Erik Spoelstra’s Miami Heat thrive on unpredictability
May 23, 2014 § Leave a comment
Nothing is given and nothing is guaranteed in the NBA playoffs, and no team understands that better than the Miami Heat.
They embrace the unknown and thrive in the unpredictability of a seven-game series. They are fine with not knowing where all the scoring will come from, not knowing who they will defend possession to possession, game to game.
“It’s not about who, it’s how and what,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
If the how and what are working, the who follows. If the how and what aren’t working, the Heat try to solve the puzzle without panicking.
Spoelstra’s strength is making unique personnel and strategic decisions on the go and convincing his players that his is the best way to win.
It is an important part of his coaching philosophy that centers on the idea of making players uncomfortable in a way that forces them to find ways to play better. It might not work with all teams, but it works for the Heat, who have just the right combination of talent and IQ to pull it off.
Put LeBron James in the low post more. Move Chris Bosh to the three-point line. Teach James and Dwyane Wade how to play off the ball. Teach them how to excel together. Use perimeter players in the low post and big men on the perimeter. Get Ray Allen to embrace a bench role with a new team. Constantly search for lineups that work. Rotations and minutes don’t need to be the same every game. Don’t be afraid to try something different.
Miami’s methods are not always conventional, and Spoelstra has said almost from the day James and Bosh joined Wade in Miami that unconventional would be the norm.
The Heat’s 87-83 Eastern Conference finals Game 2 victory vs. the Indiana Pacers was a microcosm of Spoelstra’s philosophy. He started Udonis Haslem in place of Shane Battier to give the Heat a stronger defensive presence, but Haslem wasn’t the solution. Spoelstra quickly discovered backup forward Chris Andersen was the answer, and even though Andersen played more than 28 minutes in a game only four times during the regular season, he played 28 minutes, 30 seconds in the win.
“What we’re saying is whatever’s needed,” Spoelstra said.
Backup guard Norris Cole has been OK during the playoffs but didn’t score in the final two games of the Brooklyn Nets series or the first game of the Pacers series — 0-for-8 from the field and 0-for-5 on three-pointers. But Cole had an important 11 points, including two big three-pointers as Miami began to overpower Indiana late in the third and in the fourth. But more important than his scoring, Cole helped defend Lance Stephenson who had 23 points through three quarters but just two in the fourth.
James suggested Cole, a strong on-ball defender, guard Stephenson, and Spoelstra listened.
“I know what our team is about, and he’s always allowed me, and obviously D‑Wade, who’s been here 10‑plus years, to make adjustments in game that we feel is best for the team,” James said. “We’re the guys on the court that’s playing, and you have a coach that trusts you to make adjustments.”
It’s a two-way conversation.
“We wouldn’t be the team we are today if we didn’t have the trust from both sides to understand that we don’t have all the answers, they don’t have all the answers,” Wade said. “We’re figuring it all out together. A lot of it is on the fly at times.”
That allowed Spoelstra to put Wade on Paul George and James on George Hill, and James used his size and strength to make it difficult on Hill to get Indiana’s half-court offense going.
The Heat don’t count on that from Cole every game. They just needed Cole to do that in that particular game.
“Next game may be totally different,” Spoelstra said. “Different guys may have to step up. You have to be ready for whatever the game calls for and not predetermine.”