The Miami Heat regressed behind the arc during the regular season. They were 19th in the league, shooting 35.8 percent on 36.2 attempts per game. Those statistics were down 2.1 percent from last year as they ranked second in the league, shooting 37.9 percent on 35.4 shots per game.
Why the Miami Heat regressed from behind the arc in regular season
But why has the Miami Heat declined from behind the arc? The answer is that they have seen a significant decline in above-the-break threes. Miami led the league in above the break threes last year, shooting 38.2 percent on 26.4 attempts.
Unfortunately, they saw a 2 percent decline this year, shooting 36.2 percent on 26.8 attempts. The decrease has to do with the team’s frontcourt shooting. Last season, the team got career years from Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder.
Crowder shot 44 percent from above the break last year on 4.2 attempts. On the other hand, Olynyk shot 41.4 percent from above the break on 2.8 shots per game. These statistics were unusual for both players.
Before joining the Heat, Crowder was shooting 32.3 percent from above the breaks on 3.4 attempts per game. Conversely, Olynyk only made 35.6 percent of his above-the-break threes on 2.5 shots per game. Fortunately for Jae Crowder, his performance with the Heat led to him getting a significant contract in free agency, as he signed with the Phoenix Suns for $29.1 million over three years.
Unfortunately, Olynyk stayed with the team to begin this season and couldn’t replicate his performance from the prior year, as he shot 34.5 percent from above the break on 4.5 attempts per game.
Olynyk wasn’t the only frontcourt player who has struggled from above the break, as Andre Iguodala has shot 29.4 percent from above the break this season. Furthermore, Crowder’s replacement, Trevor Ariza, shot 34.6 percent from above the break.
The Miami Heat must figure out a way to improve the 3-point percentage in the first round of the playoffs. They are facing a team whose weakness is 3-point shooting in the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks run a defensive system that prioritizes protecting the paint.
Consequently, the players are often closer to the basket than the 3-point line on defense, making it difficult for them to contest the threes properly. For example, San Antonio Spur Keldon Johnson had the basketball at the top of the key early in the first quarter of a home game against the Bucks.
He proceeded to begin an attack to the basket but had to stop after about five steps because Brook Lopez, Donte DiVincenzo, and Giannis Antetokounmpo collapsed on him. Consequently, he passed the ball to Dejounte Murray, who made a lightly contested three from the top of the key.
Their defensive philosophy allowed opponents to shoot 37.3 percent from above the break this season on 30.4 attempts per game. The Bucks were also susceptible to corner threes as opponents shot 43.8 percent from the corner on eight shots per game.
The combination of these factors led opponents to shoot 38.4 percent from behind the arc against the Bucks on 38.6 attempts per game. The shooting percentage has allowed opponents to create 44.4 points from behind the arc per game. 3-point production accounted for 38.9 percent of the opponents scoring output as the Bucks allowed opponents to score 114.2 points per game.
How the Miami Heat can improve their 3-point percentage vs the Bucks
Although the Heat’s frontcourt players have struggled from above the break, they can take advantage of the Bucks’ inability to defend corner threes. Iguodala has shot 36.7 percent on corner threes on one attempt per game since 2013.
Iguodala is not the only player that has thrived on corner threes, as Ariza has shot 39.9 percent on corner threes on 2.3 attempts per game. Therefore, head coach Erik Spoelstra must position these players in the corners for the Heat to maximize their 3-point shooting.
Unfortunately, he has been hesitant to do that as they have taken over 44 percent of their 3-point attempts from above the break this season. Iguodala averaged 2.9 threes per game. 44.8 percent of those threes came from above the break as he averaged 1.3 per game. Ariza faced the same issue as he averaged 4.8 threes per game. 54.2 percent of those attempts came from above the break as he averaged 2.6 per game.
In conclusion, for the Heat to win this series, head coach Erik Spoelstra needs to break out of his habit of putting frontcourt players on the wings and move them over to the corner. If he refuses to make this adjustment, the team will continue to struggle from behind the arc during the playoffs leading to an early exit.