Throughout the NBA playoffs, we here at The Locker Room will be looking at the most interesting topics and moments that arise during all these highly contested games. In Game 1 of the series between the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks, the Heat showcased how to effectively stop or slow down a great player. That great player was Carmelo Anthony, who shot 3 for 15 from the field and had 4 turnovers in the blow-out loss.
The Heat clearly made it a point of emphasis to take Melo out of the game early on. To stop Melo, the Heat used a combination of great defensive size and athleticism, taking away any catches in an operating area, double teaming, and forcing contested mid-range jumpshots. The defensive size, athleticism and intelligence came in the form of LeBron James and Shane Battier. They both battled Carmelo every possession, taking away any easy catches and making Melo play further and further out on the perimeter. Both have great length to contest any ISO jump shots that Carmelo decided to settle for. Lastly, both are quick enough to contain Melo if he decides to go off the dribble.
It wasn’t all about the 1on1 defense of Battier and LeBron, becasue lets face it no matter how good you are on the ball defensively, its takes an entire team to guard a player the caliber of Anthony. The Heat and Coach Sploestra decided to front Melo on all postups and take their chances rotating and leaving the furthest player from the ball open. As you will see in the video below, the Heat defense starts at the point of attack which is the ball handler up top. In order for the fronting the postup strategy to successfully work, the ball handler must be pressured so he has no vision to make pin point passes and is forced to through lob passes. Forcing the lob pass is a very underrated defensive strategy. It allows the help defenders (Chris Bosh most of the time in Game 1) time to rotate over and trap Carmelo on the catch. Other times, just forcing the lob pass creates a steal opportunity especially when the lob pass is leading Carmelo to the baseline corner or when the passer is attempting throw over LeBron James (6′ 8″ with a 40″ vertical jump).
Regardless of the Heat defensive strategy, The Knicks continually to settle for bringing the ball to the right wing and trying over and over again to throw the lob over the top to Melo. When the pass was safely received it didn’t matter because this is exactly what the Heat wanted. Melo was trapped in the baseline corner where the baseline can be used as an extra defender. Add that to the fact that they practiced this rotation a million times in practice, where all five players knew exactly where to automatically rotate over when the ball was trapped.
The Heat defense played the percentages when Carmelo actually did get a chance to catch the ball cleanly in a 1on1 situation. The lowest percentage shot in basketball is a contested mid-range jumpshot. As seen in the video below, Carmelo settled for a contested mid-range jumpshot on numerous occassions in Game 1. When guarding a great player, it is almost impossible to completely shut them down, but if you effectively force them into low percentage shots from low percentage areas on the court you have a better chance of having a successful defensive stop.
Please view the video below to fully understand how the Heat eliminated Carmelo Anthony’s scoring in Game 1.
All eyes were on Melo in Game 1 and the Heat executed their defensive strategy perfectly with the Knicks showing an inability to adjust. The Part 2 to this post is showing a couple ways that the Knicks and Carmelo can make some offensive adjustments to counter the Heat’s defensive strategy.
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