The Miami Herald delivered a terrific post-game package after Game 6 of the NBA playoff series between the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors.
Today’s game coverage has changed a great deal from two decades ago, before social media and during digital media’s infancy, but some things haven’t changed: telling stories that are focused around key players, plays or trends – even if they are conveyed through audio, video, photos or all three mixed together.

Take for instance the Miami Herald gamer written by Manny Navarro, that focused on Goran Dragic, who scored 30 points to help the Heat even their NBA playoff series with the Toronto Raptors.

Goran Dragic didn’t want to start looking ahead to this summer and the looming free agency of most of his Heat teammates.

“I feel like if we start talking too early then you’re already done, not focused about these games,” Dragic said several hours before Game 6. “You know, it’s not good timing to talk about that. We’re still alive.

“We’ve still got — hopefully, two games — at least two games left. That’s all that matters.”

Like any game story, Navarro then also inserts a nut graph, which typically includes key elements from the game along with context, a final result and the location played.
The Heat, facing elimination Friday for the third time in these playoffs, will have at least one more game. Led by Dragic’s team-high 30 points, seven rebounds and four assists and 22 points, six rebounds and five assists from Dwyane Wade, the Heat advanced to another Game 7 with a 103-91 victory over the Toronto Raptors at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Whereas game stories used to be filled with play by play, this story has significantly less – and for good reason: most fans probably watched the game (or, all least, watched some highlights on TV or online). Below, Navarro briefly inserts some plays that took place late in the game to illustrate how Miami held on to win and that also connects to the opening narrative built around Tragic.

The Raptors cut Miami’s lead to as little as 88-82 on a Lowry drive with 8:46 remaining. But Dragic answered with a pull-up jumper a minute later and then Wade took over down the stretch, scoring eight points in the fourth quarter.

Earlier in the story, Navarro offers a few key plays to illustrate the impact 6-foot-10 power forward Josh McRoberts had on the game in his 18 minutes of play.

McRoberts was the only big man who played for the Heat, and he had several big moments. He flew in for a tip-in dunk over Bismack Biyombo in the second quarter and then had a pair of tip-ins off misses in the fourth. McRoberts finished with 10 points and five rebounds.

This Miami Herald writer refers to scoring throughout the story in order to address trends, which in basketball parlance usually means scoring bursts (or runs). No sport has the constant shifts in scores and momentum like basketball, which can often illustrate other trends within the game. In the passage below, Navarro addresses two key stats early in the game.
Miami missed 14 of its 21 in the opening quarter but still led 21-20 at the end of the period. The most impressive stat from the quarter: The Raptors didn’t have a single offensive rebound despite having a clear size advantage with the 6-9, 255-pound Biyombo and 6-9, 230-pound Patrick Patterson on the court for most of the quarter.
He later focuses on how Dragic, the protagonist of this game story, helped keep the Heat ahead of the Raptors.
Dragic got hot in the second quarter, and the Heat took a 53-44 lead into the break. Dragic scored 14 points in the period. He didn’t stop there, scoring nine more points in the third quarter as the Heat went into the fourth quarter leading 82-72.
Navarro also shares comments from players and coaches from both teams, although typically in shorter passages that connect with information in a preceding paragraph, exemplified in the ensuing passages below:

Dragic’s playoff career-high for scoring helped offset a combined 59 points from Toronto’s All-Star backcourt. Kyle Lowry finished with 36 points and DeMar DeRozan had 23, but it marked the first time in the series the higher-scoring backcourt didn’t win the game.

“Goran Dragic had a heck of a night,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “I thought Justise Winslow quietly had one of his best offensive games. Josh Richardson and Josh McRoberts came in and had a contribution as well. They made shots that broke our back.”

As much as Heat fans may have been hoping for some added help in Game 7, Hassan Whiteside, who missed his third consecutive game Friday with a sprained MCL, said he won’t play Sunday but he will travel with the team.

“I don’t really have a timetable for you,” Whiteside said of when he might return.

  The biggest reason: Spoelstra went small with his lineup and his team came up big.

“We’ve felt like we’ve been playing in mud,” Spoelstra said. “We looked a little bit more like us and Goran looked like him.”

Ultimately, what makes this well-crafted story contemporary is the manner in which the Miami Herald assembled the piece, which reads well both online and on mobile devices, are the repeated insertions of video throughout the story. A Bleacher Report senior editor recently told me they seek to insert an image every several paragraphs – or roughly the length of a smart phone screen, a device where 80 percent of its content is consumed. That number continues to grow for all media: In 2015, 39 of the top 50 digital news websites received more traffic from mobile devices than from computers. Sports fans tend to be even more active on mobile devices.
Five videos and a 53-image slide show are embedded in this story that includes press conference clips of Dwayne Wade, Goran Tragic, Erik Spoelstra, as well as a post-game report chat after the game between Miami Herald sports writers Ethan J. Skolnick and Manny Navarro that lasts 2 minutes, 45 seconds.

This is a terrific example of game coverage since it includes excellent writing, reporting and online producing. Here’s hoping the Heat win this afternoon, if only so we can read more coverage from the Miami Herald staff.