It did not take long for the Miami Heat to discover several ways in which they can exploit the Charlotte Bobcats in their first-round series. Through a combination of spacing the floor with James Jones and inverting their offense, the Heat established a formula for beating the Bobcats.
Charlotte finished the season with the sixth best defensive efficiency rating in the NBA, allowing just 101.2 points per 100 possessions. The Bobcats’ ability to defend seemed like it would enable them to stay competitive with the Heat. However, the Heat found holes in the Bobcats’ defense, especially after Al Jefferson strained his plantar fascia in the first quarter of Game 1.
The Heat went with Udonis Haslem in the starting lineup in order to defend Jefferson in the low post. In the opening minutes of the first quarter, it became obvious Haslem would be unable to slow Jefferson down. The Charlotte big man opened 4-for-4 from the field, and the Bobcats jumped out to an early lead.
Things changed when Jefferson injured his foot setting a screen in the first quarter. His inability to dominate the low post offensively after his injury allowed the Heat to guard him with Chris Bosh. On the other end, Jefferson was forced to guard Bosh when the Heat went small. The matchup puts Jefferson in a difficult position. He has to respect Bosh’s shooting ability and contest his outside jumper. Yet, if Jefferson closes out on him too hard, Bosh has the foot speed to blow by him for easy baskets. The Heat should be able to isolate Bosh against Jefferson at the elbow throughout the entire series and get quality looks.
Putting Bosh on Jefferson also enabled the Heat to remove Haslem from the lineup and replace him with Jones. Jones scored 12 points in the game, but more importantly, he stretched the floor and created open driving lanes for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Jones should continue to get around 15 minutes of playing time in each game of the series.
In addition to inserting Jones into the lineup, the Heat also found success in getting James and Wade the ball in the post. After Michael Kidd-Gilchrist got into foul trouble, the Bobcats attempted to defend James with Chris Douglas-Roberts. The Heat responded by sending James into the post where he repeatedly overpowered Douglas-Roberts on his way to the hoop. James hit four shots from the low post and was fouled on several other occasions, resulting in ten free throw attempts.
Wade found similar success when he posted up against Gerald Henderson. Wade isolated against Henderson in this area throughout the game, forcing Charlotte to either send a help defender or allow Wade to bully Henderson into the paint.
If the Heat can continue to attack these weaknesses in Charlotte’s defense, the series should be a clean sweep for the two-time defending champions.