For Miami Heat, ‘boring’ offense is better. A look at what was different about offense vs. Suns

SALT LAKE CITY — What was different about the Heat’s offense in Wednesday’s win over the Suns?

“It was boring,” forward James Johnson said.

Boring and effective. Coach Erik Spoelstra implemented a “simplified offense” in Phoenix and the Heat went on to score a season-high 126 points on a season-best 53.1 percent shooting, as seven players finished with double-digit points in Wednesday’s win over the Suns.

Phoenix Suns guard Mike James (55) defends against Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The Heat will learn if this eye-opening offensive performance was a fluke on Friday against the Jazz, the fifth stop on Miami’s six-game trip. Utah is ranked fifth in defensive efficiency.

“Coach Spo is a great leader, man,” Johnson said. “He knows what he’s talking about. He knows the kind of guys we got on this team and how we’re wired. So let the coach coach and he’s going to bring the best out of every player.”

Entering Wednesday, the Heat ranked 28th in the league in turnovers (17.1 per game) and 28th in offensive rating (99.2 points per 100 possessions). Miami’s “boring” offense cut its turnovers down to 14 and recorded a 125.5 offensive rating against the Suns.

Sure, the level of competition wasn’t great with the Suns ranked 28th in defensive efficiency. But the Heat really believe something clicked for them offensively in Phoenix.

“I think less maybe is more for us right now in terms of us just getting those sets down and being able to execute that properly,” Wayne Ellington said Thursday. “Obviously as the season goes on, coach will add more to the package. But yeah, the way we played last night, not only myself, but everybody benefits from it. [There are] less turnovers, the ball is moving a little bit more, everybody is touching it a little bit more and it helped us play a little bit better on the offensive end.”

One big difference in the Heat’s simplified offense is the ball was in the hands of primary ball-handlers Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters more often. Dragic had a usage rate of 27.3 percent against the Suns compared to 24.5 for the season, and Waiters had a usage rate of 33.9 percent against the Suns compared to 25.2 percent for the season.

“Our play calls were more to the point,” Josh Richardson said. “We have a lot of different plays and we kind of broke it down to only a few. I think it made it easier on a lot of guys to execute those few and keep it in that area.”

What did Ellington see as the biggest difference in this new Heat offense?

“I think it’s more just being able to get to a trigger quicker,” Ellington said. “In the past, we had a lot of free time when guys were just dribbling and dribbling, and it turns into an iso for one of our guys instead of us if we don’t got nothing early, attack. It’s a hand off or pass it, set a screen for another guy. Whatever it may be, we’re just trying to get to triggers faster.”

In other words, less thinking and playing more off instinct on offense.

“That might be the type of group we have, guys that don’t really want to have to think about plays and just get out there and play,” Ellington said. “You got a few sets that we run and you stick to it, and you master those and it becomes natural. And then everything else becomes natural on the court for us.”

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