The Whiteboard: Can't stop the Heat, can't stop Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Today on The Whiteboard, the Heat go supernova again, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is unstoppable and NBA awards are rolling in.
Miami Heat v Boston Celtics
Miami Heat v Boston Celtics / Winslow Townson/GettyImages

The Miami Heat made an emphatic statement in Game 2 against the Celtics, winning 111-101 in Boston, and doing it with a very familiar formula — hitting an absurd number of 3s.

The Heat went 23-of-43 from beyond the arc with five different players hitting at least three 3-pointers. If it feels like the Heat have repeatedly transformed into unstoppable flamethrowers in the playoffs over the past two seasons, you're not imagining things.

This was the ninth time in their last 25 playoff games that the Heat have hit 15 or more 3-pointers, a pace of roughly once every 2.8 games. Over the last two regular seasons, they've done it just 22 times in 164 games, a pace of roughly once every 7.5 games.

The Miami Heat's key to success is outlier shooting

It goes without saying that what makes the Heat's wild playoff shooting so impactful is not just the volume of makes but the accuracy. And, again, it's a significant departure from their regular season trends.

Over the past two regular seasons, the Heat have finished 27th and 12th in 3-point percentage, making 36.1 percent combined. The standard deviation for their 164 regular season games over that span is about 8.3 percentage points which means any game in which they hit 44.4 or better of their 3-pointers they're more than one standard deviation from their regular season average.

In their 25 playoff games over the past two seasons, they've surpassed that mark nine times. They've had three other games when they were better than their regular season average but not quite to that one standard deviation mark.

At this point, it's happened enough that what looked like an outlier is inching closer to the norm. And, significantly, it's an effect that's spread across multiple players. The table below shows every Heat player from the last two seasons who attempted at least 75 3-pointers in both the regular season and playoffs, and their combined 3-point percentage in both settings.




Tyler Herro



Haywood Highsmith



Duncan Robinson



Caleb Martin



Gabe Vincent



Kevin Love



Kyle Lowry



Jimmy Butler



Max Strus



Every player except Max Strus improved their 3-point shooting in the playoffs, in many cases by dramatic margins — hello, Caleb Martin. And this list doesn't even include rookie Jaime Jaquez, second-year forward Nikola Jovic and new addition Delon Wright who either weren't on the team last year or didn't play meaningful minutes, in the case of Jovic. This trio shot 32.2, 39.9 and 36.7 percent on 3s during the regular season, respectively. Through the first two games of the playoffs, they've combined to hit 14-of-26, 53.8 percent.

I'd like to be able to argue that this is something other than what it appears to be. But the sample continues growing, stretching across multiple seasons, making the idea that it's entirely or even mostly random chance less likely. And we're talking about an effect manifesting across nearly a dozen players, at multiple positions and filling multiple offensive roles, against four different opponents — so it's hard to argue that it's purely a result of strategy or scheme.

Maybe the Miami Heat really have something supernatural going on.

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Naz Reid
Washington Wizards v Minnesota Timberwolves / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages

The first NBA Awards are rolling in

Just days after the NBA announced the three finalists for each of their regular season awards, the first winners started rolling in. Tyrese Maxey edged out Coby White and Alperen Sengun to win Most Improved Player. And Naz Reid of the Minnesota Timberwolves was named Sixth Man of the Year.

Neither is a huge surprise, although Malik Monk may have been a slight favorite for Sixth Man of the Year. Rookie of the Year seems like a foregone conclusion and most MVP predictions seem to be leaning toward Nikola Jokic. But it's possible we get a surprise there and Defensive Player of the Year has the potential to offer some serious chaos if Victor Wembanyama edges out Rudy Gobert.


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Naji Marshall
New Orleans Pelicans v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Two / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

QUICK HITTER: You can not give Shai Gilgeous-Alexander space

After a close Game 1, the Oklahoma City Thunder re-established dominance over the New Orleans Pelicans with a resounding 124-92 win in Game 2. So far this series has served as a statement that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is now the NBA's premier difficult shot-maker.

The Pelicans have a slew of excellent wing defenders to through at him, all long and mobile enough to give him problems ... at least on paper. Through two games, Gilgeous-Alexander is driving 19 times per game and shooting 52.2 percent on those drives. He's also hit a mind-boggling 14-of-21 on pull-up jumpers inside the arc. He can get to any spot he wants on the floor and, at this point, it doesn't really matter if anyone is there waiting for him.

When you're hitting two-thirds of shots like this, the defense — strategy, personnel, effort — are basically irrelevant. The only answer for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander right now is to just not let him touch the ball.

Recommended Reading:

1. Tyler Parker has big feelings in Oklahoma: "Now, in the lead-up to the Thunder’s playoff return, I’m staring at the legend himself. I want to take it as a good omen. I want to think the glory days are back. I’m going to put all of this in the piece, I tell myself. Because when you see Nick Collison in the wild, you have no choice but to go buy one of those vans with a PA system, cruise it to the nearest mountaintop, and scream the good news at the world." The Oklahoma City Thunder Feel Different This Time Around

2. Chameleons and shape-shifters: "Miami’s game plan in Game 1 didn’t work. They scrapped it and started over. Instead of trying to drag the game into the mud, they bought it an airline ticket and let it fly." Tyler Herro leveled up in Miami Heat's Game 2 win over Celtics

3. This is what Mavs fans have been waiting for: "What’s risky for everyone else has long been routine for Doncic. And what’s routine for others—from rotating to shooters on the wing to keeping emotions in check—has historically been more difficult for Doncic. It was in these facets, which so many of the Mavericks’ title hopes hinge on, that Doncic showed the most meaningful improvements in Game 2." Luka Doncic Is Evolving

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