Play Breakdown: ‘Flash’ Returns for the Heat

Apr 20, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) motions to fans before a game against the Charlotte Bobcats in game one during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Though difficult to comprehend now, it wasn’t long ago that the Miami Heat – with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh wearing red and gold – looked lost offensively. Conventional wisdom before the 2010-2011 season was that Miami would take the league by storm, ushering in new structures of team-building both on and off the floor. Back then, it didn’t seem insane when Jeff Van Gundy predicted that this new Big Three would lead the Heat to a record-breaking 73 wins – never before had skilled, smart, uber-athletes of James and Wade’s caliber ran opposite wings, and Bosh was an ideal fit alongside them as a rangy inside-out scorer.

But basketball, as Amare Stoudemire knows, isn’t played on paper. The adjustments a superstar must make to successfully coexist with another – let alone two – are of this game’s most difficult. James, Wade, Bosh, and the formerly-maligned Erik Spoelstra learned that the hard way in their first season together. The Heat opened that surreal campaign 9-8, and remained too stagnant offensively even as their efficiency soared on that end as the year progressed.

We know how it ended, and Miami has preached movement and space above all else in the interim. The result has been some of basketball’s most beautiful and effective offense. And when the Heat are at their seemingly free-wheeling but carefully orchestrated best, all three of their Hall-of-Fame talents get in on the action.

Wade’s ballyhooed crossover and finish from Sunday’s win over the Bobcats is a perfect example of Spoeltra utilizing the unique talents of his stars. Wade’s penetration, LeBron’s mere all-court threat, and Bosh’s shooting ability won that sequence for Miami even before ‘Flash’ left Chris Douglas-Roberts in his wake. And though Miami normally reserves fun sets like these for the most important moments, the influence of its Big Three is on similar display every possession they share on the floor.

Note: Hover over the icons for explanation.

The Bobcats are already in trouble here, but the above is the action that broke their collective back. Ideally, Douglas-Roberts would see the screen coming and get on Bosh’s high side as Jefferson slides to Wade’s left below the elbow. But CDR and Big Al don’t execute the ICE effectively, leaving Wade a wide open lane to the left and Henderson – who would be in better help position if he wasn’t expecting an ICE – out to dry. Charlotte overcomes its lack of interior defensive presence with commitment to scheme and communication nowhere to be found here. It’s no surprise, then, that the Heat get an easy basket.


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Jack Winter