Advanced Scouting: Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs


Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs 8:30 CST March 4, 2011

The self proclaimed “Heatles” show goes to San Antonio tonight in what could very well be a preview of the NBA finals. Of course, if it would be very unlikely the Spurs even reach this point without Tony Parker at or near top form. The Heat are no shoe-in either.

After beating the Kings the first game following All-Star break, the Heat have lost in Chicago, beaten Washington at home and lost to New York and Orlando at home. In fairness, each of these losses has been close, but are they signs of things to come?

Do Lebron and Wade fit together

I thought might be useful to assess Miami’s success with Lebron and Wade on the court at the same time. It is reasonable to suspect that since they both like to dominate the ball, playing together could diminish both of their values. The following represents data for each combination of Lebron and Wade sitting or playing:

Lebron and Wade +362 in 1593 minutes (10.9 per 48)
Lebron, no Wade +101 in 631 MP (7.7 per 48)
Wade, no Lebron +42 in 493 MP (4.1 per 48)
Neither -48 in 184 MP (-12.5 per 48)

It seems likely from the above figures that the Lebron and Wade’s combined values are hurt when playing together. However, adding the second player does also clearly make the Heat better, in case anyone had any doubts.

Miami’s preferred method to create shots: Lebron and Wade in pick and rolls and on the break

Lebron James and Dwyane Wade run the pick and roll very frequently and both excel at it. James averages 0.98 points per possession (6th in the NBA) and Wade averages an impressive 0.92 PPP on this play type. Both run this play about 6 times per game (not including plays where they pass out of to the roll man or the spot up shooter or cutter). Both players also excel at getting out on the break, scoring about 6 more points per game in the transition game.

Spurs counter: Bait Lebron into bad passes and force slashers into Duncan

Lebron James is once again in the running for MVP, but his transition to a new team appears to have diminished his efficiency (Chris Bosh has experienced the same effect to a lesser degree). Although it is normal for a player to lose effectiveness when switching teams, a player with better teammates and diminishing workload typically improves player efficiency. (Lebron and Wade must limit their shots when playing with each other.) Although Wade is duplicating his Offensive Rating of 113 from last season, Bosh is down from 117 to 113 and Lebron’s offensive rating has plummeted from 121 to (a still impressive) 114. The primary difference in Lebron’s effectiveness has been his passing.

I know it’s crazy to suggest that the Spurs try to get one of the best passers in the game to give up the ball, but Lebron’s passing value has not been the same as in years past. Although his assist figures are still high, they are not of the same caliber. For example, Lebron averaged an impressive 4.0 assists at the rim last season. This year, that figure is below 2. (Assists at the rim are far more valuable largely because they typically reflect fewer unrecorded missed shots; note that assist type isn’t differentiated in offensive rating.) Making matters worse, his turnovers are up from 3.4 to 3.7.

From the games I’ve watched this year, Lebron seems to make far too risky passes for low percentage plays. It is reasonable that he is still not as familiar with player and team tendencies as he was in Cleveland last season. The Spurs could benefit from trying to bait him into bad passes and even create easy transition scores.

If Lebron or Wade gets to the hoop, Tim Duncan is one of the best help defenders in the NBA. Duncan’s blocks per 36 minutes are up from 1.7 to 2.6 despite lowering his foul rate to a career low 2.0 per 36. The Spurs in general are an excellent team at avoiding defensive fouls. It will be interesting to see if this can hold up against the combination of Wade and Lebron.

The Spurs also commit to defending the fast break. If they are able to limit the Heat’s high powered fast break, it will go a long way towards victory.

Spurs offensive game plan: Cuts, Roll Man and Offensive Rebounds

The Heat are an excellent defensive team. They don’t foul, defend isolation and the pick and roll ballhandler well. For all their “big man problems” they have had success defending the post this year. The Heat have struggled the most giving up too many cuts, scores for the roll man in the pick and roll and allowing too many offensive rebounds and putbacks.

The Heat’s weaknesses fit with many of DeJuan Blair’s strengths. He is the Spurs most capable recipient of scores while rolling to the hoop and other cuts to the basket. Of course, Blair is also one of the best offensive rebounders in the league. The Spurs would be well served to pay more offensive attention to him than normal.

Manu Ginobili also becomes more important for this game and the upcoming stretch of games without Parker. Ginobili becomes the Spurs only real threat to set up those easy baskets by air delivery. George Hill is also excellent at getting his own basket, but his not in the same league as Manu or Parker at creating for others. Manu and Hill’s ability to get to the rim also makes the Spurs three point army better.

Key Statistics

SRS ranks:

Miami: 6.72 (1st)
San Antonio: 6.44 (2nd)

Player summary statistics from and

Miami Player Ratings

LeBron James5838.331.91141010.23314.01
Dwyane Wade5637.331.71131010.2110.72
Chris Bosh5636.123.51131020.1713.43
James Jones6019.712.41261060.1481.08
Zydrunas Ilgauskas5717.215.41091000.134-4.46
Mario Chalmers5422.714.81061030.108-7.35
Joel Anthony5620.34.81201030.108-4.37
Eddie House4517.916.91141050.133-5.01
Erick Dampier3315.47.61151020.124-3.12
Mike Miller2319.615.51061030.111-1.46
Udonis Haslem1326.514.71101010.135-2.59
Juwan Howard4210.612.3961040.056-7.29

Spurs Player Ratings

PlayerGMPGUSG%OrtgDRtgWS/482 Yr APM
Tony Parker5932.424.81141060.167-0.82
Richard Jefferson6131.115.71161070.124-1.08
Manu Ginobili613126.31161030.2054.96
Tim Duncan6128.823.2109990.1676.21
George Hill5528.217.61171060.149-1.59
DeJuan Blair612220.3105990.136-0.27
Matt Bonner4521.812.71321070.1673.92
Gary Neal5920.220.31081080.099-0.66
Antonio McDyess5617.914.71041020.1082.95
James Anderson1412.816.11081090.08N/A
Tiago Splitter4311.317.91101030.137N/A
Chris Quinn396.616.3961080.031N/A
Steve Novak86.113.81471080.222N/A

Player trends, based on Efficiency per 48 minutes:

Heat Player Trends

PlayerSeasonLast 10Increase
Erick Dampier17.320.63.3
Mario Chalmers16.5192.5
Juwan Howard15.617.11.5
Dwyane Wade31.631.80.2
LeBron James34.634-0.6
Mike Miller20.419.3-1.1
Chris Bosh26.525.2-1.3
Zydrunas Ilgauskas23.221.7-1.5
Joel Anthony1411.6-2.4
Eddie House17.213.1-4.1
James Jones15.59.3-6.2

Three point shooters such as Jones typically have more wild swings in performance.

Spurs Player Trends

PlayerSeasonLast 10Increase
DeJuan Blair28.131.33.2
Gary Neal18.220.52.3
Antonio McDyess23.2251.8
Tim Duncan32.734.31.6
George Hill22.9230.1
Manu Ginobili28.528.1-0.4
Matt Bonner20.319.8-0.5
Steve Novak20.517.9-2.6
Richard Jefferson18.113.2-4.9
Chris Quinn12.36.1-6.2

Lineup data

Most valuable/utilized lineups:

Arroyo, Wade, James, Bosh, Ilgauskas +103 in 428 minutes (+11.4 per 100 Poss)
Chalmers, Wade, James, Bosh, Dampier +60 in 132 minutes (-22.9 per 100)

Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, Blair, Duncan +139 in 648 minutes (+10.2 per 100)
Hill, Neal, Ginobili, Bonner, McDyess +65 in 94 minutes (+36.4 per 100)

The Spurs actually have a better scoring differential without Parker this season.

The Pick

Spurs, toss up

This is a really tough one to pick, but I am once again picking the Spurs. I know Tony Parker is a significant missing piece, but the Heat will be playing the second of a back to back, the Spurs have home court advantage and Bibby shouldn’t really be a significant contributor at this point. As good as Tony Parker is, his loss probably doesn’t add up the Spurs advantages for this game.

  • Hicksman

    GO SURS GO!!!

  • Hicksman

    GO SPURS GO!!!

  • Carlos Martin

    GO SPURS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Beat the beach kings

  • ITGuy

    It’s going to be tough without TP but not impossible.

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • Hobson13

    If the Spur force James and Wade to be jump shooters and not let them out on the fastbreak, I think they can win this one. Of course not letting the Heat out on the fast break means not turning the ball over. Should be a good game.

  • Nima K.

    What’s bad: Miami just lost to Orlando. So they’ll be probably playing with more resolve tonight, in order to get that top seed from the celts.

    What’s good: tonights game is a second of b2b.

    Let’s see what our team is really made of.


  • GFoyle

    I’m worried about this one. It was very fun watching the Heatles melt down last night, but man are they going to be pissed and on a mission tonight to show they can play and beat the team with the best record.

  • Alix Babaie

    GFoyle, I could not have said it better.

    The Spurs are going to have the advantage of catching Miami on the tail end of a B2B but of course, the damn game starts up @ 830pm CST to benefit the Heat and the west coast crowd.

    Miami is going to be uber pissed because they choked away that game last night…..or was it simply because they could not guard the 3 point line worth a shit?

    The Heat will want to make a statement against the team with the NBA’s best record, no doubt about that and Mr. “TMTTSB” is going to want to go off on the Spurs to ease some of the pain from his ass getting swept in 2007.

    I think DB45 has a monster game tonight, Manu, Matt and Gary all rain threes like Pac Man Jones raining dollars at Da Club and the Spurs win by 10.

  • rob

    Prevent Wade and James from building a full head of steam and the Spurs win this easily. (Easier said than done).

    It would be great if the Spurs could analyze and recreate what happened in the Orlando game last night to use to their benefit tonight. It’s also fortunate for the Spurs this is the second game of a b2b for the Heat.

    I agree…could go either way.

    Spurs by 5. 102 to 97?

  • Titletown99030507

    There have been many times people have said Blair will have a good game. And many times didnt live up to it just to sit in the 4th watching Timmy and Dyess bail this team out. Hope its not one of those nights then the whole bench will be playing a little earlier. Hope its not the case. GSG!

  • Len

    To be fair to DeJuan,

    He had a great game against the Lakers at home. He was the best big man on the court, period. That is really saying something. If he plays like that again tonight, it will go a long ways to a Spurs victory.

    That is really the beauty of this years Spurs. Any one of 9 players (8 now with TP on the shelf) can realistically be a difference maker. Compare that to the Heat; they need all three of their “stars” to play good or they don’t win many games. It’s because their role players as garbage.

    Go Spurs Go

    Go Spurs Go.

  • texasj

    i think this game will be close. and imma be watching bibby and wade a lil more closely than the other players. we clearly have a mismatch with whoever bibby is guarding so i think that may be our sweet spot. if georgie boy and manu can put a lil pressure on d wade i think it becomes a much more micro oriented style of play matching their next best 4 versus our next best 4, which i think we have an advantage as long as bron doesnt catch fire. anywho just some thoughts. go spurs go

  • SAJKinBigD

    It’s a “Statement Game” for both teams – I think I heard that they (I will not use that nickname) are 1-7 in games against the top teams and the Spurs get no respect for wins over LA or Dallas and recently lost to the latest darlings, da’ Bulls.

    I think keeping them out of transition and hitting our 3’s will lead to a win. That and keep TOs down, of course which feeds the transition game.

  • Mr. International

    Go Spurs, Go. This will we very tough without TP but it can be done.

    Let me just say, that in the event of a Spurs loss, I hope not to come here tomorrow and read posts about how the season is lost and how we can kiss the 5th ring good bye. Let’s keep some perspective here, people.

  • The Beat Counselor


    I’ve noticed that your preview pieces are getting a bit more conversational and personable in tone (which I prefer), as it is a nice counterbalance to all the advanced metrics.

    Thanks for another great write-up.

  • Alix Babaie

    I think that Miami can go ahead and start using the “Beat-les” for their nickname….it sure seems to be the most applicable.

  • SAJKinBigD

    @Alix: With the hyphen and maybe another ‘s’ on the end… I could deal with that… 😉

  • ruth bader ginobili

    Nice preview. That’s an interesting stat on LeBron’s passing, especially considering how relatively un-athletic those Cavs teams were.

    Probably another high-turnover game for the Spurs, right? Against Philly and Memphis, they had trouble getting passing lanes against those athletic perimeter guys–and Miami has a couple guys like that too.

    Bosh’s mid-range J could be a problem too.

    Pop would never let this team try a 24 point, 3rd quarter comeback–guess we’ll have to lead the whole time!

  • Len

    “Probably another high-turnover game for the Spurs, right? Against Philly and Memphis, they had trouble getting passing lanes against those athletic perimeter guys–and Miami has a couple guys like that too.”

    Personally, I think that describes how this game will be won or lost. The Spurs are going to run their sets no matter who they play. If Hill or RJ are lazy with their perimeter passes, 2 pts Miami. Duncan can’t get “dug out” by a perimeter defender. And Manu has to play sharp. If he gets one of those cross court passes picked off, 2 pts Miami.

    God I hope the Spurs bring their A game tonight.

  • Scot McKay

    Quote (Sajkinbigd): “I think keeping them out of transition and hitting our 3′s will lead to a win.”

    Quote (Rob): “It’s also fortunate for the Spurs this is the second game of a b2b for the Heat.”

    Amen. Those are your keys, right there.

    I’d hesitate to call this a “statement game” regardless of what happens.

    The Heat are on a SEGABABA and have some new pieces, whereas the Spurs are missing Parker. Hard to predict a 7-game series based on the outcome here tonight.

    Now, that said I’d look for clear patterns in this game that continue on into the next game between these teams. That’s going to give somewhat better of a read into what to expect.

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  • JTEX

    If the Spurs can pull out a win tonight it will be surprising. Barkley has been right all along about the areas the Spurs are weak in. Granted Barkely has no Championships in his career but the Spurs are poor offensive rebounders, due to the don’t have a big to match up against big tall teams. They don’t need this all the time but come the playoffs they will need a big or they will make an early exit from the playoffs. Too many turn overs also. Even if the Spurs bring their A game tonight it will take and extraordinary effort to beat the Heat, if they do it will be a great morale booster, Guess well see in 3 hours and 10 minutes! Go Spurs Go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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