Problem spotting and problem solving against the Miami Heat

Ray Allen and Shane Battier are part of what makes such a potent Heat offense. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

I was talking to someone at work the other day and they talked to me about problem solving, problem spotting and problem acceptance. There are some people who see problems and complain about them without countering with a solution, people who see problems and work to solve them and people who decide some problems may as well just be accepted.

This doesn’t apply to every problem and every person every time. Some people can solve some problems and just accept others. I probably seem like I just spot problems with the Milwaukee Bucks all day long, without offering up viable solutions. And, maybe to an extent, I do. But I don’t work for the Bucks, I can’t truly make an impact. I offer my opinions on what could be different, why I think the way I think and that’s as far as it goes.

With Milwaukee awaiting the start of what’s sure to be an incredibly challenging series against the Heat this evening, I thought about whether or not I wanted to preview the series awaiting the Bucks. Most expect a sweep, it’s a near unanimous opinion. But crazier things have happened. The Bucks could absolutely win a game.

But how? I kept thinking about what would need to happen for the Bucks to win and as I thought about problems and spotting and solving them, I thought I’d try and spot what the Heat do well and how the Bucks could counter. If everything breaks right, maybe the Bucks can counter well enough to take a game, with some good fortune.

Problem Spotting and Problem Solving

  • Corner threes

Miami is a smart team. They know where they’ll be most successful, what shots are most efficient and, most importantly, how to create those shots. What shot is the most effective in the game, all the rage right now?

The corner three.

The Heat are very good at getting these shots. Nearly 40% of the threes the Heat attempt come from the corners. The numbers traditionally indicate that these attempts are easier for NBA players and that holds up with the Heat: Miami makes 43.1% of three-point attempts from each of the corners.

Fortunately for the Bucks, they’ve traditionally limited both opponent attempts and success from the corners. But, at times, the Bucks have struggled to defend the corners, specifically against the better shooting teams or the teams who really look to attack with those shots. Atlanta and Houston specifically have really hurt Milwaukee from the corners.

The Bucks biggest concern with regard to these threes will have to be both Shane Battier and Ray Allen. Battier has spent a lot of time laying the four this season, where he’ll likely be matched up with Ersan Ilyasova over the next four to seven games. 60% of his threes have been in the corners. Allen, when he comes in, wil be checked by either Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis. 42% of his threes have come from the corners.

Ilyasova, Jennings and Ellis are hardly Milwaukee’s most aware or capable defenders. It’s the playoffs, so perhaps each will be more focused on taking away a strength for the Heat. When LeBron is in the post, Milwaukee has to be aware of where these two, and other Heat shooters, are camping out.

  • Making the most of small ball

With Battier/James at the four and Chris Bosh at the five, the Heat are small ball experts. They throw those three out there with Wade and either Mario Chalmers or Ray Allen and all of sudden, they’ve got a stew going. A stew the Bucks are going to struggle to digest.

So which small lineup has seen the most time for a Bucks team full of capable big men? Jennings, Ellis, Larry Sanders, Luc Mbah a Moute and Marquis Daniels. In 140 minutes, that lineup was outscored by 22 points, an average of more than seven per 48 minutes.

If we work under the assumption that Mbah a Moute is going to play around 30 minutes a night, and that’s an assumption I’m making right now given the struggles Daniels has had this season and his lack of size, we’ll figure that Luc is going to be seeing time at the four. Around him I’d expect, Jennings, Ellis and Sanders for sure.

The small forward spot has been more of a challenge for Milwaukee. JJ Redick provides potent shooting, in theory, as does Mike Dunleavy, who also has size that Redick lacks. But neither has proved much of a defender over the past 20 games or so and defense is going to be at a premium this series for the Bucks. But with Mbah a Moute on the floor, Milwaukee cna hardly put in Daniels at the three.

My guess is that Redick and Dunleavy will split time at the small forward in small ball situations, with whoever is shooting better on the court late in games if they opt to stick with a small lineup. Obviously this isn’t advantageous for the Bucks, considering how athletic a lineup of Wade, Allen, James, Battier and Bosh is, but Milwaukee will have to counter with their best and hope for good fortune.

But Milwaukee would be wise to avoid either too much Daniels at all or too much of Jennings, Ellis and Redick, as both have been rough for them this season.
  • In transition

No team in the league is better in transition than the Heat. So fast. So explosive. So good at finishing. I know we all like to call Ellis and Jennings dynamic, but in their case that’s just code for short, fast and capable of scoring a lot. The Heat are truly dynamic in the sense that they are virtually nothing but continuous, productive activity.

But the Bucks can do something to limit Miami’s lethal transition attack. If the Heat have any weakness, it’s on both the offensive and defensive glass. Miami was ranked 30 in the league in total rebounding and 24 in defensive rebounding percentage.

When Milwaukee is playing big, it’ll be vital that those lineups attack the offensive glass, for the scoring opportunities and to reset and slow down Miami. Even when the Bucks get back in transition, Miami’s going to be able to slice them up. Offensive rebounds could be what swings a game in Milwaukee’s favor.

Accept and Move On

  • LeBron James is going to dominate

It’s what he does. He’s the best player in the league, he’s well on track to be the MVP annually. He can shoot the three, he takes it to the hoop, he can post up and he can throw passes to the opposite corners out of the post on a laser. There’s nothing he can’t do.

So what can the Bucks do? Accept and move on. Limit him as much as possible, which still won’t be very much. 27.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game this year against the Bucks. He’s going to approach those numbers, regardless of who is guarding him.

All the Bucks can do is bother him and move on to other problems. Problems with more realistic solutions.

Categories: Playoff talk

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  1. They could try the tactic that Louisville used on Griner: stand so close to Lebron that he feels like he can’t move his feet. Unfortunately, I think he is too fast for that to work.

    I hope the Bucks can exploit their scoring ability at guard and just let Jennings and Ellis shoot a LOT (which usually I would hate, but I think its the only way of getting a win against this Heat team).

  2. As underdogs, I’d like the Bucks to be creative
    against the Heat and see if we can pull of some

    (1)PLAY LOTS OF GUYS: The Bucks have a lot of good
    players but no all-stars, so let’s run a lot of fresh
    guys out on the floor and step up the defensive
    intensity. I wouldn’t play anyone more than 36 minutes.

    (2)DIFFERENT LOOKS: Pick up full court at times, pick
    up half court at times, fall back at times. Mix up
    man-to-man with zone defenses. Try big line-ups and
    also small line-ups. Keep the Heat guessing.

    (3)PACK THE PAINT: Let’s see if Larry and John can
    block some shots or at least alter them, while the
    other big men help with rebounds. Force Miami to rely
    more on the jump shot. However guard the three
    aggressively against Allen, Battier and Chalmers.
    Force these guys to shoot medium-range jumpers.

    (4)REWARD HUSTLE AND TEAM PLAY: It’s a fresh start.
    Whoever plays basketball the right way gets the most
    minutes and gets to play down the stretch. Who can
    combine a certain reckless abandon with disciplined
    determination? I don’t want anyone hogging the shots.
    Share the ball! Play like a team!

    (5)COACH IN CONTROL: Coach Boylan, here’s a chance
    to show your stuff with creative strategies and taking
    charge. Don’t allow divas! Yes, Monta and Brandon should
    get a good amount of shots, but if they get carried away,
    take them out! If they slack off on defense, take them
    out! Whoever doesn’t buy into the team, whoever gives up,
    take them out! Encourage everyone. Pander to no one.

    GO BUCKS!!! Let’s challenge these guys for 48 minutes.
    Let’s be relentless, in good times and bad. Let’s keep
    our mouths closed and our minds alert. Let’s rattle
    these guys a little. Let’s try to rock their world!!!

  3. “I probably seem like I just spot problems with the Milwaukee Bucks all day long, without offering up viable solutions.”

    I hope you don’t take some of the criticism I see on here lately to heart guys. This is my number one Buck’s site, and the Buck’s are my number one team in sports. I love this site. You guys have amazing stories and great commentary on our Bucks. Keep up the good work. I am going to miss the almost daily content after the Buck’s lose in 6…