In the playoff year of the road team, the Eastern Conference Semifinal series between the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets has been all about home-court advantage.
Miami took the first two games at home; Brooklyn responded Saturday night by posting a 104-90 win at Barclays Center to cut the Heat’s lead to 2-1.
On Saturday for the Nets, it was all about the 3-pointer. Brooklyn hit 15-of-25 from long range. The Nets’ 60 percent accuracy from downtown matched the second-best mark in a game this postseason for teams with at least 15 attempts from deep.
Only the Washington Wizards, with their 10-for-16 performance in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Indiana Pacers, have been better. San Antonio also put up a 60 percent night from 3-point range in Game 2 of their Western Conference Semifinals against Portland on Thursday.
For the series, Brooklyn is 33-for-73 (45.2 percent) from distance and what the Nets did Saturday night what put on a ball-movement clinic:
The Nets are coached by a guy who was one of the best point guards of all-time … and the team’s offense is predicated on ball movement. Who’da thunk it?
Miami can play some excellent defense, but Brooklyn showed in Game 3 that the Heat can be had (as any defense can be) with quick ball movement and spacing.
What the Nets did was exploit Miami’s aggressive on-ball defense. Mirza Teletovic, an afterthought who played one minute in last year’s playoff loss to the Chicago Bulls, came off the bench to drain 4-of-7 from deep on Saturday.
Teletovic’s first 3-pointer was a wide-open look from the corner that came after Brooklyn made eight passes in the possession. The final three passes were made in a four-minute span. That’s tough to defend.
But defending the 3-point line has been something of an Achilles heel for Miami all season. The Heat were in the bottom half of the league at defending the arc, allowing 36.2 percent accuracy—18th-best in the league—and the 8.4 3-pointers they surrendered per game was tied with bottom-feeders Sacramento and Milwaukee for the fifth-worst total in the league.
LeBron James, who led the Heat with 28 points, said part of the problem at the 3-point line stemmed from the defensive scheme.
“Shrink the floor on their perimeter guys and close out on their shooters,” James told reporters. “A lot of the 3s they made were contested, so you clap your hands and pat them on the back for the ones they made, because that’s just our scheme.”
Brooklyn loves the 3-ball, though. Their 1,922 attempts from deep ranked 10th in the NBA and they were 11th in the league, converting 36.9 percent.
Miami’s defensive scheme in Game 3 was similar to what it was in Game 2, when Deron Williams was held scoreless. But Williams did a much better job of recognizing open shooters when the defense converged Saturday, dishing out 11 assists—two more than he had in Games 1 and 2 combined.
“The way they are playing me with two on the ball and coming up at me, I need to make the right plays and get people the ball,” Williams said.
LeBron is right, in a way—if a team is going to make shots, it’s going to make shots. There’s not a lot a defense can do.
But Miami might want to look at hedging more to the shooters in Game 4 if it wants to head back to South Beach with a chance to close out the series in Game 5 on Wednesday.