Playoff Breakdown: Poor Offensive Possessions, Missing Looks, Too Much Fouling

Insight3 weeks ago7 min readJohn Jablonka

Unfortunately, the Miami Heat didn’t win in five, but they somehow were almost there. Despite going 3-for-19 from deep in the first half, they were only down by three points heading into the break.

The third quarter was where they found themselves into quite a whole — going down by 19 in just a few minutes. But even then, after some crucial 3s from both Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson, they were able to make this a game late down the stretch.

I honestly thought the New York Knicks were going to blow this. It was a 10-point game heading into the fourth and towards the end it was just a one-possession game with under three minutes.

Still, they weren’t able to close out the series. The Knicks shooting 13-for-34 from 3, getting to the line 40 times, drawing 30 fouls, and being in the penalty had a lot to do with that.

And again. This was a one-possession game down the stretch.

The Knicks ended up having a 136.1 offensive rating after the first quarter, but on the rewatch, it didn’t look like the Knicks exploited something that might be an issue going forward.

Their 3pt shooting also didn’t seem that problematic. Quite a few of them were in transition or early offense, but their transition defense was questionable. Some were tough shot-making from both Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson.

But the main issue was fouling way too much and starting out slow on offense.

Poor Offensive Possessions & Missing Open Looks

Throughout the playoffs, particularly in the Knicks series, I’ve been worried about the Heat’s offense. Even though they had the best offensive rating against the Bucks, I still didn’t think they had a great offense.

The Heat’s offense can look very good when they’re hitting shots. When they’re hitting all types of shots and Jimmy Butler is torching defenses, then they’ll put up points.

But, as we’ve seen all season long when they don’t make 3s, they’re one of the worst offenses in the league. That’s also how I felt about them post All-Star break, even when they were hitting 40 percent or better. And things are even worse now that they don’t have Tyler Herro to be their best guard.

That’s not to say that they aren’t missing good, open looks because they are. But just because the end result was an open 3, it doesn’t mean the “how” they got that open 3 was good:

That’s also not to say that all of their open 3s aren’t good 3s either. There are plenty of actions that get the looks that you want. The Heat aren’t a terrible offensive team either.

The first two clips were the exact shots you’d want from Kevin Love. There were a couple of open 3s from the corner in early offense. Off an offensive rebound where the defense is scrambling. Off a defensive breakdown that left a shooter wide open for way too long.

It’s those shots that also aren’t hunted either. They didn’t take long to generate and it would be worse if they passed out of those looks. If someone is as open as they were in a lot of those clips, they need to take those.

And that’s where the poor shooting hurt.

There are also these kinds of 3s:

These typically aren’t the 3s you’d want, especially not that early in the clock or with the defender near you. That’s when the Heat are 3pt hunting slightly.

But it’s these possessions that I would call poor offense:

The Heat simply couldn’t get anything early in the clock. A bunch of actions that aren’t attacked well enough or just don’t create an advantage. The ball eventually finds its way for a 3, but the way they get it is the issue. But those first 16 seconds or so do matter.

I’ve seen a counterargument that it shouldn’t matter as much as you take whatever you can get in the playoffs. A 3 is still a 3. Yes, there will be possessions where the defense in the playoffs will take away your first, second, and third option. So, at that point, you will take whatever you can get.

But with the Heat, it’s more common than not. Every look they seem to get feels hard to get. Over 30 percent of their shots have been late or very late, which is in the last seven seconds on the clock.

And there are many(far too many) possessions like these too:

There are so many things going wrong for the Heat on offense outside of just missing open looks. I wouldn’t call this team a great offense even if they were knocking down shots. And it doesn’t get better when you have a passive Butler on offense.

I don’t know if they were able to either create an advantage or at least capitalize on one in any of those clips. What’s worse is, I don’t know what else they can do. Even in the times where Butler does create advantages, I don’t think the Heat have done a good job at getting a good look out of it.

Early Knicks Offense

What makes matters worse is this affects the defense as well. The Knicks have struggled on offense too. They struggled with getting good looks too. But their offense becomes much easier if they can push the pace.

In this game, they scored 56 points on 35 possessions that started off a miss. They shot 7-for-11 from 3 on those possessions. For the series, the Knicks are:

  • 7-for-20 with 22-18 seconds on the clock
  • 9-for-26 with 18-15
  • 26-for-92 with 15-7

They have knocked down shots pretty well in transition or early offense. And with the Heat struggling to make shots, especially a lot of 3s, then their defense won’t be set

The Heat also didn’t help themselves with some poor transition defense — not running back and not matching up well quickly enough.

They can’t allow the Knicks to push the pace and get early looks

A lot of Fouling

Outside of the poor shooting, I would argue that their fouling cost them the game a lot more. The Knicks attempting 40 free throws is giving the Knicks easy points that they otherwise wouldn’t have got so easily.

But what’s worse is a lot of them came in the penalty that wasn’t shooting fouls. That’s literally bailing out the offense so many times. A reach here, a loose ball foul there, and the Knicks get 12 efficient points:

The Heat have to clean this up and be more disciplined. They attempted 30 fouls, which would have been the third most for them — both the regular season and playoffs combined.

It was interesting to see some of their shooting fouls too:

Their defense against Brunson was different. It didn’t seem like the defense collapsed on him as often and gave him that one-on-one that he wanted. Having Quentin Grimes on the court for 48 minutes certainly helped the Knicks by not having a shooter the Heat can play off, but it was interesting to see that coverage throughout the game