Heat | Shane Battier

Shane Battier sparks Miami Heat’s defense against three-pointers


Special to the Miami Herald

Nearly an hour before tipoff of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Heat and the Nets, Shane Battier looked at the small group of reporters surrounding him and politely joked that he could no longer take questions because he had a scouting report to read. He then proceeded to put his headphones on and pour over a thick packet containing the tendencies of all the Nets’ players.

The extra studying seemed to have paid off. Battier’s defensive assignment, guard Joe Johnson, hit just two shots from downtown after torching the Heat for five three-pointers during the Nets 104-90 victory in Game 3.

After allowing the Nets to shoot 15 of 25 from beyond the arc in Game 3 — good enough for a scorching 60 percent — the Heat cracked down on the perimeter in their 102-96 victory against the Nets on Monday night. The Nets connected on just five of their 21 three-point attempts in Game 4, and it all seemed to have started with Battier, the team’s defensive specialist.

Though he played just 14 minutes, Battier set the tone early on, bumping and chasing Johnson off the three-point line.

But it wasn’t just Battier who made a concerted effort on the perimeter; it seemed like the whole Heat roster had done their homework, as well. Several defenders took their turn on Johnson, included LeBron James down the stretch of the game, and they all seemed to have the same impact. Johnson finished with 18 points on 5-of-15 shooting

No comfort zone

Early in the game, the Heat seemed to be inviting the Nets into the lane. But even with the Nets converting 60 percent of their field-goal attempts in the first quarter, many coming off of drives from the perimeter, it was clear that the Heat’s plan was to not allow the Nets to get comfortable from beyond the arc.

And even in those rare instances when the Nets did knock down three-pointers, those shots were contested with a hand in the face.

Heat coach Erik Spolestra stressed before the game that the Heat needed to take responsibility for their poor defense against the Nets’ three-point shooting in Game 3. He emphasized that “regular closeouts” wouldn’t be sufficient in this series and that the Heat needed to go above and beyond when guarding against three-pointers, especially against the 6-9 Nets forward Mirza Teletovic.

Teletovic knocked down four three-pointers in Game 3 and came into Game 4 hitting 10 of his last 16 shots from downtown, the Nets’greatest weapon from beyond the arc in the series.

Teletovic blanked

But the Heat must’ve heard Spoelstra loud and clear, as they completely shut down Teletovic. The reserve forward was unable to connect on any of his three attempts from beyond the arc.

After holding the Nets to just 2 of 8 from beyond the arc during the first half, it looked like the Heat had become complacent.

The Nets knocked down 3 of 6 from downtown in the third quarter, with Johnson hitting two of those shots.

However, the Heat quickly regained their intensity from earlier in the game and proceeded to lock down the Nets’ three-point shooting for the rest of the game. The Nets failed to make a three-pointer in the fourth quarter, ending the game missing their last six shots from beyond the arc.

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