LeBron James was reason one through 100 why the Heat won Thursday, but strategic moves also paid dividends in Game 6.
Instead of fronting Kevin Garnett, the Heat played him more from behind, with more frequent double teams. That mostly eliminated the easy lobs that tormented the Heat the previous three games.
“We just tried to give him a lot of different looks,” Udonis Haslem said.
It also helped that the Heat had two natural power rotation players on the floor – in this case, Chris Bosh and Haslem – for 12 minutes, more than during the first five games combined. “When we play with size, we’re more physical,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Garnett also was off on his jump shot, shooting 1 for 6 outside the paint.
In another change, Spoelstra had Dwyane Wade defend Rajon Rondo at the start of both halves, instead of Mario Chalmers. Not only did Rondo shoot 2 for 7 and score just six points when Wade was defending him, but he didn’t get to the basket against Wade, who gave him a cushion on jump shots.
According to ESPN’s Stats and Information department, Rondo’s seven shots against Wade were 13.6 feet away from the basket, on average, with none inside of five feet.
Rondo was 6 for 7 against other Heat defenders (15 points), but his average shot distance was 4.6 feet on those attempts.
Spoelstra on Friday was reluctant to discuss the defensive changes on Garnett and Rondo, saying only, “Whatever it takes. This series is changing. There are adjustments on both sides. That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the way it will go [Saturday night]. We’ll have to read the game. Rondo will be very aggressive. Rio had a tougher assignment of chasing Ray Allen to our help all night.”
Meanwhile, ESPN’s Magic Johnson said after Game 6, “Spoelstra did something great. He got both of his superstars on the move. LeBron never took two straight shots the same.”
THIS AND THAT
Even though the players were off Friday, Spoelstra noted Bosh came to AmericanAirlines Arena for a workout.
“That says a lot about him – that he knows he needs to continue to fight to gain his rhythm and get closer to the form he was playing at the end of the year, which was his best basketball,” Spoelstra said. “We don’t need him to play at that level to win. He gave us excellent minutes at both ends.”
Bosh said playing through any lingering effects of his abdominal strain “is all in the mind. No matter how I feel, I give my minutes. Play as hard as I can, just worry about everything after the game.”
### Bosh admitted: “Before, we didn’t have the same urgency we did [in Game 6]. If we gave that effort every time we step on the court, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”
### The Heat did not openly celebrate Thursday’s win because, as Shane Battier put it, “If we’re jumping around like a bunch of frat boys, then we’re not doing any service to our team for Game 7.”
### The 8.2 major-market rating for Thursday’s game was the highest for an NBA playoff game on cable, with records dating to 2003. Game 4 of this series now ranks second on the all-time cable list.
In Miami-Fort Lauderdale, 22 percent of homes with TV sets were tuned in – well below South Florida’s 33.7 average rating for the NBA Finals last season. But The Finals games were on ABC; these games are on ESPN, which is not available in 6.4 percent of South Florida homes.
### Asked about Western Conference champion Oklahoma City, Spoelstra said, “With all due respect, next question.”
### The home team is 88-22 all time in seventh games of NBA playoff series. “We fought and earned the right to have this on our home court,” Spoelstra said. But “we don’t assume that will take care of everything.”