Miami Heat drew first blood in the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday evening, thanks to a LeBron James buzzer-beating game-winning layup at the end of overtime. However, the game was very close and exposed, among a lot of other things, how vulnerable the Heat are to David West.
After the game, Chris Andersen, who had a 16-point, 7-7 shooting performance in Game 1, was the first to admit that West is his toughest cover, citing his craftiness as the primary reason. But it’s not just Birdman who struggles to contain West.
It’s not hard to recognize why West troubles Miami so much — no Heat player can truly guard him. West scored 26 points on 11-17 shooting. A quick look at his shot chart really explains everything. He was 5-7 in the restricted area, but also knocked down mid-range jumpers from just about every spot on the floor.
In the regular season, West averaged 22.7 points per game against Miami — he averaged more points only against three other teams. He has become a perpetual problem that Miami hasn’t and probably won’t be able to solve. West is as strong of a post player as they come, and can force himself into a position to score down in the low block through sheer strength. Probably the only Miami player who can match that strength is LeBron James. While James could probably do a good job on West, that is simply not a long-term option, as James usually has to guard either Paul George or Lance Stephenson.
If West is up against the likes of Birdman, who prefers to stay in the paint and contest shots, he can simply take a couple of steps back and space the floor with his mid-range jumper.
West was great offensively in Game 1, and based on what we have seen, he will be carrying a huge offensive load as this series moves forward.
Vytis is a Miami Heat and NBA columnist for RantSports. You can follow him on Twitter: @VytisLasaitis