Jimmy Butler guards LeBron James

Three adjustments the Heat must make to beat the Lakers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals

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Now facing a glaring 1-3 hole against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Miami Heat has to pull out every trick in their bag to extend the series. The Lakers made the biggest adjustment in Game 4, putting the hulking but mobile Anthony Davis as the primary defender on Jimmy Butler.

Butler still stuffed the stat sheet with a near-triple-double outing, but he was not as aggressive in looking for his shots.

With scoring point guard Goran Dragic still questionable for Game 5, the Heat has to focus on their defensive game plan and provide Butler with easier opportunities to put up the buckets.

Make the Lakers pay when going under Butler pick-and-roll plays

Aside from the fact that Davis took it upon himself to contain Butler, the Lakers also went under the pick-and-rolls facilitated by Butler. Knowing that the Heat star is not inclined to hoist up shots from the three-point line, the Lakers then focused on limiting Butler’s strong drives down the lane.

The strategy paid dividends as Butler was forced to just pass the ball or spend a lot of time in the shot clock before attempting a tightly-contested, fade-away jumper. Butler could try finding his shot from long-range early on, but the problem lies if that doesn’t work. One thing that could force the Lakers to second-guess would be if Bam Adebayo or Kelly Olynyk immediately slip after a soft pick, or seal whoever is guarding Butler.


Don’t over-do the ball movement

The great thing about this Heat team is that they are very unselfish in their offense. As people would say it, everyone eats at Miami’s table. However, constant ball movement leads to more time being slashed off the shot clock, and it turns out to be a problem when the ball gets stuck with an inefficient scorer with only a few seconds left.

We saw that too many times in Game 4 when the ball finds itself in the hands of Kendrick Nunn, who would then try to bail out the Heat. His penetrations would often lead to very difficult shots, evidenced with that reverse lay-up attempt that was easily thwarted away by Davis. This is exactly what they miss from Dragic, especially with how good he is in using even the smallest gaps in the defense for his crafty baskets.

The Heat has to do a better job of giving the ball to their best scorers, and then just live with the results.

Win the 50-50 situations

Miami has to be the more desperate team entering Game 5, and they should show that by exerting more effort especially on the defensive end. The Lakers pounced them on the offensive glass the last time out, and what’s worse is that those were created by guards like Alex Caruso and Rajon Rondo.

The Heat can’t afford to get stuck in that same situation, especially with how excellent the Lakers are in scoring off second chances. LeBron James is just so good in making the right passes when the defense is scrambling, whether that be a lob for Davis or a cross-court assist to a corner triple by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.


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