Updated: April 29, 2013, 6:10 PM ET

Around The Association

Miami Rooting For Brooklyn

By Tom Haberstroh | ESPN.com

In the fourth quarter of the Heat's series clincher against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, LeBron James dribbled around Chris Andersen after the big man came up high to set the pick-and-roll. Over in the left corner, Ray Allen hid in his favorite spot while James penetrated the Bucks' defense toward the paint.

James gained steam, and Allen waited in the corner. If this were chess, the Heat just called "check."

Do you collapse into the paint and help create a human shield in front of the rim? Or do you stick on Allen in the corner and hope for the best with James barreling toward the basket? Which door do you choose?

This is what the Heat try to accomplish on every possession: force the defense to make difficult decisions. And this one might be the most vexing problem of all to solve. Sure enough, Monta Ellis opted for the first door: Ellis shaded toward the paint and left Allen open briefly in the corner.


James hit Allen, Allen hit the shot.

The corner 3 may be the most important shot in the game, ranking right up there with a typical layup in terms of efficiency. It yields a similar payoff to a point-blank shot, and research shows that corner 3 attempts correlate more strongly with successful offenses than layups do. At its best, the Heat's offense pressures the opposition in such a way that the defense must pick its poison between stopping James' penetration or preventing his passes to the corner.

This quandary is why SportVU's 3-D tracking cameras found that James' drives, which produced 1.68 points per drive, were more efficient than those of any other NBA player this season. Stopping a driving James is the basketball equivalent of slowing down an armored tank that's equipped with passes that dart like homing missiles.

The Bucks couldn't solve that problem at any point in their first-round series with Miami, and as a result they lost every game by double digits. Led by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's system, predicated on movement and space, the Heat have found the precious corner 3 more than any other team in the playoffs, firing up 44 corner 3 attempts for an average diet of 11 shots per game. No other team has shot more than nine per game.

But do you want to know which team defends the corner 3 better than anyone?

Read the rest of Haberstroh's blog here.

Tom Haberstroh

ESPN Staff Writer