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Less ‘hero ball’ equates to more offense for Miami Heat

By Shandel Richardson, Sun Sentinel –

MIAMI — Dwyane Wade was known as “The Flash,” until deciding to drop the nickname before last season.

Wade thought it was time to move on from the moniker, saying “it’s not me no more.” Now, he’s trying to eliminate yet another superhero label.

After Monday’s victory against the Boston Celtics, Wade said the biggest key was the Miami Heat playing less “hero ball” on offense. The term means going one-on-one against opponents, something Wade and LeBron James have tried to avoid this postseason. The Heat face the Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“Just too much isolation,” Wade said of the past offensive gameplan. “We have good iso guys, but I thought last year, as we were trying to work our game and get comfortable, a lot of times we relied on our ability too much. And it can get other guys just standing around and not being involved.”

The alternative is James and Wade scoring more within offensive sets, and having added trust in teammates. The change was noticeable when they scored the bulk of the points in the previous round against the Indiana Pacers.

Most of the scoring was a product of ball movement.

“Everything we get is in the flow of the offense, and that’s what it’s about,” James said.

James is averaging 29.3 points while shooting 50 percent in the postseason. Wade is not too far behind at 23.7 points a game and 49 percent from the field. Both players have shot at least 50 percent the past four games, with Wade topping 55 in each.

While they had their share of YouTube-worthy highlight baskets, the majority of the points came on high-percentage shots. Motion offense. High pick-and-rolls. For coach Erik Spoelstra, it’s a culmination of two years of trying to get them on the same page.

“It’s not something that happened overnight,” Spoelstra said. “This is two years of habits and learning each other’s strengths, learning what’s effective for us. We’ve had to change a lot of habits that guys have had for years for the improvement of our team. Hopefully, we haven’t reached a ceiling.”

Wade and James taking smarter shots have helped them get others involved when necessary. Spoelstra pointed out after Tuesday’s practice that the Heat have steadily improved their assist numbers. Last year, they ranked 26th in the league but improved to 21st during the regular season.

He considered the modest climb a big step because of the Heat’s team makeup.

“The way we’re built, I don’t think we’ll ever be a team that’s first in assists,” Spoelstra said. “But the additional ball movement that we’ve had is a big improvement over the first couple of months last season.”

That was evident in Game 1 against the Celtics. Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and Mike Miller all played large roles, combining for 27 points. More importantly, they were allowed to take 25 shots.

“For the most part, that’s the case,” Miller said. “The ball is popping around and you can see some of the role guys got seven, eight, nine or 10 shots up. It’s good. We’re even better when we have that. Those guys (Wade and James) are going to get their points, they’re too good not to. So it’s on us, when we have opportunities, to knock them down.”

Added Battier: “The key to our team is to play out of transition. When you’re playing a transition, it’s not really an Option A, an Option B and an Option C. You’re just playing basketball. When we sort of made the switch to go to a more open offense, I think it’s taken our offense to a different level.”

It’s a contrast from early last season when the Heat relied heavily on James, Wade and Chris Bosh, who has missed the past six games with a strained abdominal muscle. As they stated all along, they just needed time together to make it work.

“It hasn’t been easy,” forward Udonis Haslem said. “They (Wade and James) expect us to be someplace, and we’re not there. We expect them to throw the ball somewhere and they probably don’t. It’s just all about getting accustomed to playing with each other. Some things, you can’t really fast track.”

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