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The Celtics were burned by the spread pick-and-roll attack of the Miami Heat

An injury plagued Heat team managed to beat the Celtics at home. This is one of the offensive sets they found success with.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

There were a myriad of issues with Boston's last game, with most of those coming on the offensive end. Overall, the Celtics actually played decent to good defense. But there was one area that Miami really capitalized on. Goran Dragic and the depleted Heat utilized the spread pick and roll to their advantage. Without their star players, Miami turned to Dragic to generate most of their offense. These are a few examples of how they achieved that.

The spread pick and roll is all about spacing. The play starts with the three other Heat players behind the three point line. This leaves the paint completely empty. The pick is set really high, which gives Dragic tons of space to use.

dragic p&r 1

After the pick is set, Brandon Bass comes out to meet Dragic to prevent the drive. But, Dragic blows by him and has a clear lane to the rim. Crowder gives a half-hearted swipe at the ball, and Dragic easily converted the layup.

Dragic's three point shooting ability makes this tough to defend. If the defense drops too far to prevent the drive, then he can pull-up from distance. But, the big man coming out to meet Dragic obviously presented its own problems.

The defense is left with tough decisions when the big can't contain the ball-handler. If Crowder fully commits to helping on Dragic, then he leaves Luol Deng open in the corner. Sending a weak side defender to help is tough too, considering the distance that needs to be traveled. That's why positioning is so important. Bradley and Smart both break towards the ball, but can't make it there in time.  If they don't play quite as far out, then maybe one of them could have rallied to Dragic before he scored.

This is a similar setup to the last play, with a slight difference in how the pick is set.

dragic p&r 2

The screener sets up with inside leverage on the ball. So if Dragic were to use the pick, he would drive towards the middle of the court. Smart positions himself to force Dragic to the sideline, keeping him on the strong side of the defense. Dragic sees this and forgoes the pick entirely. He has a step on Bass and beats him to the rim again. This is another example of Crowder not really doing anything to help on defense. I'm hesitant to go too far in criticism without knowing what he's coached to do. Kelly Olynyk doesn't do anything either, there might have been some confusion all around on this play.

Dragic didn't always look to score on the pick and roll either. This set led to an assist for him.

dragic p&r ast 1

Haslem sprints to set a quick screen for Dragic at the three point line. Olynyk is playing really far back, ostensibly to defend the drive. Dragic barrels into the lane and has the entire paint area to attack him. Generally speaking, Olynyk has a hard time defending the pick and roll. So it's understandable why Pressey would want to slid into his path to help. This creates a problem though, because Bradley was in fine position after recovering from the lackluster pick set by Haslem. This meant that three players collapsed on Dragic, which left Tyler Johnson open for the three. The spacing of the Heat, and the fear of Dragic driving to the hoop caused the Celtics to overcommit here.

This might not qualify as a spread pick and roll, but it uses the same principles. Two Heat players are in the corners, and nearly everyone else is beyond the three point line.

dragic p&r ast 2

Udonis Haslem sets the initial pick, then rolls to the paint. After running Bradley into the first screen, Dragic uses the Walker screen next. Bass comes way out to prevent Dragic from driving. While this happens, Walker drops into the area that Haslem vacated. Both Bradley and Bass are stuck on Dragic, leaving Walker wide open for a three. Isaiah Thomas is caught in the middle of rotating to Walker and trying to stay with Mario Chalmers in the corner. For context, Henry Walker takes a ton of threes, but isn't that great of a shooter. However, Chalmers is having an abysmal shooting year. So it's a little puzzling why Thomas doesn't rotate to contest the shot. It might not be his responsibility, but he's the only one in any position to defend it.

The Miami Heat made the most out of their limited lineup by giving their best player control over the offense. They took advantage of his skill set, and a few defensive miscues to generate points in a key game in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

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