Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Jimmy Butler and Co. snap the Heat out of funk, setting franchise assist record

To start, the offense was jammed worse than traffic during rush hour on the Don Shula Expressway. But the defense made it just as ugly for the visitors, aside from Keegan Murray and Kevin Huerter, with on-time contests in man coverage and the 2-3 zone.

It took nearly seven minutes of action for the Heat’s offense to settle itself. Jimmy Butler cut back door for a lob assisted by Kevin Love’s pass at the top of the key + Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s back screen on Harrison Barnes. To end the quarter, the Heat converted its next four of seven shots to take a 28-22 advantage.

Then Josh Richardson blasted the Kings with a handed-off triple by Adebayo at the top, two left-wing trays, a left-handed layup in transition and a floater in the lane to start the next frame. Additionally, Adebayo contributed four of six baskets, thrashing the paint in transition and the half-court. Two possessions later, Caleb Martin carved the baseline for a reverse layup, giving the Heat an 18-point lead, its largest of the night.

But the separation on the scoreboard was short-lived.

Defensively, the club lost track of Murray behind the arc when he cut on the baseline and the instance he ran past miniature Terry Rozzier on a transition lob similar to a wideout elevating over a cornerback for a touchdown. Domantas Sabonis broke interior protections, pouring eight points into the paint. And the Kings went on a 24-10 run to close the quarter.

At halftime, the Heat was up 59-54 and ahead by four on the glass, with 26 points in the paint, nine on the break, two via second chances and five after turnovers. Richardson was the scoring leader with 16 on 66% shooting, followed by Butler’s 11 on four of six attempts.

The Kings had 30 points in the square, plus 14 in the open court, six from second opportunities and four after turnovers. Murray had 21, making 73% of looks, and Huerter dropped 11 on five of seven tries.

Next, the Heat had one of its top halves of the season moving the ball, recording 19 assists on its last 21 baskets.

In the third quarter, Rozier got the ball to Butler for an inside drive when his dribble picked up an extra defender, plus had four more dimes. Herro tallied a lob to Adebayo after the handoff up top, resulting in a two-handed dunk, and two feeds to Butler in the right corner and baseline for points. Adebayo set up Herro for a nine-foot floater with a handoff and found him at the top of the key for a trifecta when Murray overreacted at the nail.

Conversely, the Heat conceded four of 10 3-pointers. Adebayo ignored Sabonis.  Rozier and Martin incautiously left their man. And De’Aaron Fox splashed a pull-up 27-footer. The defense prevented any shots at the rim but gave up six out of 11 attempts in the paint non-restricted area, which is 10.1% better than the league average for the Kings.

In the fourth, the Heat cranked up its defensive RPMs close to what it was in the first quarter. Doubling after the catch, flying around in the 2-3 zone, baiting into tough shots and a chase-down block by Richardson on Huerter overwhelmed the Kings. Initially, JRich’s denial was called a goaltend, but after quickly seeing the review on the monitor above, coach Erik Spoelstra boldly demanded a challenge. The Heat allowed its guests to register 35% of its baskets in the sequence.

On offense, Butler prosperously shot over Barnes from mid-range on the left side, dunked in transition and made four freebies. Richardson connected on two triples and got past Huerter for a layup. And Adebayo thwacked the rim on a lob from Herro and buried a jumper at the nail over Sabonis.

The Heat snapped its seven-game losing streak, 115-106, with a franchise record of 40 assists. On the side, it had 50 paint points, 15 on the break, seven from second tries and 12 after turnovers. Butler had 31 on the scorecard on 71% shooting with seven rebounds and six assists. Adebayo supplied 16 points, 11 rebounds and four dimes.

The Kings racked up 54 interior points, 22 on the break, 17 on extra attempts and six after turnovers. Murray finished with 33 points on 12 of 18 ventures. Sabonis had a triple-double- 19 points, 17 rebounds and 13 helpings.

Herro handled the on-court interview. He said that after Tuesday’s “intense” film session, the players had to counter. “[We had to] give more effort on both ends. I thought we responded well to the meeting yesterday, and we came out with a W.”

At the postgame presser, Spoelstra was relieved that the longest losing stretch in his career is over. He said, “For one day, it feels great, and I’m okay with everybody having a little bit of an exhale, and then we’ll get on that plane and get ready to start this process again when we get to [Washington] D.C..”

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How do the Miami Heat fix this? No easy answers

There is no denying it, the Heat has been atrocious recently. They are on a seven game-losing streak and have fallen into the play-in positions in the standings. The Heat cannot afford to be a play-in team again. Changes need to be made for them to become relevant in the Eastern Conference again.

The question is what are those changes? Let’s talk about that. 


Lineup change?

The Easiest change the Heat can make is a lineup change, and we all know which one would be best. Starting Duncan Robinson for Tyler Herro makes sense in many areas. The change would have nothing to do with who is a better player and it would not be an indictment against Herro. The basis of the change would be simple, Robinson is a better fit for the starting lineup. The Heat have been terrible to start games, especially on the offensive end. There has been no flow, and everything looks forced. They are trying to make something work that has proven it cannot consistently produce results. Adding Robinson to the starting lineup fixes multiple issues. First, the offense looks fluid whenever he is on the court. There is more off-ball movement, and the ball is shared more. The defense does not have the luxury of standing still and it opens up opportunities for quality shots. Robinson also has great chemistry with others in the starting lineup and can play off of them to generate easy looks. As for Herro, he would go back to a role that he excelled at early in his career. With the second unit, he would be able to play the style he prefers and handle the ball more often. There also would not be as much pressure for him to fit in with the other stars. It opens up the freedom in his game and his creativity, without taking away from what the other stars do best. I genuinely think Herro can be a super sub and dominate with the second unit. It would be odd to have your third-best player come off the bench, but hey it worked in the past. I mean he won 6th Man of the Year; he knows how to come off the bench. 


Another filler trade?

The Miami Heat made a trade and received Terry Rozier. I believe this helps several of their problems and we will see this pay off once Rozier plays a couple more games with the team. The Heat still have issues though and could look to make another move. The most logical guy to be included would be Caleb Martin, mostly due to his contract situation and the arrival of Jaime Jaquez Jr. His contract size is decent, and he is set to become a free agent, he has a player option for next year but will certainly decline it. The Heat might not be able to afford him in the offseason and could lose him for nothing. Martin is a talented player that teams could use to be a spark plug on their team. There would be plenty of suitors for him, whether that be contenders or lottery teams looking to flip him for a 1st round pick. The Heat could use his contract as the basis to look for upgrades in weaker aspects of the team. The Heat desperately need more size and trading Martin could bring that in. He could also get you a backup PG to sure up an area that has been lacking all year. There would be many avenues the Heat could go with this. The next few games will be massive. If the Heat continue to slide then a trade almost certainly has to be made, and it would almost certainly include Martin. If you are someone who enjoys using trade machines, I would start looking for PGs or PFs around the NBA who are close to Martin’s contract. 


Time to blow it up?

Now here is the hard conversation, is it time to blow it up? No, I am not talking about trading Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo, which is something that should never happen, (I am looking at you, Ethan.) The way most teams improve is by moving their third best player for a better player or better fit. So that brings us to the trade machine king himself, Tyler Herro. I want to make it clear; I like Herro and do not want him gone. With that said though, if the Heat want to win a championship a trade might need to be made and Herro would be the guy that makes the most sense. Some of the reasons were mentioned earlier, but he also would be able to get you a very good player in return. No matter how many times people tell you that Herro does not have worth that is simply not true. He is an excellent young player who has shown he can be a 20-point scorer, numerous teams could use his services. The biggest issue with trading Herro is if there is anyone available that is worth giving up Herro. It is not worth it to trade him for mediocre players or even good players. If you trade Herro, you need to get back an equal or greater player in return. I am skeptical the Heat would be able to find a trade before the deadline, but if they flame out in the playoffs then all bets are off. 


Jimmy Buckets, our only hope?

The Heat desperately need a superhero to save them if no lineup or personal changes are going to be made. Thankfully, we have one on the squad. During his time in Miami, Jimmy Butler has been known to be one of the best playoff performers in the NBA. He has consistently had all-time performances and has put the team behind his back when they have needed him the most. This year it seems like Butler will need to channel his best earlier and help this team claw out of the play-in seeds. Unfortunately, the Heat have not received the same Butler this year that they have had in the past. He is not as active on the court and looks disengaged too many times. Even his post-game answers have been different recently. He looks frustrated and tired. I have to question if missing out on Dame and Jrue is weighing on him. The good news for Heat fans is that Jimmy Butler had his most “Jimmy Buckets” game of the season, in the Heat’s last game against the Knicks. Though the 4th quarter did not go well (at all), this was the first game that Butler asserted his will in a way we are used to seeing. He attacked mismatches and took them to the post. He was engaged on defense and playing with heart again. He led the big comeback in the 3rd quarter and was doing everything for Miami. Though like I said this did not lead to a win this time, Jimmy Butler needs to do more of that. He needs to be selfish; he needs to demand the ball and look to score. The takeaway from every game should be that Butler was the best player on the court. If the Heat want to make a deep run in the playoffs without making any changes, it falls all on a familiar face in Jimmy Buckets. 



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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat put to shame at home by the Suns

Terry Rozier, the new guy on the block, finally blended into the offense in a vain effort, logging 21 points on eight of 14 shots, as most of the team left him hanging. Jimmy Butler got going after the Heat was jumped. And the defense provided little resistance up top with late help.

Even without the three-ball being a factor, the Suns hung 33 points in the first quarter. Jusuf Nurkić picked up two fouls in four minutes, but his backup, Drew Eubanks, checked in, channeling Suns legend Tom Chambers, scoring on two putbacks and three rim attacks. The rest of the visitors made seven of 19 baskets in the quarter.

For the Heat, Rozier triumphantly fired away at the nail over Kevin Durant, swished from the corner facing Nurkić and dribbled past Bradley Beal and Keita Bates Diop for layups. Adebayo had zero attempts but three horrid turnovers, one of them resulting in Beal intercepting the pass in Heat territory and then dunking and another in Durant hitting a jumper after throwing the pass above Butler’s head, out of bounds.

Half of the second quarter elapsed with the Suns converting six of 12 tries before Butler joined the fray. Next, he scored through the middle in transition and logged two putbacks.

Adebayo misfired on a fadeaway and floater against Nurkić. Subsequently, he blanked a hook in the post and layup in transition over Eubanks.

And Herro’s made two of seven baskets in the frame.

On the other side, Eric Gordon, age 35, sliced into the lane three times like it was 2009. And Durant broke the 2-3 zone with jumpers on the baseline, elbow and wing.

At halftime, the Heat was down 49-62 and behind on the boards by three. Additionally, it racked up 16 paint points and seven on the break, 14 via second chances and four after turnovers. Butler was the team’s scoring leader, notching 13, followed by Rozier with 12 and Herro’s 11.

The Suns had Booker, Durant and Eubanks in double digits on the point ledger, while Beal had nine. The guests also registered 30 paint points, 11 on the break, 13 on extra attempts and six after turnovers.

Later, the Heat failed to stop Booker’s jump shot at the nail, elbow, baseline and paint in the halfcourt, plus a tray in transition. On top of that, Durant, Beal and Gordon combined for 10 of 15 baskets in the interval.

Yet the Heat were shell-shocked, scoring on just 32% of ventures. Rozier dropped three 3-pointers, and Butler whisked into the paint for a layup and a putback.

The hosts entered the fourth quarter below 74-100. The Suns added 18 more points on 29% of attempts. The Heat cranked out 31 points on 10 of 17 shots, but it was a worthless effort.

The Heat lost 105-118, making it the club’s seventh straight and longest of coach Erik Spoelstra’s career as the head. It recorded just 32 paint points, 16 on the break, 21 on second chances and 11 following turnovers. Butler had 26 points with eight rebounds and four assists. Rozier contributed 21 on his scorecard.

For the Suns, Durant, Booker and Gordon each surpassed 20 points and Beal had 19.

At the postgame presser, Spoelstra said, “You have to do tough things… We are not doing that consistently enough, and while we are going through this period of time offensively, we’re not able to overcome those stretches where we’re missing shots and turning the ball over, and on top of that, we are not defending the way we are capable of.”

At his locker, Butler said, “We’re not guarding anybody.”

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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Jimmy Butler and the Heat got humbled at home by old foes

The bigger, stronger and faster Boston Celtics annihilated the Heat at Kaseya Center on national TV. Five members of Gang Green feasted behind the arc. Jayson Tatum outplayed Jimmy Butler. And newly acquired point guard Terry Rozier started but was attacked and ineffective from the field.

Early, Kristaps Porziņģis slaughtered the Heat’s defenses in the first quarter, totaling 14 of Boston’s 42 points. He forced a switch on the left side for a layup against Haywood Highsmith, shot over Butler twice at the elbow and nailed two pick-and-pop 3-pointers as the Heat failed to shade and recover. Porziņģis’ best defender was Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, taking him out with 46 seconds left in the period for a breather.

For the hosts, Butler hit a fadeaway over Jaylen Brown in the post and a pull-up jumper over Horford at the elbow but misfired at close range after faking Porziņģis away. Adebayo swished two shots at each elbow, assisted by Tyler Herro and Rozier. And Rozier converted two buckets, maneuvering past Jrue Holiday on a hard closeout to the rim for a layup and blowing by Horford in isolation at the right corner to the cup.

Through 12 minutes, the Heat logged 29 points on 12 of 24 ventures. But it conceded 42 on 71.4% shooting.

In the second quarter, eight players scored for the Heat to reach 35 on the ledger, but the only two logging at least three field goals were Thomas Bryant and Josh Richardson. Additionally, Butler made a putback on the baseline and spun past Jaylen Brown for dos puntos. And Adebayo dropped a hook over Luke Kornet and another over Derrick White.

The Celtics matched the Heat’s 35 points behind Brown’s rim attacks, a pair of Holiday corner trifectas, and the rest of the Cs tallying seven of 15 buckets.

Tatum was held to 20% efficiency in the frame, guarded by Richardson, forcing him left for an unsuccessful elbow jumper, misfiring over Duncan Robinson on the wing and baseline and bricking against Highsmith’s late recovery to the right side.

At halftime, the Heat was down 64-77, logging 54.2% of tries. It surrendered 64.3% of looks to the Celtics and was behind on the glass by six. Furthermore, the hosts had accumulated five fast break points, 10 via second chances and seven from turnovers.

The Celtics registered 10 fastbreak points, six on extra opportunities and two after turnovers.

In the turd quarter, Rozier shot blanks on a reckless drive through traffic and faltered on a makebale floater over Holiday. And Robinson had three vain 3-point attempts.

Butler made a corner triple when the defense was absorbed by Herro’s drive, but his next basket, another on the opposite side six minutes later, fell as the Heat was behind 22 points

On the other side, Tatum and Holiday took over. The former was in target practice behind the arc. The latter made a wide open tray, hit a floater over Herro in the paint, cut back door for a layup, finished first on the break and rattled in a fadeaway over Bryant’s help.

Porziņģis sprained his ankle five minutes in and missed the rest of the night after limping to the locker room.

The fourth began with the scoreboard highlighting 113-90, the edge going to the Celtics. The lead swelled to 34 points with seven-and-a-half minutes left after the Heat made just one of its first eight shots to start the sequence.

The final interval was garbage time because not one sane person at Kaseya Center thought a grand comeback was happening. Only two Celtics starters played in the fourth- Tatum and White- no more than five minutes and change.

Lower bowl seats were emptying midway through the fourth, and the butchering was like an ancient warrior beheading a foe in combat, then tossing its head toward the backup it came with. In this case, it was Pat Riley at his usual baseline riser seat. The cadavers he examined were his group retreating to the locker room with 143 points hanging over them.

The Heat’s fifth straight loss was by 33 points. It added 15 fastbreak points, 13 on second chances and post turnovers. Adebayo had 19 on the score sheet with five rebounds. And ten Celtics shot at least 50% from the field.

At the postgame presser, coach Erik Spoelstra said, “What went wrong was we faced a very potent offensive team. They’ve been doing this for several months now. It was a humbling night, that’s for sure. They put us in our place tonight.”

In the locker room, Herro said, “It’ll be great to get a win, but we can’t keep talking about it. Eventually, there has to be some action behind it.”

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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Memphis Grizzlies ruin Terry Rozier’s Heat debut

Terry Rozier’s off-the-bench Heat debut was quiet, and the offense struggled to score, looking worse at times than what it was with Kyle Lowry, who was booted with a first-round pick to Charlotte. Following the first half, the scoreboard highlighted 49-42 in favor of the Grizzlies.

In the first quarter, the only things working were a pair of Jimmy Butler paint attacks. Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo executed two-man actions. And Haywood Highsmith gave a jolt on offense with a transition hook and triple.

The Heat’s new point guard, Terry Rozier, was subbed eight-and-a-half minutes in. His first points in a Heat jersey came at the line after getting fouled in transition, plus he added two rebounds. His one miss was a left-handed layup through the middle over Jaren Jackson Jr.’s help defense.

Defensively, the Heat permitted the Grizzlies five of 12 trifectas because of late switches in man coverage, ball movement dicing the zone and the on-ball defender going under the screen. One basket was allowed inside the arc. Bam Adebayo hounded Jackson, blocking two hooks in the lane, and the rest of the team contested cleanly, giving up only 21 points.

In the second quarter, Rozier relocated to the corner after dribbling into the paint for a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer, his only field goal of the half. But he failed on two drive-bys- isolating David Roddy on the left side and misfiring on a pick-and-roll layup because of Jackson, the low man’s presence. Mostly, he looked like someone just traded to a new squad who isn’t trying to step on anybody’s toes on offense- a mistake because that’s not why they got him.

Butler downshifted to third gear, passing up an opportunity to draw contact with Jackson at the rim on a transition drive, instead passing out to the corner. In nearly eight minutes of the frame, he made one of two buckets at the right corner and two free throws while the squad was desperate for someone to take over. The rest of the Heatles registered 20% of tries.

At halftime, the Heat was down seven on the scoring ledger, behind on the glass by two, with eight fastbreak points, two via second opportunities and nine from turnovers. The offense was pathetic, logging 72.7 points per 100 half-court plays, good enough for the second percentile of all games this season, per cleaning the glass.

Butler had nine points on three of seven shots. Adebayo had six on the scorecard on 20% of attempts but supplied six boards, the two aforementioned rejections and three dimes. Tyler Herro had seven points and four negligent turnovers.

On the other side, the Grizzlies converted 10 of 21 triples. Vince Williams had 13 points, torching the corners and beating Rozier on a hard closeout to get into the paint for a layup. GG Jackson had 11 points, burning the Heat’s transition defense from long range, rolled to the rim and made three free throws.

In the third quarter, two horrific passes by Butler- inbounding the ball and passing while in the air, not knowing where to go- resulted in a three-pointer and a fastbreak score for the Grizzlies. Offensively, he made four freebies and rolled to the rim, bumping Roddy away for a bucket.

Adebayo had three blocks- chasing down Jackson and denying him twice in iso- with six points and five rebounds.

Herro maneuvered inside for a pull-up jumper against man coverage, another facing the zone and connected on a reverse layup and floater.

Rozier had two assists, a turnover, a miss and a rebound.

In the fourth quarter, Caleb Martin was the high Heatle, making all four baskets. Rozier broke Xavier Tillman down with his dribble for a left-handed scoop layup and made a right-hander against Jackson in drop coverage. But he missed his three 3-point ventures.

For the Grizzlies, Williams dribbled by Butler, nailing a floater over Adebayo and splashed a left-corner triple when left unattended. Jackson drove past Butler for a layup when the switch created a mismatch and jolted Adebayo backward on a drive, hitting a jump hook. And Scotty Pippen Jr. beat Rozier from the top to the cup for a deuce, had a fastbreak score, and dusted Martin off a switch to the rim.

Despite the Heat having its most efficient quarter late, it had 17 turnovers and lost 96-105. The squad spent 17.3% of the time in transition, yet it only added .7 points per 100 of those possessions, good enough for the 35 percentile of all games this season, per CTG.

The Heat were behind in fastbreak points 13-21, down in second chance opportunities 6-11, and trailing in points off turnovers 14-24.

Butler had 15 points on four of 10 tries. Rozier ended with nine on 27.3% shooting.

Memphis’ Williams had 25 on the scorecard on 80% of attempts.

At the postgame presser, coach Erik Spoelstra praised Adebayo’s defensive effort, saying, “It’s just a shame we couldn’t turn those kinds of defensive performances into one of those ugly wins we really like.”

When asked about how Rozier works with Herro, he said it was tough to get excited, considering the loss was a buzzkill. He added, “I definitely see the possibilities with those two guys…We’ll really be able to build on that chemistry that we just quickly saw tonight. And they’ll get a ton of more minutes together, so it will happen one way or another.”

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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Joel Embiid unleashes a 70-point lashing on the French Usurper and the Spurs

Reigning MVP Joel Embiid bolstered his case to keep his crown with the 14th 70-piece in NBA history. It was like watching a nuclear bomb go off at a test site, the collateral damage being the French Usurper and the San Antonio Spurs.

Embiid needed 35 seconds to draw a foul on rookie Julian Champagnie at the top of the key for switching carelessly, then canned three freebies. Next, he faced off with Victor Wembanyama, pulling up in front of him at the nail for a deuce.

Yet, not even three minutes in, the visitors led 14-5, as Wemby attempted to seduce the Philadelphia crowd with a successfully contested jumper against Embiid and a pull-up triple at the top. But the 76ers stormed to an 11-2 run playing through Embiid, exposing the left corner, attacking hard closeouts and dunking in transition to force Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call timeout.

Embiid logged a dozen extra points in the first quarter. He bumped Wemby inside for a dunk, overpowered Zach Collins before and after the catch for a layup plus hit a pull-up jumper at the nail covered by him, made two putbacks and connected on a four-foot shot in between three defenders.

The Phantom of the Process supplied 10 more points in the second quarter, shooting over Wembanyama and crashing into off-positioned help defenders for a trip to the charity line. He also drew the third foul of the half on the Spurs’ rookie center while posting him up.

Conversely, the Spurs were converting 40.9% of baskets for the frame, but Wembanyama had eight of its points, including a post-up then finger roll over Embiid.

At halftime, Embiid had 34 of the 76ers’ 62 points and 10 of its 27 rebounds. Additionally, the hosts racked up 38 marks in the paint, seven on the break, 12 off second opportunities and four via turnovers. Harris was the next leading scorer with eight on just as many tries.

The Spurs had 58 on the scoring ledger, with 10 on the break, three on second attempts and four from turnovers. Eighteen came from Wembanyama on seven of 11 shots. Devin Vassell was his partner in action with 12 points, making 62.5% of field goals.

In the third, Embiid kept ripping through defenses in the paint and hoisting over them at mid-range. His only misses were against Wembanyama at the elbow and paint and a double team under the rim. He finished the quarter with 10 of 15 baskets (25). The rest of the squad dropped six.

Embiid entered the fourth sequence with 59 on the scorecard, then accumulated 11 more, shooting over Jeremy Sochan twice at mid-range, plowing for a layup in transition and swishing five more free throws.

Wembanyama countered with a hook and a putback, and the rest of his team closed with 11 of 23 buckets, but it wasn’t sufficient. The 76ers were up 15 points at the start of it and were just outscored by five in the last 12 minutes.

The 76ers won 133-123, improving to a 29-13 record- a half-game behind the Milwaukee Bucks for second place in the East. Embiid had 70 points, making 58.5% of his tries, with 18 rebounds, five assists, a block and a steal.

Wembanyama had 33 points on 10 of 19 shots with seven rebounds.

The only other players to score as many points or more as Embiid are Wilt Chamberlain (100), Kobe Bryant (81), David Thompson (73), Elgin Baylor (71), Damian Lillard (71), Donovan Mitchell (71), David Robinson, (71) and Devin Booker (70). (Chamberlain broke 70 on six occasions.)

Embiid embraced teammates, former 76ers coach (currently a Spurs assistant) Brett Brown, then handled the on-court interview with Dennis Scott. While answering a question about Brown, he was interrupted by teammates pouring water on his head, affectionately cooling him off his heater.

This caused Scott to forget his first question and ask about the personal record. Sopping, Embiid said, “unselfish teammates got me the ball. I was hot, and they made sure to put me in the best position.”

At the postgame press conference, 76ers coach Nick Nurse said that when “he gets motivated like that, anything can happen.”

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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat clobbered in Orlando by the mystical ones

No one could blame coach Erik Spoelstra if he channeled Pat Riley, angrily entering the locker room, then sparking a dart. And if he followed suit with homage to the Godfather’s epic, off-color tirade by getting in the players’ faces with a death stare, calling them gutless, perhaps it would be inspirational. Opponents don’t see the Heat on the schedule but rather a fresh meat cut.

His ancient point guard, Kyle Lowry, is unplayable because of his freelancing on defense and inability to pressure the rim. And the playmaking project, Nikola Jović, was useless against the bulk of the ascending Orlando Magic.

Allegedly, management likes its team.

In the first quarter, no Heatle registered more than a field goal as the unit scored 19 on five of 20 attempts. Open trays were missed, bad shots attempted and not enough force was put on the paint.

Orlando’s Paolo Banchero beat Jimmy Butler from the wing to the cup for a layup, canned a baseline jumper behind a pindown and swished a fader over Haywood Highsmith. The rest of the Magic made seven of 18 buckets, but it held a three-point advantage heading into the next frame.

In the second quarter, Bam Adebayo scored off pick and pop, a putback and a 10-foot fall-away jumper over Wendell Carter Jr.. Tyler Herro splashed two consecutive triples on each wing. And Caleb Martin dunked on the break and pierced the lane for a buzzer-beating layup.

At halftime, the Heat was down 46-48. Seven offensive rebounds for the Magic led to 11 second-chance points. The visitors had only three on its ledger for extra tries and were behind 6-14 in points via turnovers. And Adebayo was high Heatle with a dozen on the scorecard on 50% shooting with six boards.

The third quarter featured too much ball-watching and indecisiveness. As a result, the squad made one of seven triples against solid defense after Butler made two and was overwhelmed for two shot clock violations out of its five turnovers.

On the other side, Franz Wagner hooked over Adebayo in transition, hit a seven-foot floater and made a left-wing trifecta in Jović’s face following his overhelp on a lane drive. Carter rolled to the rim for two dunks. And Suggs produced seven more points.

In the fourth quarter, the mystical ones devoured the Heat like the “Prince of Pizza” (Charles Barkley) inhaling some pies.

Carter hounded Adebayo, forcing him into a miserable mid-range step-back shot and two more difficult jumpers. Markelle Fultz was on Herro’s hip when he entered the lane, causing a turnover and Suggs locked and trailed him perfectly, influencing a miss after the catch at close range.

On defense, Lowry, Martin and Herro were dusted for inside finishes. The baseline was conceded when blitzing Fultz up top, which burned the Heat for an underneath layup by F. Wagner. And Carter added five extra points.

The Heat lost its third game in a row, 87-105, getting beat on the boards by seven and scoring just 36 paint points, seven on the break, 10 on second chances and 15 via turnovers. Adebayo had 22 on his score sheet, with 11 rebounds and seven assists.

The Magic logged 54 in the interior, 12 on the break, 23 from additional opportunities and 29 after turnovers. Banchero had 20 points and 10 rebounds.

At the postgame presser, Spoelstra said, “[The Orlando Magic] were very physical tonight. They took us out of a lot of our normal relief actions and kind of blew up our movement, and we didn’t react with force and detail… missed shots, turnovers, that’s kind of what you are looking at.”

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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Dejounte Murray’s trifecta spoils Udonis Haslem appreciation night

Nobody from the Atlanta Hawks was chopped down in Udonis Haslem’s honor, but the Miami Heat recognized its former captain with his jersey retirement in front of past and current teammates and got silenced by the visitors in the last two seconds. (Jaime Jaquez Jr. was absent for the Heat with a left groin strain, and Trae Young and De’Andre Hunter were out for the Hawks with an undisclosed illness and right knee inflammation.)

The offense, aside from Jimmy Butler’s multiple putbacks and dunk past Saddiq Bey, was in a rut to start, again, converting 10 of 27 baskets. And the Heat fell behind 24-32 after 12 minutes because it conceded two second-chance opportunities, seven points off turnovers and five triples.

In the second quarter, Duncan Robinson connected on three of four 3-pointers on a handoff against drop coverage, a closely contested left-wing jumper and an opening in the corner.

Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Butler combined for 28 points on 55% shooting in the first half. Yet Dejounte Murray killed the Heat’s defenses, popping on the side of a screen for a triple plus hitting another in the corner, dusting his cover in transition and maneuvering to the elbow for a jumper. Onyeka Okongwu, Johnson and Bey assisted him, logging nine of 17 buckets before intermission.

At halftime, the Heat was down 56-57, with three points scored on the break, a dozen on second tries and eight via turnovers. And here is where the Heat honored Haslem.

Some in attendance were Goran Dragić, Tim Hardaway, Ron Rothstein, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Alonzo Mourning, Quentin Richardson, Jason Williams and Dorell Wright.

Team president Pat Riley addressed the crowd, thanking UD for his service. “Udonis Haslem. His force mattered and it counted, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re hanging his jersey here [tonight].”

Then Haslem spoke from the heart, expressing gratitude to colleagues, coaches, friends and family.

In the third quarter, Herro swished the Heat’s only pair of triples out of eight attempts, cut back door for a layup and blew by Patty Mills for an inside finish. Adebayo burst into the paint for a dunk, broke down Capela from the top to the cup for a bank shot and nailed four freebies.

Then Bogdan Bogdanović erupted for the Hawks in the fourth with eight points, coming from a triple behind a flare screen, another on the left side after setting the pick and two free throws. Bey contributed seven points, too, and Mills, Murray and Garrison Mathews each supplied a triple.

In the last two minutes for the Heat, Butler burned Johnson from the left wing to the hoop for a dunk, then hit a floater with contact over Bey. Next, Adebayo nailed a turnaround jumper over Capela in the lane to push the lead to three points.

Subsequently, Capela registered two free throws after Adebayo fouled him, but Herro responded with a tray to put the Heat back up by four with 36 seconds left.

The game should have been over, but afterwards, Richardson fouled Bogdanović on the inbound, sending him to the line for two. He made both.

With 30 seconds left and up two points, the Heat killed the clock on an isolation play for Herro, defended by Johnson that resulted in a failed baseline shot. Murray picked up the rebound, dribbled up the court, and pulled up from 27 feet out in Caleb Martin’s face to take a one-point advantage. That basket was also his only one of the period.

Timeout Heat.

With two seconds left, the ball was inbounded to Butler, he passed to Martin, and the Heat failed to get up a try in time.

The Heat lost 108-109, recording nine fastbreak points, 14 through second chances, 19 via turnovers and six extra rebounds. Butler had 25 on his scorecard on eight of 10 attempts. Herro also had 25 on 55% shooting.

The Hawks scored 22 points from turnovers and 17 on additional opportunities. Murray dropped 22 points, 11 assists and three boards.

At the postgame presser, coach Erik Spoelstra said the final possession was “One of those plays when I’m going through it in my head, there’s going to be an advantage in that corner, and it just didn’t play out that way… It was a poor play call. I’m disappointed in my call on that.”

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Sioux Falls Spotlight: Bryson Warren

Everyone has dreams in life, but few people get to live their dreams. Bryson Warren is one of those few people. Like other people growing up, Warren had dreams of being a professional basketball player. Fast forward to today, and Warren is living out that dream on the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Getting to live his dream was not by accident, it was all methodically thought out. 

Warren was a dominant player in high school. In his sophomore year, he averaged 24.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and added 2.5 steals a game. Warren would lead his team to the state title game and was named the Arkansas high school player of the year, the first sophomore ever to win the award. He was ranked the 14th player in his class at the time and had offers from many top programs around the country. This is when his path went unconventional. Instead of continuing High school basketball and then going to college, Warren decided to sign with Overtime Elite (OTE). Then after two years of OTE Warren chose to enter the G-League draft, where he was taken with the 13th overall pick by the Skyforce.

Not many players choose this route, so what was the thought process?

“I knew that going to OTE would put me in a position to play against the best competition which would allow me to get better,” Warren said. “Going against Amen and Ausar Thompson daily, who were just picked 4th and 5th in the NBA draft helped me improve my game tremendously. With a chance to be coached by Kevin Ollie, who won a National Championship and who is currently an assistant Coach with the Brooklyn Nets, is just an amazing learning experience.”

It was not about trying to be on social media or amassing followers, like other players’ motives for joining the league. It was about putting himself against the best competition he could be against, He wanted to improve his game.

Warren isn’t afraid of a challenge; he embraces it: “I realize that this is a business, so I have to give it my all every day.”  

This quote suggests the reason how Warren can live his dreams, he is obsessed with being the best player he possibly be. Talk to anyone around Warren and they all mention one thing, his work ethic. It is impossible to have a conversation about him without it being brought up. Bryson Warren’s agent, James Dunleavy, raves about his work ethic. In a 10-minute conversation, Dunleavy constantly brought up how hard Warren works. “He went to the G-League to be the best player he can be” and “He loves to work hard and be in the gym” were just two of the things that Dunleavy said. His work ethic is also clear in his play on the court. No one on the Skyforce, and maybe the whole G-League, has improved more than Warren from the start of the year. From game to game, he looks more comfortable and is showing great progress. He started the year as a guy who could knock down open threes but has blossomed into a well-rounded player. He has shown his ability to be a point guard and run an offense. The numbers back this up also as he has increased every major statistic in the regular season over his averages in the Showcase part of the season. To make it in the world of basketball you have to be willing to give it everything you have, Warren is doing just that. 



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Arguably more impressive than his basketball talent is the type of person Bryson Warren is. Young players tend to have an adjustment period when they make the jump to high-level professional basketball. A lot of times they do not get the playing time they are used to and are relegated to roles they aren’t used to playing. Warren was no different, but what is different is how he managed it. Some players get upset and close themselves off as the frustration mounts, but Warren continues to display his character. He prides himself on being a good teammate and celebrating their success.

When asked what it takes to be a good teammate he says, “I always try to respect, encourage and help my teammates be the best they can be, because it takes a team to win.” He is all about the team’s success and, though he has personal goals, he wants his teammates to succeed as well. A perfect example of his character is when I asked what made him proud of himself. I expected a typical answer to be about his basketball achievements and what he has been able to do on the court, but that was not the case.

He replied, “One of the things that I am proud of is being able to give back to the community. I have been blessed to be able to help sponsor boys’ and girls’ basketball teams that are named after me – Bryson Warren United. This allows me to be a positive role model in their lives and give back to the community.”

Given an opportunity to list his achievements and boast about his basketball career, he chose to highlight what he does off the court. He has more pride in how he can help others than his achievements. He also is not hesitant to recognize everyone who helped him along the way. Though he was afraid to list everyone, in case he missed someone, he wanted to let his coaches and trainers know that he was “thankful and grateful” for their help and support. Warren did list two people though. Who are the two specific people that Bryson Warren wanted to make sure were specifically mentioned? They go by the simple names of Mom and Dad. See Warren is a special player and has the chance to have an extensive career but the best part about him has nothing to do with his play on the court, and everything to do with who he is off the court. 

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat massacred in Toronto

The Toronto squad pounced on the Miami Heat like a swarm of starving velociraptors. The hosts established a 30-point lead within 15 minutes on the evening of Pascal Siakam’s deportation to the Indiana Pacers. RJ Barrett surged for 17 points, stabbing the lane in transition + off the catch for dunks and floaters in the first half. Scottie Barnes supplied five of seven buckets. And deadeye Gary Trent Jr. swished four trifectas.

Without Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Kevin Love, the Heat failed to protect the arc and stop dribble penetration. On the former, when the guests tried blitzing, the hosts swung the rock quickly to the corner for multiple strikes. A Raptors stampede went unanswered with 18 consecutive points in five minutes between the end of the first and the start of the second quarter.

On the other side, Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler combined for five of 11 baskets, pressuring the rim, but the rest of the team converted 37% of shots.

Kyle Lowry was ineffective, missing all his triples. Tyler Herro (or a souped-up Jerry Sichting with an Instagram account, usually) was almost a zero, lacking precision on deep shots and had one at close range emphatically rejected. Also, Barnes beat him twice off the dribble and another instance under the rim for a putback.

Through 24 minutes, while playing a third team in four nights, the Heat had surrendered 60.4% of the Raptors’ attempts. Bottom line: The group didn’t care enough. It was down 43-78, with four points on the break and a paltry deuce via second chances. Had one of coach Erik Spoelstra’s trusted lieutenants advised him to bench the starters for their failures, and he followed through, it wouldn’t have been a wrong move. Such an act could send a message of displeasure.

But in the third quarter, the defense tightened up, permitting just six of 22 shots and forcing 11 straight misses in between. The Raptors’ long jumpers were contested and help defenders were quicker to blow up drives.

Offensively, Herro erupted for nine points, maneuvering into the lane for close baskets and a corner triple after pump-faking Dennis Schröder into his team’s bench. Nikola Jović used a Butler pick to get into the paint for a nine-foot hook, scored in the open court and splashed a 3-pointer in Barnes’ face. And the stars (Adebayo, Butler) contributed 10 to the scoreboard, but it wasn’t enough.

In the frame, the Heat outearned the Raptors by 14 points, but it was still behind by 21.

In the fourth, it chopped the deficit down to 13 marks with nine minutes left, but then the Raptors logged nine of 15 baskets to close. Barnes hit backbreaking shots- a turnaround jumper at the nail with Richardson all over him after getting forced to pick up his dribble and another difficult fallaway blast on the baseline with Adebayo nearly breathing on him.

The Heat lost 97-121, with break 10 fastbreak points and six through second chances. Getting behind on the glass by eight boards resulted in the Raps registering 19 second chance points. Butler had 16 on his scoring log on 54.5% shooting. Adebayo also had 16 on seven of 13 tries.

At the postgame presser, Spoelstra said he didn’t see the early onslaught that transpired coming. “It just happened. It was an avalanche at the beginning of the game. Our starters definitely did not set the tone for the game and then it just proceeded to get worse as that first half went on…”

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