Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat Offense Scorches in Win Over Knicks

Sixteen days after the New York Knickerbocker’s snatched victory from the fangs of defeat in Miami, the Heat avenged its backhanded loss with a dub.

But first, the Heat honored the life and memory of the great Willis Reed, who died Tuesday at 80.

The hosts splashed four triples in the first five minutes, astonishing supporters and my fellow scribes on press row. Jimmy Butler had nine points in his 12 first-quarter minutes, coming from a trifecta in the corner, a fastbreak score and a reverse layup on the baseline.

Gabe Vincent matched Butler’s nine in the first quarter, converting three out of four 3-pointers. He was the recipient of the Knicks over-helping on Butler twice by collapsing in the paint on a baseline drive and after setting a ghost screen. In between those makes, #2 also hit a fastbreak bomb on the left wing.

In man-to-man coverage early, Butler stuck to Jalen Brunson, and Vincent guarded RJ Barrett. When Miami blitzed New York’s pick and roll up top, the visitors swung the ball to the weak side corner or any other break in the armor.

Through 12 minutes, one of the Heat’s biggest concerns was securing defensive rebounds and allowing five second-chance points. For the following three quarters, the Knicks recovered four more attacking boards and five points on second tries.

On locking up the glass, Butler told me after the game, “It’s a will to want to do it. Boxing out, hitting somebody first, and then going to get the ball with two hands. That’s the most important thing… I think once we realized that, settled down, put our hands on the ball, kick it ahead and [got] into the open floor, it was alright.”

The Heat were still beat in the rebounding battle 29-42, but the home team’s superb efficiency through four periods nullified the three more attempts the Knicks took from the field. Miami had five players score at least double figures, dropping at least 50% of goal ventures, and the team finished with six fewer turnovers.

Brunson lit up the Heat in the first half for 14 points on five out of seven shots. He nimbly got Vincent on the side of his hip and posted him up in the low post for a turnaround jumper, plus the foul. Brunson also got into the lane past Caleb Martin and Butler without a screen and swished a well-contested right-wing triple.

At halftime, the Heat held a 64-61 lead while its deep efficiency remained at 52.9%. Butler and Vincent combined for 31 points on 11 of 17 attempts.

In the second half, Miami was sharper offensively, despite New York getting it together themselves. The Knicks briefly claimed an advantage in the fourth quarter, but in the last seven minutes, the Heatles never gave it back, regardless of the visitors making 70.6% of attempts in the frame.

Butler mercilessly belittled the Knicks. While at the free throw line for his fifth and sixth shots, JB taunted Julius Randle in front of referee Brian Forte. It could have been good old-fashioned gamesmanship or the result of the officials letting the match get out of hand because calls were missed on both teams.

In the final stretch, Tyler Herro was the difference maker. #14 scored 14 points off catch-and-shoot trays and attacked Mitchell Robinson in drop coverage. With under three minutes left, Herro isolated Randle at the key after a pick and hit a 3-pointer in his eye to give Miami a double-digit lead.

As the game concluded, coach Erik Spoelstra walked over to Dwyane Wade standing courtside and hugged him from behind.

At the postgame presser, Bam Adebayo stressed the importance of every game. He said, “At this point, the situation we’re in and how we’re trying to keep building and get higher in the standings, every game feels like a playoff game.”

The Heat sits at .01 percentage points behind the Brooklyn Nets for sixth place in the East with eight matches left.



Katie Meier’s Family Reaches Their Destiny

If you interact with Miami Hurricanes Women’s Basketball, you’ll quickly encounter an atmosphere that resembles a family more so than a basketball program.

When the players talk about their coach and vice versa they do more than merely pay lip service to their affinity for each other. The genuine mutual respect and love is obvious. You could see it in Katie Meier’s post-Indiana interview:

The affection she expresses for two of her warriors….who wouldn’t want to play for someone like that? It’s easy to get buy in when the culture is love and respect. You see it in seniors like Karla Erjavec who has had to take more of a backseat this year. Rather than expressing bitterness, she is “grateful” for Coach Meier. Love is forever.

A Long Time Coming

This culture did not happen overnight. Since Meier stepped foot on campus she has elevated the program, not just on the court, but off it. It took a while to lay that foundation and have it pay off. Her first 5 seasons featured 2 trips to the WNIT and no NCAA Tournament appearances. Within the program, everyone could see progress. Externally, it wasn’t as evident.

And then it was. In 2010-11, the Miami Hurricanes won the ACC, which allowed them to earn a 3-seed. If you’re familiar with the current version of the Women’s NCAA Tournament, you’d assume the Canes hosted the first 2 rounds of the NCAA Tournament. That assumption is incorrect. Instead, they went to Charlottesville and lost a tight 2nd round game to Oklahoma.

This was the beginning of a disappointing trend. Miami would make the NCAA Tournament in 7 of 8 years, but never get to the Sweet 16. A 3-seed in 2012 was “rewarded” with a road game in Spokane. The Canes repeatedly knocked on the door, but the Sweet 16 never answered. Heartbreaking 2nd round home losses to Quinnipiac and Arizona State followed.

The way the Canes just couldn’t get over the hump was bizarre.

Something always goes wrong.

And there at the center of it was Coach Meier. Her stoicism in the face of unwarranted criticism, her approachability…I’m sure the criticism bothered her, but she would never let that be visible. She had her Canes family to think of, to be the rock for.

Look Inward and Running to the Top of the ACC

The Canes team and their loyal, rabid supporters turn inward. Block out the noise. The thing with family is they have each other’s back. In the face of criticism, the Canes didn’t get weaker, they got stronger.

The 2021-22 season did not get off to a good start. The Canes were injured and losing games. Destiny Harden missed significant time.

Miami arrived at the 2022 ACC Tournament as a bubble team. The ACC, always a strong conference, had 2 teams that were slated to be #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. And Miami met one of those teams, Louisville, in the quarterfinals.

The Canes trailed late, 59-44. There was no indication that Destiny Harden was about to unleash one of the finest athletic performances in school history.

Over the course of the last 4 minutes of the game. Destiny Harden scored the last 15 points of the game, including the winning jumper at the buzzer. The win removed any doubt about the Canes’ NCAA Tournament prospects and Miami advanced all the way to the ACC Tournament Final.

It could have been a crowning achievement in Harden’s career. And for a mere mortal, it might have been. We now know it wasn’t.

The Canes carried momentum into the NCAA Tournament and were at the top of their game.

And then the draw happened. Miami was playing some of the best ball in the country and certainly capable of reaching the Sweet 16. But if you’ve read this far, you know what happened. The Canes were sent to South Carolina. As of this writing the Gamecocks still have not lost a game since that draw. Miami blew out USF in the 1st game and actually challenged South Carolina, but ultimately were overwhelmed.

Something always goes wrong.

Tumultuous Exaltation

Last offseason, Miami attracted attention for recruiting the Cavinder Sisters, Haley and Hanna. To the world, they were celebrities, a side show. To the Canes Basketball Family, they knew they had acquired ballers. First in the gym, last ones out. Work ethic ingrained, great teammates.

But the NCAA did not like the Canes having attention. Before the start of the season, Coach Meier, widely recognized as one of the classiest people in college athletics, agreed to a 3-game suspension without any comment on what precipitated it. Typical of Meier, she took a bullet for her team, her program, and for the university. The problem with being a high character person in power is that you sometimes have to be the fall gal. And Meier was. With her absent (not just at games but at practice), the Canes stumbled a bit out the gates.

Things went from bad to worse when the Canes were hit with a multitude of injuries. At one point, the Canes lost 6 of 9 games. The train appeared to be going off the tracks. But Miami dug deep and started gutting out games. Winning just enough to stay afloat. The team was not necessarily playing well, as they tried to integrate new players, as injuries led to inconsistency.

The Canes never quit, and after beating several ranked teams, found themselves on the bubble. But the NCAA wasn’t done with Miami yet. They chose the week of the final game of the year, right before the Canes closed out the season with a home game against Virginia, to try and disrupt Miami again, releasing why Meier was suspended (for violating the rules the NCAA acknowledged didn’t exist at the time of the alleged violation).

Something always goes wrong.

Miami entered Selection Sunday on the bubble. And then they received a 9-seed. What that meant is that they not only had to upset 8-seeded Oklahoma State but then would have to win at the #1 seed, Indiana.

Something always goes wrong.

Except these Canes wouldn’t allow it to go wrong. Down 17 at the half to Oklahoma State, the season seemed to be headed off a cliff. But a funny thing happened on the way to the conclusion to the Canes’ season.

They refused to let it end. Miami blitzed the Cowgirls to start the second half and in the blink of an eye had tied the game. They then overcame some bad luck and atrocious officiating to see the game out, winning by 1. That win happened in Bloomington, but it was forged over years of character building wins and losses.

But Indiana promised to be a different challenge.

Maybe it was because no one gave them much of a chance. Maybe it was because the team was finally getting close to healthy. Maybe it was because if you spend so much time doing things the right way, you’ll eventually come out on top.

Whatever the reason, no one in Assembly Hall was prepared for the Category 5 hurricane that these ladies unleashed on Indiana. The Canes jumped the Hoosiers and as the lead continued to expand, the Canes dream started to become a reality. If you thought Indiana would go away easily, you haven’t been paying attention.

Something always goes wrong, and in this case, the something was missed FTs and clutch 3-point shooting from Indiana. Miami was on the precipice of clinching the game multiple times, but found themselves tied with 6 seconds left, staring overtime in the face.

There was only one thing left to do. Coach Meier best summarized what happened next. “You give Miami a chance, Miami’s going to win the game.”

And you know who the ball was going to. Miami’s destiny was in Destiny’s hands. And she delivered, as she always does.

Something always goes wrong…except this time the Canes said no. They were no longer going to be denied. After 18 years, Coach Meier’s family had reached their destination. Redefining toughness.

A weaker culture would have folded.

Folded when the media scrutiny attempted to turn the Cavinder sisters into a side show.

Folded when the coach was unjustifiably suspended.

Folded when several key players were injured.

Folded amidst a rough patch.

Folded when the NCAA tried to derail the season.

Folded when they were drawn into Bloomington.

Folded down 17 to Oklahoma State.

Folded when Indiana tied the game.

But not these Canes. Their Destiny was in Greenville. Perhaps it was because of rather than in spite of the tribulations that the Canes are so strong. The familial bonds forged in practiced, hardened under unjust criticism, refused to be broken.

For Coach Meier, it is another step on her ascension up the historical ranks of great coaches in women’s basketball history.

Sometimes, good people finish first. Sometimes life is fair.

Sometimes, nothing goes wrong.

Vishnu Parasuraman is a journalist for @FiveReasonsSports. He covers the Miami Hurricanes for Sixth Ring Canes and Formula 1 for Hitting the Apex. You can follow him on twitter @vrp2003

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Concerning Trends for the Miami Heat Late in the Season

The end of the regular season is quickly approaching, and the Heat wasted another opportunity to regain ground in the standings. True to its nature, whenever Miami starts showing a semblance of its former self, the group reminds its observers why it shouldn’t be trusted.

The outfit’s latest back-to-back road trip ended in a split against sub-.500 teams. Chicago struck first blood Saturday, and Miami regrouped for a win over Detroit Sunday.

A Dub over the Pistons, who have 16 wins, is not enough to wash away the Heat’s recent sins. Detroit was down its two finest snipers, Bojan Bogdanović and Alec Burks, and it still found a way to momentarily take a seven-point lead towards the end of the third quarter led by young players and dudes no other team wanted.

For the eight previous games to the weekend tour, the Heatles were converting 40% of its 3-point attempts. In the last two, Miami reverted to misfiring on makeable looks, dropping only 30% of its tries.

Aside from the hopeless shooting return, the defense has lost its bite. For the season, this crew is second of 30 teams in opponent points allowed (109.5). In the last 14 games since coming back from the All-Star break, Miami has dropped to 17th (114.6) in the same category while going .500.

The paint protection hasn’t been as strict for the last 14 games as well. The Heat is giving up 49.9 interior points when the back line was its strongest characteristic on defense all year. The squad has done such a fine job for most of the season containing the square that it is still second in the league in guarding the box.

On the visit to Chicago, Miami suffered its fourth first half giving up at least 70 points since the weeklong hiatus. Each time a rival has gashed them this hard through the first 24 minutes, they lose. Milwaukee, Philadelphia, New York and now the 10th-seeded Chicago outfit ravaged the Heat early in the last encounters. The only one of these nights Miami found its stroke from the outside was against the Knicks on March 3, but the team had to come back from down 15 points.

Enough time has passed this season to understand that the Heat is not a team built to come back from leads or sustain them. The role players are not as precise from deep as last year when the group had the most accurate long-range shooters in the league. This decline is one of the main reasons why the Heat has found itself in so many close games.

Going 2-0 over the weekend would have put them a half-game behind the Brooklyn Nets for sixth place in the East, but the White and Red sit a match back. Hurdling a spot in the standings with that bit of separation and nine games left is feasible. But only for good teams. Three of Miami’s last seven losses have come against below .500 squads. Through 89% of the campaign, the Heat haven’t been more than mediocre.

Five of the last nine games are on the road, where the band’s record sits at 15-21.

It’s still too early to call if the Heat will thwart the sixth seed, but if it grabs it, Miami is likely a first-round exit. Boston or Philadelphia will claim the third spot, and neither is a favorable matchup with how Miami has struggled to defend the point of attack. If it enters the Play-In Tournament, the Heat may go down there.



Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat Poach Shorthanded Grizzlies at Home

The Heat earned its third-largest win of the season (19 points) while hosting the Grizzlies minus Ja Morant, Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke.

Through the first half, Miami pierced the heart of Memphis’ defense 13 times and unexpectedly shot 40% (6/15) from 3-point range. On the other side, the Heatles forced eight turnovers, held the visitors to 18 long-range misfires (7/25), and only allowed three free throw attempts in the first 24 minutes.

Jimmy Butler scored easily against single coverage and couldn’t be restrained from getting to the line. Defenders couldn’t stop the ball when he drove left or beat him down the court when he picked off a pass.

Bam Adebayo had a dozen points coming from transition, pick and pop, putbacks, and a bailout jumper, and Herro had nine points with four dimes in the first half.

Coach Erik Spoelstra stashed Victor Oladipo on his bench and rolled with Kyle Lowry and Haywood Highsmith as his second-quarter substitutes. Lowry hit a triple in the left corner when the ball swung back to him after Memphis sent two at Herro at the key. He also beat David Roddy off the dribble from the top to the inside for a three-foot bank shot. Highsmith defended well in his four minutes and picked up two rebounds.

Despite the absence of Morant’s speed in the last six games for Memphis, the outfit’s pace has dropped from seventh in the league to ninth with Tyus Jones at point guard. On Wednesday, the Grizzlies tried to outrun the slower Heat but got beat in fastbreak points 16-10.

Without two solid backline defenders in Adams and Clarke, Memphis was exposed in the interior when point-of-attack defenders were caught on the ball handler’s back hip. The visitors gave up 62 paint points and 16 second-chance points to Miami.

Adebayo didn’t encounter much difficulty matching up with Jarren Jackson Jr. and Xavier Tillman. #13 logged his first basket from six-feet away in front of both of them when they doubled him after the catch. His next three field goals came against Tillman, and he finished the night with two more scores with Jackson as his defender, hitting a floater over him in the lane and dunking past him on the break.

At the intermission, Miami was up 63-51. In the second half, the Heat’s defense was not as strong, allowing 68 points, but the squad put 75 on its scorecard. In the third quarter, the hosts logged 42 points, making it the second-best 12-minute stretch of its season behind the 45 points scored in the third quarter of a win at home versus Charlotte on Nov. 12.

In the third frame, Herro shook Dillon Brooks on the baseline, hitting a 15-foot jumper. Against drop coverage, #14 sliced into the paint and nailed a floater over Jackson.

Adebayo, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin didn’t miss from the field in quarter three either, combining on impeccable six baskets.

At the start of the fourth, the Heat had a 28-point advantage. Butler didn’t play a minute of this stretch, but Spo kept Adebayo in until there were over five minutes left while the lead was at 26. Max Strus and Martin were the only team members to stay on the court all of the fourth quarter.

In his new role as the second-string point guard, Lowry put up eight points with four boards and four assists in 20 minutes. Spo is still tinkering with lineups as the season nears its closing, but the win over Memphis was the second straight game Kyle’s minutes have been that low. If the Heat’s offense continues to blossom with this experiment, it may be worth keeping in action long term.

At the postgame presser, Spo joked that he had to look at the scoreboard 10 times during the fourth quarter to confirm the lead.

“It does feel good to have one of these kind of games where a lot of guys play well,” Spo said.

Over the last eight matches, the Heat averages 121.1 points a night. The offense being more intentional and the team getting to its “strike zones” is what Spo said pleased him most about the plan of attack.

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Raining Jimmy Buckets

Miami’s persistent turnovers from Wednesday’s loss to the Cavaliers continued through the first half, accumulating 10.  Any sign of a deep shot vanished as well.

Before the intermission, nobody could restrain Donovan Mitchell from slashing into the paint or force a miss on his contested 3-point makes. Through this period, he logged 25 points, making nine out of 12 shots.

The only other Cavalier with at least three converted field goals in the first half was Caris LeVert (3). He scored on a one-on-one break against Gabe Vincent, hit a four-foot fadeaway over Herro, and a right-wing triple when his defender sagged off thanks to the extra help on Spida’s dribble penetration.

In the first half, Miami made 41.5% of its tries from the field. The role players dropped nine out of 27 baskets, while Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler carried the team offensively. Adebayo glided down the court in transition for two points, swished two fadeaways from the baseline and paint, plus he slammed two dunks running pick and roll with Victor Oladipo and Tyler Herro.

Butler scored on a coast-to-coast layup, he logged two more in transition, hitting a six-footer with Lamar Stevens in front of him, and he finished a soft bank-in under the rim when the defense doubled Adebayo.

In various half-court sets, the Cavaliers sagged off the corners in man-to-man coverage to help on Miami’s rim attacks. As a result, the Heat shot 19.9% below league average at the rim and 5.5% under in the lane non-restricted area in the first half.

Entering the third quarter, Miami was down 59-50. Butler only had 10 points so far, but he quickly became possessed, notching five out of seven baskets in quarter three and recording an untarnished four in the fourth quarter. He attacked Mitchell for multiple baskets and scored at the rim and low post against Jarrett Allen too.

In the last minute of the third quarter, Butler made a triple in the right corner, his lone attempt from deep. His jab step created separation between him and Stevens for the jumper. On Miami’s next possession, he dribbled into the arc, guarded again by Stevens for a long two-pointer.

The Heat was up one point at the start of crunch time. A pick by Adebayo at both wings blocked Mobley from disrupting Butler’s successful drive past Allen and Mitchell. JB also rejected #13’s screen on the left side, defended by Mobley, and got a floater off in the low post over his man. With under 25 seconds left and Miami up one, Caleb Martin’s ghost screen helped Butler get down the elbow for a pull-up jumper in Stevens’ face.

Subsequently, Mitchell was fouled on his next rim gash by Adebayo and made both his free throws. Miami’s turn to the stripe followed, Martin’s first trip of the night. Unemotionally, he made both.

Butler then intentionally fouled Mitchell at midcourt to prevent an opportunity for Cleveland to tie. Spida logged one out of two.  Butler took his last free throw attempts of the night, closing the deal after the purposeful foul.

At the postgame presser, coach Erik Spoelstra said his team usually doesn’t foul when up three points and the opponent has the last shot. This occasion was different because Butler mentioned Miami got burned by Boston and Cleveland, facing the same situation earlier in the season.

Spo said, “It’s a philosophical thing, but when a team doesn’t have a timeout, and then you have the smartest, quickest player making those decisions, you feel comfortable with it. I felt fully comfortable with Jimmy making that decision…”



Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Turnovers Bury Miami in Game 1 of Miniseries With Cleveland


With one game remaining on the Heat’s six-game homestand, the club is 2-3 for the stretch after a close loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday. Even if Miami beats Cleveland to go .500 in its building, two lost opportunities have made it more challenging to catch the sixth seed.

In Game 67 of the lost season, Miami’s close-range attack against a top-three paint defense was in sync, scoring 18 of its first-quarter points in the interior. Backdoor cuts and screens opened up the baseline, ball handlers made it downhill in transition, mismatches were found under the basket, and Miami was blowing by Cleveland’s point of attack.

On the other end, Cleveland got what it wanted whenever. The Cavaliers created space behind the 3-point line on the overhelp on dribble penetration in the mid-post or by attracting a blitz on the wings to find the openings in the middle and swinging the ball actively in the half-court.

Through 12 minutes, Miami held a 30-26 lead and a 25.6% advantage in field goal efficiency (70.6%-45%). The score was close because the visitors blew up the Heat’s offense and forced six turnovers. Jarrett Allen created two takeaways by trailing Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro on the baseline and eliminating an angle for the entry pass. On another transition play, Allen and Evan Mobley overwhelmed Bam Adebayo on a paint drive. For the subsequent three turnovers, a Heat player stepped out of bounds plus threw a poor outlet and entry pass.

The poor ball protection continued for the hosts throughout the game, but by the end of the first half, the Cavaliers had 12 recoveries. This allowed the Heat only seven made field goals in contrast to the 12 it converted in the opening period with a third of the possession losses.

In the first 24 minutes, Butler had 13 points on 50% shooting with seven out of eight made freebies. On and off the ball, he got into the lane with ease for a lay-in under the cup, a turnaround jumper over Lamar Stevens, and a 10-foot hook over Mobley.

Adebayo was immaculate on his five attempts, but he had no rebounds, despite switching to the perimeter. Three first-half fouls restrained him to nine minutes in the period. Under the rim, Mobley bit on his fake and flew by as #13 went up for the slam. Again, with Mobley matched up, Adebayo faced up at the mid-post to maneuver in the lane for a clean fadeaway jumper.

Herro had nine points on 50% field goal efficiency in the first half too. He broke into the middle of Cleveland’s 2-3 zone, hitting a floating bank shot over Darius Garland and Stevens. Butler set up his second basket by drawing multiple defenders on a baseline drive. Herro then strolled into the middle for the catch and reverse layup after faking out Allen. Next, he splashed a pull-up triple on the break over Donovan Mitchell to give Miami a two-point lead with over six minutes left before the intermission.

Defensively, the third quarter was a failure. Within 90 seconds, Cleveland’s four-point lead was in double digits. The Heatles’ offense kept hope in the arena alive as it logged 61.1% of attempts, but it coughed the ball up an additional seven times. Miami was lucky its chronic butterfingers only let them get outscored by one to head into the fourth quarter down five, still with a chance.

In the final frame, Miami lost the ball over three more times. A moving screen by Adebayo, Herro getting caught extending his legs on a jumper, and Oladipo accidentally smacking Caris LeVert in the face while looking for a shooting foul brought the total to 22 turnovers.

In the last 12 minutes, Miami’s offense crashed and burned, dropping only 29.1% of its tries and 20% from 3-point range. Adebayo, Herro and Caleb Martin were the only Heat players to register a field goal. Here, Victor Oladipo was playing for the Cavs.

Quick Vic took five shots and bricked all of them. Two of his triples were open because Cleveland didn’t respect him. The shot selection on his last miss was so poor it was enough to make Nick Young shake his head. He killed the clock by not passing out when Mobley matched up with him, attempting a trifecta at the top of the key.

Isaac Okoro’s hooking bank shot, covered by Adebayo, extended Cleveland’s lead to five with 49 seconds left. Herro then cut the deficit to two points off a cross-court sideline inbound from Martin to the left wing for a deep jumper.

The free throw game was the next action following Adebayo’s suspect foul on Allen, sending him to the stripe. Allen clanked the second, keeping the Heat on life support.

The Cavaliers elected not to foul with Miami in the bonus. Max Strus managed to get a shot over Mitchell on the right wing, but it rolled off the rim and into the mitts of Allen. As a formality, the Heat sent Mobley to the line when he got the ball, but there were 2.1 seconds remaining.

The Cavaliers won 104-100.

At the postgame presser, coach Erik Spoelstra credited the opponents for neutralizing the offense and increasing their disruptiveness while already being a strong defensive team. He also said, “It is extremely tough to win in this league when you have [22] turnovers.”

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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat Go 2-0 in Miniseries With Hawks

In the Heat’s 36th game decided by five points or fewer, Miami narrowly skated by the Atlanta Hawks at home. Atypical of its season, the hosts couldn’t miss from beyond the arc. Of course, for this type of uncommon production, there needed to be a trade-off: the ability to defend for most of the game. 


The Hawks seized control of the first half by scoring a few fastbreak buckets, and slicing up the point of attack, converting 19 out of 24 shots in the paint.  Dejounte Murray logged his first four baskets- three maneuvering around Adebayo for pull-up jumpers after the switch and another 15-footer over Gabe Vincent off the dribble.


The rest of the Hawks were soaring through the first quarter too.  The visitors recorded 76% of their attempts in the frame and led by 15 points eight minutes into the game.


Offensively, Miami was in sync, dropping five triples out of seven tries on both wings in the opening quarter.  Max Strus nailed the Heat’s first off a flare screen by Bam Adebayo.  Butler set up the second with Murray momentarily over-helping in the low post, uncovering Vincent at the top of the key. Victor Oladipo canned another when his defender went under Cody Zeller’s pick.  And Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson were both left open when Atlanta sent two at the ball.


After one half, Miami had given up 68 points but shot back into the match, only down five.  Adebayo took charge with 10 points on 80% field goal efficiency, plus four boards and a block.  Butler had eight points, with five dimes and four rebounds. Victor Oladipo also had seven on his scorecard. 


In the third quarter, the Heat had its strongest defensive run, holding the Hawks to 41.7% of its attempts from the floor.  The hosts were quicker to get the ball out of Murray’s hands in half-court sets, and defenders closed out quickly and did a finer job staying in front of their man.  


In response, Butler finished at the cup three times in the third quarter, getting free off a fake handoff and scoring twice in transition. Against Atlanta’s 2-3 zone, Herro drove to the middle and found Strus open at the top for a trifecta.  Facing man-to-man coverage, Oladipo broke down De’Andre Hunter with his dribble in the strongside corner for a banger.  


Heading into the fourth quarter, Miami’s bench was outdoing its rivals’ reserves 41-31 on the stat sheet.  Caleb Martin and Oladipo combined for 28 bench points through 36 minutes.  With three minutes left in the third quarter, Vic challenged three Hawks on the break and hit a reverse layup.  


In the final period, Oladipo stayed hot.  He hit a jumper from the left corner when Atlanta iced Herro’s roll to the rim, splashed another triple over Murray and Hunter on the wing, and then caught a fastbreak lob from Robinson to cap off a vintage night.  He came one-second shy of playing the entire fourth quarter.  The only players who got that credit for Miami were Adebayo, Butler and Martin.  


In the last stretch, the Hawks made 54.5% of its attempts. Murray hit two runners over Martin and a break layup against Herro. Bogdan Bogdanović boxed out Robinson for a tip-in.  Saddiq Bey caught Herro in a mismatch seven feet from the cup. And Young hit a 3-pointer and gashed Miami inside three times. 


But Atlanta went cold for a pivotal stretch late in the game.  With the Heat up five points and fewer than four minutes left, Hunter misfired an open triple behind a pindown on the right wing, and Murray air-balled a three-foot finger roll, horrifying his newly appointed instructor Quin Snyder on the sideline.


The Hawks had a chance to tie with 25 seconds left, but Martin stripped Young on a drive.  Butler got the ball and was sent to the free-throw line, where he made both.  The Heat would take two more trips to the line, knocking down three to close the match with a W, pushing Miami to four wins above .500 and two games behind the Brooklyn Nets for sixth place in the east.


At the postgame presser, Oladipo said he was trying to catch a lob all year and gave props to Robinson for the precise pass.  


On the topic of his efficiency, Oladipo said, “I’m just going to keep shooting.  I’m not really concerned about the past and what the years [have] been and the up and downs. I’m just going to hoop like I know I can… I’m just going to continue to make the most of it and be aggressive.”

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat Embarrassed at Home by 76ers

The Miami Heat followed up one of its strongest wins of the year in Philadelphia on Monday with a stinker. It’s easily a candidate for the worst loss of the season, but the squad finds a new nominee about every 10 days. On Wednesday evening, It was like “payback for what happened to Billy Batts.”

It was so bad Joel Embiid was cackling as he cavalierly sat on the bench with the 76ers up 20 points on the hosts midway through the third quarter. The Heat kicked off the night blazing from deep (by this team’s standards), converting three out of seven trays in the opening period.

In transition, Jimmy Butler caught a hit-ahead pass from Kevin Love in the paint and passed it to Tyler Herro on the right wing for a triple. Herro then set up the ensuing basket by breaking down Paul Reed on the left side and having Shake Milton overhelp in the middle. Next, he skipped the pass to Max Strus to his right for a trifecta. Victor Oladipo canned the last one of the first quarter, attacking Reed in drop coverage and getting open with Cody Zeller’s screen up top.

The Heat had 38 points in the first frame but gave up 34. Without its MVP candidate, Philadelphia was shooting 63.6% from the field in that span. The scoring of the initial quarter tied its second-best of the season for Miami. What followed was like a Greek tragedy; the fall was rude, humbling and a gross spectacle. It came after Miami’s peak. In the second quarter, the Heatles made 26.3% of its attempts.

Herro just hit a reverse layup between two defenders, and Strus splashed a fast break triple in the left corner to give Miami a four-point advantage. Subsequently, in four minutes, the Heat missed its next seven shots as the 76ers jumped ahead by 13 points with over five minutes left in the half.

At the intermission, the visitors claimed an 18-point lead. That’s with Bam Adebayo and Butler combining for 24 points on nine out of 13 shots. The rest of the squad logged 32% of its tries.

The third quarter was a waste of time. Although the hosts recorded half of its attempts, it nearly gave up as much to Philly and was outscored by one. Tyrese Maxey, as he did two nights prior, extinguished the Heat in this period with 10 points on four out of six shots. James Harden also had five points with two dimes- an under-the-basket inbound to PJ Tucker and a lob to Tobias Harris on a three-on-one break against Gabe Vincent.

Hope faded within 90 seconds of play into the fourth quarter for Miami as it missed its first four field goals. The Heat ended the night with a loss and a 23-point difference on the scorecard.  The defeat concluded the sixth miniseries the Heat has played this season. Its record in those games is 9-3. Miami went 2-0 against Charlotte, Washington and Milwaukee and split both matches versus Toronto, Boston and Philadelphia.

After the smackdown, coach Erik Spoelstra said the team needs a mindset shift in order “to be able to sustain a game [it] can win.

“We’ve shown that we can be the best against anybody, anywhere,” said Spo. “And then we’ve also shown this…”

A meltdown of this proportion, this late in the season, should be enough for everyone to completely panic sell all stocks owned on the club. With five consecutive home games remaining before the next trip on tour, the Heat must rack up some dubs because it is only a game and a half out of the sixth seed. Brooklyn, currently holding that spot, has lost four in a row.

Although, the Heat has won a game out of four since its eight-day break. The surging New York Knicks come into Miami on Friday with seven straight victories since Feb.11.

There is not much time left for the Heat to salvage its season.

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat Snap Losing Streak in Philadelphia

If only Paul Revere could’ve warned Philadelphia that Jimmy Butler was coming. Word didn’t get out, and on Monday, the Miami Heat landed a devastating blow to Joel Embiid’s MVP chances.

On Saturday, Butler said he was tired of losing while facing reporters after Miami was overpowered in Charlotte. It was the club’s fourth consecutive defeat, triggering movement across sportsbook lines. That night, DraftKings lowered the odds of the Atlanta Hawks winning the southeast division from +360 to +240.

As has been the case all season, whenever the Heatles start getting serious, the squad takes multiple steps backward. Entering the match against Philadelphia, Miami was back at only three games over .500 (32-29). Over its poor four-game stretch, the Heat converted 29% of its attempts from 3-point range while failing to contain its perimeter.

To the horror of the Philadelphians, Miami was uncharacteristically shooting well from deep in the first half. Gabe Vincent splashed Miami’s first long-distance make off a dribble handoff by Butler on the left wing. JB hit the next one from the opposite wing as Embiid over-helped on Bam Adebayo in the low post, creating the opening. The following trifectas came from Butler’s offensive rebound, then finding Vincent at the top of the key, and again, Butler, attracting a second defender at the nail against the 2-3 zone, uncovering Kevin Love on the left side.

Through 24 minutes, Miami had forced 10 turnovers, three of them steals belonging to #22 as he terrorized Embiid. While Philly’s main man matched up with Cody Zeller at the free throw line, Butler was the spy in the low post, intercepting the pass to De’Anthony Melton. When Embiid fell in the post with the ball, JB slapped it from his grasp. Trying to pass out of a wall at the elbow, Embiid didn’t see Butler on the right side and threw a pick, resulting in a fastbreak slam.

At halftime, the Heat held a 58-50 lead with 14 assists to four turnovers. The reserve crew contributed 19 points in the period. Victor Oladipo was finishing at the rim and hitting outside jumpers. Zeller scored twice in Embiid’s face, and Max Strus and Caleb Martin each splashed a triple and kept the ball moving.

In the second half, the Heat struggled to score, logging 39.4% of attempts. Yet, the 76ers had no counters for Butler and Strus. Each had 10 points on a combined six out of 10 shots. JB dissected the drop coverage for two scores and made one corkscrew layup between PJ Tucker and Embiid. Strus hit a right-wing 3-pointer, courtesy of the dribble penetration provided by Tyler Herro, and canned another triple in the same spot over four arms. He also seized the baseline on a backdoor cut.

On the other end, Miami shut down James Harden, holding him to two of eight made baskets in the second half. He couldn’t dribble past Adebayo on two plays, getting forced to a well-contested elbow jumper and way off miss on the baseline. He also smoked a layup at the rim against #13 too.

The Heat did not have the same success guarding Tyrese Maxey. He torched Miami for 14 of his 23 points in the third quarter. He only had four at halftime but rattled off his next six out of eight. Maxey was first down the court in transition and getting into the lane with two feet in the half-court. In the fourth quarter, Miami slowed him down by closing out quickly to the perimeter when he received the pass, allowing one out of four buckets.

In the fourth, Miami was outscored by a point, but it held Philadelphia to 20.8% shooting in the frame. The Heat recorded four field goals down the stretch, and Butler finished the game with 23 points on 64% efficiency with 11 rebounds and nine dimes.

At the postgame presser, coach Erik Spoelstra said, “Things don’t always go your way in this league, but it’s about how you respond to those moments collectively when you have some disappointments…”

In the locker room, Butler wasn’t too concerned with how the win materialized or excited about beating down on former teammates, but he said, “We got to start stringing these [wins] together. We got them again in 48 hours, and we want to do the same thing.”





Mateo’s Hoop Diary: In Miami With Love

Elvis sang about Burning Love. The Heat made it a reality.

After clearing waivers, Kevin Love found a new landing spot in Miami, followed by 10-year veteran Cody Zeller. The outfit desperately needed aid for the last 23 games on the calendar. Through the first three-quarters of the campaign, marksmen have lost their outside touch, and the group is the third worst of 30 teams in long-range efficiency. The backup center spot has been a problem too.

A season removed from being the runner-up to the sixth man of the year crown, Love’s playing time lessened after his comeback from a hairline fracture in the thumb of his shooting hand. He was inaccurate and a minus defender in man-to-man or zone coverage. The Cavaliers also had less use for him, with the focus of the frontcourt aimed at the development of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley.

With a pen stroke, the last remnant of the 2016 championship team for the Land was gone.

Perhaps the Cleveland op was too swift to pass the executioner’s sword on his contract. Any player with street cred would be frustrated with a lack of minutes. But injuries happen, and someone stashed on the bench could be the right counter for a matchup or scheme.

The Heat wanted/needed another option at power forward. Caleb Martin is a serviceable player at that spot, but he’s a natural wing. Not that positions matter to coach Erik Spoelstra, but Love’s signing allows Martin to strengthen the second unit while staying in the instructor’s trusted eight.

Love is still a decent rebounder, plus an effective passer, but he doesn’t move well laterally on defense. At worst, he can call out screens and instructions from the backline of the zone. Open shots on the perimeter will be there on the other end for him as a result of Jimmy Butler’s dribble penetration and the extra attention on Bam Adebayo in the paint. Yet, where he could give the Heat an immediate jolt is with his hit-ahead dimes.

Miami is 28th in pace of 30 teams. One of Love’s signature plays in Minnesota and Cleveland was recovering a defensive rebound and outletting the rock to a cutter past midcourt with a defender on his back hip. In lineups with him and Kyle Lowry, Miami will have two weapons capable of executing that pass.

Love’s last game as a Cavalier came on Jan. 24, only logging 12 minutes and an assist in a two-point loss in New York. Clearly, he wasn’t himself. Distinguished sharpshooters don’t forget how to shoot from one season to the next. The near month he’s been off the court should have provided additional time for him to rediscover his range and for his thumb to feel better.

In the worst-case scenario, if Love is completely fried on offense, which is doubtable, it doesn’t hurt the Heat. He was a buyout signee. The only thing wasted in that event is time.

The Heat choosing to fill the hole at the backup five spot with Zeller signifies the front office wasn’t as worried about the point guard rotation, first reported by Five Reasons huncho Ethan Skolnick.

In the moments Adebayo sat, the Heatles would deploy Dewayne Dedmon (gone via trade) and Orlando Robinson. The highlight of D-Mac’s season was tossing a massage gun onto the floor. His favor among team supporters would likely be higher if he had sent the tool as a gift to Deshaun Watson in Cleveland on his way out instead.

Robinson is too raw and a weak defender against pick and roll as well. The Heat should not convert his two-way contract into a regular deal so that he can play in the postseason because he is not ready.

Zeller hasn’t logged a minute since Jan. 10, 2022. He is at least a nice insurance policy as a backup big man if Ömer Yurtseven doesn’t get his legs under him when he makes his season debut.

The starting point guard, Lowry, has been absent since Feb. 2, but there is optimism he could return before the month concludes.

Gabe Vincent has played well as the lead guard, recording 15.9 points per game, and making 43.9% of his field goals in his starts. Victor Oladipo is expected to be a solid contributor after missing the last seven games for the Heat, although he was reasonably close to suiting up for the All-Star break.

If the Heat hit on both new players, it may have temporarily solved its weaknesses around Adebayo, Butler and Tyler Herro.