The Indina Pacers have succesfully pushed the Eastern Conference Finals to a Game 7, winner take all, against the defending NBA Champions the Miami Heat. The Heat, before this series had the best record in the league, a 26 game win streak during the season, and only one loss in their playoff run. How much of the blame for a tied 3-3 series falls on the shoulders of head coach Eric Spoelstra?
A playoff series is always decided by adjustments from game to game. As much as the players decide the game on the court, the coaches are responsible for the game plan. After losing Game 1 in overtime to a LeBron James lay-up with two seconds left on the clock, Pacers head coach Frank Vogel changed the team’s defensive scheme. They switched to a help-the-helper defense and left Roy Hibbert in the game in crunchtime in Game 2. The result was a road win to tie the series 1-1.
After jumping out big on the Indiana Pacers in Game 3 securing a win, coach Spo did something we have not seen in the playoffs yet. He played the bench. Mike Miller, Rashad Evans, Joel Anthony, and even James Jones got a few minutes. This was the first time some of these players have been able to put their feet on the “NBA Playoffs” logo on the court.
Last night, in a pure desperation move due to the suspension of Chris “Birdman” Anderson, coach Spoelstra played Anthony in his place for 28 minutes. Needless to say this abrupt adjustment did not work.
Beyond that adjustment made out neccesity, what other adjustments have the Heat coaching staff made? They have been no defensive schemes created to stop Roy Hibbert in the paint. Spoelstra was a former video analyst for the Miami Heat under Pat Riley, so you have to think he watching game film closely. Yet, Hibbert continues to dominate.
On the offensive end, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did not deliver last night. The two All-Stars combined for four points in the first half and finished with 15 points combined. Wade has had back-to-back games with 10 points. Should the head coach at some point limit a players minutes if they are not performing well due to injury?
Coach Spoelstra may have been out-coached into a Game 7, but his biggest adjustments to the game plan need to happen now.
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