiteside 95.7 102.9 -7.3
Bam Adebayo 109.3 123.3 -14.0
Rodney McGruder 101.3 117.1 -15.8
Dwyane Wade 100.0 119.4 -19.4
Kelly Olynyk 86.8 110.5 -23.7
Goran Dragic 94.5 120.5 -26.0

Johnson had a rough night offensively, but he did a good job on defense to force Sacramento’s offense into bad shots while he was in the game.

Richardson had outstanding game on both ends, and demonstrated what he’s capable of as the Heat’s leading man going forward this season.

Take a look at Richardson’s defensive capabilities as he blocked Kemba Walker at the rim in the 2016 playoffs.

What Bill Russell noted years ago about making players work for their baskets and forcing them into bad angles rings just as true today, but with now extends out to forcing bad shots from the 3-point line.

Lacking the talent of the Warriors, the Heat have no choice but to be the hardest-working 48-minute group of players on the court by beating out their opponents to best spots on the court before the other guy gets there first.

Perhaps the term positionless could be redefined to say other teams shoot from bad positions (places on the floor), while getting themselves into a position for great looks, or as real estate gurus say – location, location, location.

Statistics courtesy of NBA Stats.