Posted May 9 2012 9:59AM
MIAMI -- If Dwyane Wade's last-second 3-pointer at the end of Game 4 had gone in, the Miami Heat would have earned an extra three days of rest before taking on the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Yet the Heat would also be entering that series having not played their best basketball against the depleted Knicks. Carmelo Anthony went off for 41 points on Sunday, and while you might want to focus on who should be guarding New York's leading scorer, Miami's greater concern is its offense.
After scoring 204 points in the first two games of the series, the Heat have scored just 174 in the last two, despite playing at a faster pace in New York. They won Game 3 with a terrific defensive effort, but couldn't make up for their offensive futility in Game 4.
So Game 5 on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, TNT) gives the Heat another chance to put together a strong overall performance.
Offense was the problem for the Heat in the second half of the season. They had the league's No. 1 offense before the All-Star break and the No. 24 offense after it.
Miami seemingly flipped the switch in the playoffs and things looked great offensively through the first two games. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were getting into the paint and to the line. And the team's shooters were knocking down perimeter jumpers.
But in the two games in New York, Wade didn't get into the paint quite as much and James didn't finish at the rim quite as well. And after shooting 11-for-25 from 3-point range in the first two games, Shane Battier and Mike Miller shot just 2-for-16 from beyond the arc in Games 3 and 4.
Then there was the 19 turnovers in Game 3 and the poor free throw shooting (69 percent) in Game 4.
The one positive development for the Heat from the last two games was the return of their fast-break points. After averaging just 7.7 fast-break points in April and 7.5 in the first two games against the Knicks, the Heat totaled 34 in Games 3 and 4 (a 17.0 average).
On one hand, the transition game is a great thing, especially with how the Heat haven't been able to run much of late. Quick and easy buckets are critical in the playoffs, and they don't come quicker or easier than when James and Wade are running the floor.
On the other hand, those fast-break numbers just make it clear how bad the Heat's half-court offense has been. If they've scored 34 points on the break in the last two games, they've only scored 140 in a set offense.
Aside from some sloppy turnovers, the Heat offense hasn't looked too terrible. In the two games in New York, they had only one real extended drought. The Heat maintain that just because the ball's not going through the basket, it doesn't mean they're not running the offense well and making the right plays.
"You don't play the result," Battier said. "You play the process. If you get good looks in the context of the offense, the flow of the offense, and you just miss them, you live."
Still, if the Heat are going to win a championship, Battier and Miller are going to have to make shots. The same goes for Udonis Haslem, who has given the Heat next to nothing offensively this season.
The Knicks are a good defensive team and offense is certainly harder to come by in the postseason. The last two games just typified Eastern Conference playoff basketball. But it's not a good sign that scoring has once again become a struggle for the Heat.
Even if they're not getting fast break points, the Heat still want to push the tempo and look for open shots before the defense is set.
"We've been more efficient with our secondary attacks than we have been all year," Spoelstra said. "Teams are scouting us and we're not necessarily getting the run-out, breakaway dunks, the highlights that everybody notices and sees on ESPN. But we're getting a lot more secondary actions."
That paid off in the fourth quarter of Game 3, when Mario Chalmers hit a pair of dagger threes as a trailer in transition. That was the one quarter in New York when the Heat had any kind of offensive rhythm.
The Heat can win Game 5 and move on to the conference semifinals with their defense. But to look like an eventual champion again, they'll need to turn it back up offensively.
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