Miami's role players and their formula for success

5/28/13 in NBA   |   droth   |   127 respect

LeBron James is the best player in the world and no one would argue that he is the most important player on the Heat.  In their last game, a game in which the Heat asserted their will for much of the evening, he put up 22-4-3.  He didn't need to drop 30-10-10 like he did in game 1 or 36-8-3 in the game 2 loss.  When the moment calls for it, LeBron is more than capable of superhuman performances and when the team is running smoothly, he can let his teammates carry the load.

May 26, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Heat power forward Chris Andersen (11) shoots against Indiana Pacers center Ian Mahinmi (28) during the second quarter in game three of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY SportsLast week after game 1, I wrote that LeBron won't have to bail his teammates out with another incredible effort because the rest of the squad will be better.  I wrote that the Heat's role players, players 4-9 in the rotation, were unusually bad.  The Allen-Andersen-Battier-Chalmers-Cole-Haslem group, or the medium-sized 6 as I call them, scored just 37 of the team's 104 points despite Andersen's 16 points on 7-7 shooting.

Then, in game 2, that group was even worse, scoring just 23 points. Their struggles put even more pressure on LeBron and Miami lost.  This further showed that the bench needs to step up and lighten James' load in order for the Heat to win even when he is capable of carrying the team.

After that, in game three, the rest of the big three showed up and the role players were excellent, which made LeBron's 22 points a non-issue and carried the team to a fairly easy win.  

The role players' success definitely comes, in part, from the attention opponents must give LeBron.  But they still need to make their shots.  And as the role players' shots go, so go the Heat.  

In the game 2 loss, the medium-sized 6 scored 24.7% of the team's points.  In the game 3 dismantling, they scored 50.8% of the Heat's points.  

Through 12 playoff games, the medium-sized six has scored fewer that 40% of the teams points on three occasions: the game 1 loss against Chicago, the game 2 loss against Indiana and the game 1 win over Indiana when LeBron went crazy to bail the team out.

This pattern existed in the regular season too. Over the last month of the regular season, in their final 16 games, the Heat went 14-2.  In those two losses, the medium-sized 6 contributed 26.8% and 34.8% of the Heat's points.  In those 14 wins, the medium-sized 6 scored at least 40% of the points seven times.  In six of the other seven wins, at least two of the medium-sized 6 didn't play or other role players (Mike Miller and Rashard Lewis-who aren't getting much run in the playoffs) contributed enough points to push the top-6 role players' scoring over 40%.  In the one remaining win that didn't see the role players score 40% of the team's points, LeBron scored 36 points.
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