Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Don’t Blame Kyle Lowry for the Miami Heat’s Mess

In 18 months, Kyle Lowry has played in 103 games, regular season + Playoffs, for the Miami Heat. He’s helped them get to Game 7 of the eastern conference finals and is currently assisting the group in regaining ground in the standings (eighth, 17-17).

Since he got to Miami, Lowry has dealt with fair and unjust criticism. It’s written enough online that he hasn’t scored enough or got inside the paint with two feet as easily as in previous stops. One of the most common verbal jabs was that he looked too heavy.

Miami started well in 2021/2022. It masked the eye test of the unit’s lead guard performing below expectations. He played too much from the outside, and his numbers were down significantly. This season, he’s operating the same way, but the Miami Heat hasn’t achieved nearly the same level of success because of too many issues plaguing the team.

Likely the Heat’s no.1 problem is that Jimmy Butler has missed 38.2% of the season. Through Miami’s first 34 games in 2021/2022, JB appeared in 19 matches, and the Heat held a 21-13 record, per Basketball Reference. That type of achievement is unsustainable in back-to-back years in the NBA without a team’s best player.

This season has been filled with crushing disappointments at home. Did Lowry ominously drop off when he got to Miami, or is this the player he was for a while before wearing white hot?

Lowry will be 37 on March 25. He hasn’t taken more than half of his shots from inside the arc since 2015/2016. In those seven seasons after, #7 has only had three years where over 40% of his attempts were 2-pointers.

The Heatles aren’t as lethal from 3-point range through 34 games as they were when they got to the ECF. Then, Miami was second in the NBA in efficiency from the corners and second in percentage on above the break triples. This season, the Heat are 29th and 17th in those categories.

With the Heat not converting at the same rate as it previously did, opponents can now liberally send more help on drives or cuts to the basket, daring Miami into a drive-and-kick. That’s not a favorable coverage for someone who has lost a step or two.

Most times Lowry gets by a defender in the half court, he has the help of a screen. In the open court, he is dangerous because of his high IQ and on-target hit-ahead passes. The issue is that Miami is not a group that plays fast. They are 26th in transition frequency and 28th in pace.

Even if the Heat were to play quicker, I’m not sure how much Lowry’s body could sustain competing for the 35.9 minutes he is now before bumps and bruises emerge. He’s currently averaging two more minutes a night than last season and is on pace to play nine more games.

It’s an unrealistic expectation to hold someone in their mid-30s to the standard they set while in their prime. Some fools might continue to place too much responsibility on Lowry because of the dimensions of his contract ending in 2024. Whatever he earns is the fault of the front office, not his.

The front office’s gamble paid off splendidly last year. The Heat was probably a shot away from a second trip in three seasons to the NBA Finals. It was also one of the most exciting years for supporters in the franchise’s history. I won’t take that for granted.

The Heat are stuck in purgatory, but this season is only 41% over. I’ve seen stranger and more fortunate things happen to those less deserving, like the 2018/2019 Houston Rockets. On Dec. 12, 2018, the James Harden-led squad had won 12 games, and the outfit was 14th in the western conference. That team, inspired by a historic run from the Beard, finished as the fourth seed with 53 wins.

For the Heat to get the most out of Lowry, it will need its best players around consistently. Key guys in-and-out of the lineup hurts the team’s continuity.

The Miami Heat Are Back At .500 (Again)

Without the headliners, the Heat beat the Timberwolves at home and improved to a .500 record (17-17) for the fourth time this season. It was the first night since Dec. 5 that Miami wasn’t a victim of the infamous turd quarter. 


Magnificently, while Miami was off target from the perimeter during the first half, they clobbered the Wolves inside and finished 18 out of 24 shots.  In this period, Minnesota couldn’t stay in front of Tyler Herro when he focused on the interior.  He used a Nikola Jović screen to dust D’Angelo Russell and snake dribbled into the lane for a floater.  


On his next pair of buckets, he drove left past Austin Rivers at the top of the key for an uncontested finish at the cup. On his last make of the first half, Herro isolated Rivers at the key.  Haywood Highsmith came curling from the post to set a pick, but #14 rejected it, reset, then drove left again past his matchup for a pull-up jumper in the paint.


Ahead of the intermission, Heat rookie Orlando Robinson logged 10 points on five out of six tries, plus six rebounds.  He ran inverted pick and roll with Victor Oladipo, and slammed the rock inside after the reception on his first evening score.  Another of his buckets came as the roll man after freeing up his teammate. Three more baskets were putbacks after diving to the rim.


Undermanned and up three points at halftime, in the middle of the madness of key players out of the lineup, the Heat likely found their backup center.  Because of injuries and matchups, the reserve five spot has been a revolving door this campaign.  Robinson’s recent work as a screener, roller and rebounder immediately makes him the best Robinson on the team and the main option at center when Adebayo sits and the team waits for Ömer Yurtseven to return from his ankle injury.


Max Strus finding his jumper and contributing five triples on 50% shooting, in addition to two dunks on cuts from the baseline, was also instrumental in Miami’s dub.  


As a unit, the Heat protected the ball well, only allowing nine turnovers (league average is 14.7) and four fastbreak points.  Minnesota’s 22 turnovers, nine of them coming off Miami steals, is the primary reason why the home team finished a three-point game taking 23 more shots.  In the second half, both squads scored 54 points, but the visitors shot 14.8% better from the field and 16.3% higher from 3-point range.


 It was surprisingly one of Miami’s finest wins of the season.  On most occasions, when a group is down their two best players, I am conditioned to expect them to lose.  Even with Minnesota having Karl-Anthony Towns absent with an injured calf, the Wolves still had two All-Star caliber players on the floor in Anthony Edwards and Rudy Gobert.


Up three points and with 2.5 seconds left, Miami was curiously defending a Jaden McDaniels sideline out-of-bounds pass with Kyle Lowry, the shortest man on the floor.  Luckily for the hosts, the entry pass was a bit wide to a cutting Russell, who couldn’t secure it.  Lowry got a swipe on the ball; then Victor Oladipo flung it into the air.  Next, the curtains closed.


The Heat still has a long way to go before they climb out of purgatory.


Mateo’s Hoop Diary: The Miami Heat Are Stuck

Decent teams don’t lose at home by 20 to a six-win group in December. Congratulations to the Detroit Pistons for its seventh win of the season. This is a genuine compliment. They did a tremendous service to observers watching the home outfit.

Whoever follows the Heat, if they needed another reason not to take this team seriously, they now have one. It doesn’t matter that Miami was missing Jimmy Butler. Detroit only had two road wins before they rolled into FTX(?) Arena and the visitors delivered the Heat its fifth home loss of the year.

Let’s not forget how last season, the Heat didn’t have that many Ls in its building until Jan.15.

It was dreadful enough that on Monday night, Miami couldn’t hang with a Grizzlies team down three starters. On Tuesday, the Heatles started the game shooting well from the field, ending the period with a 16.7-point differential in shooting percentage in their favor.

Yet, after 12 minutes, Miami was just up five points because they were recklessly taking care of the ball.

Defensively, Miami’s 2-3 zone was about as fierce as a golden retriever. The Heat barely had a three-point lead at halftime, thanks to Herro making all seven field goal attempts for 21 points in the period.

In the second half, Detroit connected on half of its 3-pointers, making 10. Six of those triples were splashed by Bojan Bogdanović. His pump fake at the top of the key even got Adebayo to leave his feet. Bojan then found Killian Hayes in the right corner for a give-and-go he finished as he avoided taking a charge under the rim.

While Detroit was inbounding under the basket, Miami was set up in its usual zone. Hayes noticed Herro too far from Bogdanović in the left corner and zipped a pass to his man. Tyler, too, bit on the Croatian sniper’s outside fake, leaping into the personal space of his teammates on the bench. Bojan dribbled to the post and converted a jumper over Max Strus and Herro, who managed to get back to the frame.

What the Pistons did to the Heat was a humbling reminder that botching defensive assignments will make solid players like Bogdanović resemble an all-time marksman like Klay Thompson. Debacles such as this often send supporters home frustrated over why they paid good money to see that when they could have stayed at home.

Victor Oladipo’s return was upstaged by a team who will likely pick at the top of the lottery in late June. In his 18 minutes, his speed was still there, and he could create separation easily. He made 2/5 jump shots and missed some makeable layups under the cup. He finished 3/9 from the field.

The hope traffickers might cling to the fact that only 30% of the season has passed and that picking up lost ground is achievable. Perhaps. But a few more nights like their last two is a fail-safe course on having guys mentally check out.



For more on the Heat’s struggles, check out the latest episode of Five on the Floor.



What’s most concerning is that this season is starting to feel similar to the Heat’s 2020/2021 campaign. Through 25 games that year, Miami’s record was 11-14. The same as what it is now.

The Heatles’ window, if it isn’t shut already, can’t afford to waste the precious time Butler is still a top player. Part of the reason he is still in that condition is because he’s played fewer chunks of the season each year since he arrived. Miami doesn’t have enough firepower to have continued success without him. As my colleague Ethan Skolnick pointed out in early October, he’ll likely never play at least three-quarters of a year again.

Aside from a heaven-sent trade, there aren’t many options to improve because ownership’s checkbook is aching. The Heat have a couple of draft picks available to deal, but they shouldn’t give those up unless the team is guaranteed to be right back in the thick of it. It doesn’t seem likely because for Miami to take back a good player, who is probably not on their rookie deal, they’d have to attach either Lowry or Duncan Robinson with a first-rounder and Herro.

If things don’t improve with Butler, the Heat might be stuck until Lowry is off the books in 2024. JB will turn 35 that September.

The team has committed to Adebayo and Herro long-term. Keeping those FRPs should be the priority to help build around them with quality and cheap labor as they keep ascending. The Heat are going to have to get better with what they have. Don’t kill the messenger.


Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Grizzlies Maul Heat’s Interior

When it looked like the Heat were starting to turn things around, they blew a golden opportunity to get back to .500.  Visiting the Grizzlies at the birthplace of rock and roll (Memphis), Miami continued to get outplayed in the second half by a team down three starters.


Heading into halftime for Miami, there were already bad omens.  They’d only scored eight points in the paint to the Grizzlies’ 36.  Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler combined for 3/11 made shots.  And the Heat’s zone was dull.  


Yet, the score read 58-51 in favor of Memphis at the intermission.  


In the last 24 minutes, Butler showed up, scoring 14 points on 71% efficiency from the floor.  Yet the rest of the outfit struggled to finish.  Memphis’ 2-3 zone neutered the Heat’s long-range shooting in the second half after giving up 45.8% in the first.


Tyler Herro went 0/5 from 3-point range in that stretch.  He also missed a wide-open triple at the top of the key as the game was tied at 68 points in the third quarter.  Yet, he was the only Heatle to play all of the final period.


Adebayo was unrecognizable. In his previous nine games before Monday’s loss, he was logging 25.3 points and 9.9 rebounds.  It’s disappointing to watch him revert to the player he was last year.  Unless he wants to get permanently labeled the “Ultimate Tease,” he should never have nights where he only takes 13 shots unless Miami is boat racing a rival.  


Bam’s confidence was likely shaken by his poor shooting (2/7) in the first half. He took one fewer try following the interlude and finished with a laid-back stat line of 15 points on 38% shooting from the field, with five rebounds and four dimes.


Kyle Lowry recorded 3/8 3-point field goals.  The problem is they were the only shots he took.  He may not have the speed he once had, but he can’t be so disinclined to score at the rim.  If he’s not taking shots inside the arc after wrapping around a screen against the drop or scoring at close range, he is doing the other team a favor.


The fourth quarter was a meltdown.  Miami kept giving up the baseline and possession of the ball, putting themselves on their backfoot defensively.  They also bricked six shots at the top of the key.  Haywood Highsmith made the only triple for the Heat in the fourth quarter as he was left open up top because of miscommunication.    


The Heat barely scored 16 points in the last 12 minutes.  


The biggest surprise of the evening was how apathetic Miami looked defensively.  Usually, the three backline players covering the paint and corners seal off the interior at the first sign of a strike.  Memphis’ Brandon Clarke, Dillon Brooks, Santi Aldama, Steven Adams and Tyus Jones feasted in the lane, making 25/32 baskets in the square.  Counting the contributions of the other Grizzlies, they ran up 64 points in the paint.  


Coach Spo gave his thoughts on the inside protection after the game.  He said, “They dominated us in the paint.  We typically do that well.  We were not able to contain dribble penetration, cuts, offensive rebounding, pick and rolls to the paint.  That just looks like a misprint, 64 points in the paint allowed. It felt like they could have had quite a few more…”


Herro spoke to reporters in the locker room.  He said the Grizzlies were too comfortable in their assault of the rim.  


The loss drops the Heat to 11-13 and places them a game behind the Toronto Raptors for eighth place in the east.


Miami’s next game is at home on Dec. 6 against the abysmal Detroit Pistons (6-19), but it’s the second night of a back-to-back.  Miami is known to play up or down, depending on the level of competition.  Which version of them takes the stage Tuesday?

Jimmy Butler’s 5 Best Performances Since Signing with the Miami Heat

Without a doubt, Jimmy Butler these past three years has been instrumental in success for the Miami Heat, when the Heat are in a position to win, it’s more than likely because the six-time NBA All-Star, Butler has led the charge.


Jimmy Butler has not only exceeded expectations, but he has established himself as a true leader for the Miami Heat and tends to show up when the Heat need him the most, and Miami Heat fans can only hope that when all is said and done for Butler in his career, that number twenty-two will be hanging from the rafters.


With that said, Jimmy Butler was criticized by multiple NBA analysts when he joined the Miami Heat, with the main criticism being a question of why the Marquette alum chose to leave the Philadelphia 76ers, a team in which was believed to be among the favorites in the East to head to the NBA finals, to the Heat who hadn’t seen the playoffs the previous year. 


Not only did Butler lead the Miami Heat to the NBA finals the same year he signed with the team, but along came with it phenomenal performances throughout the next three years that will never be forgotten by Heat fans, as Butler continues to try and lead the Heat to a championship. So now let’s go through Jimmy Butler’s five best performances since signing with Miami.


  1. Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 1 Vs. Bucks, August 21st, 2020 

Stats: 40 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block


Score: MIA 115 MIL 104


Butler dominated in the first game against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Conference Semifinals in 2020, setting a precedent of what was to come for the rest of the series. Shooting 13 for 20 from the field, resulted with Butler having a 40-point game and a 65% field-goal percentage, which was definitely a message well sent to the Bucks from the Big Face Coffee founder. The Heat would end up dominating this series, eliminating the Bucks in just five games.



  1. Eastern Conference First Round Game 2 Vs. Hawks, April 19th, 2022

Stats: 45 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals


Score: MIA 115 ATL 105


Jimmy Butler’s big game against the Hawks, can be seen as an answer back to Trae Young, after Butler and Young got into a face-to-face altercation in the previous game, which was the first game of the Hawks-Heat playoff matchup. Butler responded huge, resulting in his fourth career highest points in a game. This was Butler’s first big game in the 2021-22 playoffs, with more great peformances to follow. Miami would go on to win this series, winning four games to Atlanta’s one. 



(For more on the Miami Heat, check out the Five on the Floor podcast)



  1. Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 Vs. Celtics, May 27th, 2022 

Stats: 47 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals


Score: MIA 111 BOS 103


This game is Butler’s biggest game of his career in front of live Heat fans, the Miami Heat were facing elimination, and were in a must-win situation. Former Heat power forward P.J. Tucker told Butler before the game that the Heat needed 50-points from him, Butler didn’t respond, only giving Tucker a nod, and proceeded to go deliver. Butler helped the Heat go on to face the Celtics in a game seven. Although Butler credits his teammates for his performance, he also credits a phone-call and text from Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade. Butler at the time was dealing with knee inflammation, and Wade gave him motivation to play through it and continue to build his legacy.





  1. NBA Finals Game 3 Vs. Lakers, October 4th, 2020 

Stats: 40 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks


Score: MIA 115 LAL 104


The Miami Heat started off their first finals appearance in six years, losing the first two games of the series to the Lakers. Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragić had both gotten injured in the first game of the series, which had a big affect on the Heat as they were both key starters on this underdog Miami team, so it was now up to Butler to lead the Heat to a win. Butler exceeded as he would go on to drop a 40-point triple-double, and prevented the Lakers from going up three games to nothing. Butler was everywhere on the floor, from facilitating to scoring, to defending Lakers superstar LeBron James.




  1. NBA Finals Game 5 Vs. Lakers, October 9th, 2020 

Stats: 35 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, 5 steals, 1 block


Score: MIA 111 LAL 108


In what is arguably one of the greatest finals performances of all time, Jimmy Butler cemented his legacy as an all-time great in this finals game. The Heat down three to one, facing elimination, the perennial all-star stepped up for Miami big-time playing all but 49-seconds in this game five thriller. It was one-possession game for about the final seven minutes, and Butler scored for Miami and put the Heat up four different times in the last two minutes of the game. Butler dropped a triple-double, along with 5 steals and a block, and hit the game-winning free-throws. This game not only helped Butler’s legacy, but it proved he’s one of the greatest ever to play for the Miami Heat.

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Bam Adebayo Sets Career Milestone in Heat’s Win Over Hawks

The Miami Heat’s second road win of the season came 32 days after the group’s first dub away from home.

Undermanned and undersized, the Heat rolled into State Farm Arena struggling early and found themselves down nine points at the intermission. Although, there were a few bright spots.

Atlanta was lighting it up from deep, making 5/10 triples in the opening period and holding Miami to 39.1% shooting from the field. Max Strus and Bam Adebayo were the only productive offensive players in this stretch for the Heat. They were a combined 7/12 from the field, while the rest of the outfit shot 2/11 from the floor.

It wasn’t like Atlanta was doing anything special contesting on kick outs to the perimeter. Miami missed four makeable 3-point shots that weren’t challenged in the first quarter, deepening their hole.

The Hawks’ defensive game plan was to limit the Heat’s action in the interior. It worked for the first quarter by only giving up eight points in the paint and sending their guests to the line just once through the first 12 minutes.

Slowly but surely, Miami adjusted on both sides. In the second quarter, they nearly doubled their paint production to 14 points and held the hosts to 28.6% efficiency from deep by disrupting the offense with the 2-3 zone.

On one play, Dejounte Murray caught a pass in the right corner, and Kyle Lowry instantly closed out. Kyle trapped his matchup and pressured him into throwing a reckless lob toward the elbow that Haywood Highsmith intercepted.

When the Heat doubled Trae Young on the right wing, he passed to an opening on the left side of the arc. Tyler Herro, one of the backline defenders covering the paint and corner, sprinted forward for the contest, influencing the miss.

On a pick-and-roll play with Murray and Frank Kaminsky, Miami iced the ball handler as he wrapped around the screen. This left Hawks rookie AJ Griffin open on the left wing. Herro, again, came in flying in from the middle like an F16 fighter jet and forced the miss.

Miami came out of the recess in a hole, but it quickly dug itself out and pushed Atlanta in. Bam Adebayo had 14 points in the third quarter, matching his output for the first half. He ruthlessly attacked the basket, making all five interior shots in the period, plus four free throws.

Three of his finishes were set up as a result of PNR. Herro designed the first two and Lowry the third. His fourth basket came after he was fed in the dunker spot. Lowry’s drive in transition attracted the help of Adebayo’s matchup, John Collins, leaving Miami’s big man open. Bam caught the pass, took one dribble and faded in the lane for two.

Against Atlanta’s feeble zone, Lowry passed to Adebayo in the center as he was guarded by Griffin. Bam posted up, dribbled once, and turned for a seven-foot hook shot that pecked the front of the iron before dropping in.

Adebayo finished the game with 32 points on 13/20 attempts with eight rebounds, one assist and one rejection. It became the first time in his career that he broke 30 points in consecutive games, per Basketball Reference.

In the previous outing, Miami’s win at home over Washington on Friday, ”No Ceiling,” powered the Heat to a dub with 38 points and 12 rebounds.

This version of Adebayo, the two-way wrecking ball averaging better than 25 points and 10 rebounds over the last six games, looks like a top-three big man. He doesn’t play outside of himself. Against the Hawks, he took two tries outside of the lane and missed both, yet in the paint, he shot 72.2%, and that’s where 26 of his points came from.

Bam has ascended to a level that impacts the game as much as his All-Star teammate, Butler. Holding this together forever is the next step to finally unleashing #13.


To ride this Adebayo run, go to and use the code “five” for a matching bonus up to $100


Mateo’s Hoop Diary: No Ceiling for Bam Adebayo

It was the third encounter in a week between the Miami Heat and Washington Wizards. Each outfit had copped a win at home, and habits and weaknesses were understood by both sides heading into Friday night’s game. At this point, it was a battle of wills.




The Heat rolled into their 20th game without Jimmy Butler, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Duncan Robinson. The starting lineup was Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, Caleb Martin, Nikola Jović and Bam Adebayo.


The boxscore is not kind to this rotation. Through two games, they score 28.5 points on 52.3% shooting from the field, but the opponent (Washington) scores five more points on 60.5% efficiency from the floor, per NBA Stats.


Yet, the team is 2-0 in the games they start.


A few factors contributing to the rough defensive numbers are A. Miami is using a rookie, Jović, out of necessity with so many guys out.  Despite his unmistakable feel for the game, he is still raw, and someone defenses will likely target first. B. Herro finally returned over the past two wins after missing eight straight nights with a hurt ankle.  C. The Heat have no choice but to rely heavily on the 2-3 zone because the guys available, aside from Adebayo,  Martin, and maybe Lowry, can’t be counted on to get a stop by themselves.  


Nonetheless, this five-man unit produced 39 of 110 Heat points in 14.5 minutes on Friday.


But what won Miami the game?


The Heatles were much sharper in the zone than the Wizards.  Both squads shot below 30% from deep, but the home team managed to close off the lane more effectively.  The hosts gave up only 46 points in the box to their rivals.


Contesting the 3-point line, Miami had length covering the baseline and corner.  On one play, Bradley Beal curled around a Kristaps Porziņģis dribble-handoff and broke into the square as he was iced by Herro and Adebayo.  He then dished to the corner, but Jović closed out perfectly on Deni Avdija in the corner, forcing the miss.


In another instance, Washington had a mismatch in transition as Dewayne Dedmon matched up with Corey Kispert. Barton passed to Kispert, who was running towards the right wing, but Dedmon only stayed a step behind the arc.  Unwisely, Washington’s 3-point specialist hoisted a triple over his 7-foot tall defender, kissing nothing but the front of the iron.  


 Miami obliterated Washington’s interior, scoring 62 paint points.  Trays weren’t falling with ease from deep for the Heat, but they managed to get inside the teeth of the opponent’s zone for a shot inside without much resistance.


Adebayo finished with 38 points, making 68% of his attempts, with 12 rebounds and three dimes.  His two-way production guided them through 36 minutes.  His fourth-quarter mastery catapulted the Heat to victory.


With Miami down six points in the final period, Adebayo ran a DHO with Herro on the left wing.  As both defenders blitzed Tyler, he snuck a bounce pass between the coverage into a rolling Adebayo for the jam.


On his next bucket,  in transition, Adebayo dribbled downhill past Kyle Kuzma for a soft finish at the cup. 


For his third, fourth-quarter basket, he posted up Anthony Gill in the low post and backed him down into the lane.  Adebayo then turned for a right-handed five-foot hook shot.  


As the roll man after a pick set for Martin, Adebayo trailed the cutting ball handler, who missed at the rim.  #13 went up for the putback and forced a goaltend.


On his last field goal, the Lowry-Adebayo pick and roll was run flawlessly.  With the Heat up a point and 28 seconds remaining, Adebayo set a high screen for Lowry to shed Beal. Kyle cut right as Bam rolled left, attacking the drop coverage.  The bounce pass was delivered into the pocket as “No Ceiling” kept cutting and finished through Porziņģis.  


In the fourth quarter, Bam scored 12 points, making 5/7 shots.


Adebayo Recently


Over his last five games (Heat are 3-2), Adebayo is averaging 24.2 points a night on 48% efficiency from the field, plus 10.6 boards and 2.8 assists, per Basketball Reference.  Butler only played in one of those games- Miami’s one-point win at home over Phoenix on Nov. 14. 


Also noteworthy about this minuscule sample size is that Adebayo is making 7/8 free throws a  night.  Getting to the line more than a few times a game helps a team by giving the players a breather, and they can get into defensive position much easier following the last freebie.  


With the team undermanned and some personnel in different roles than last season, Adebayo must continue this stretch of brilliance when Butler returns to the lineup.  He and JB are the squad’s best options for creating pressure inside.  The best way to make sure the group’s snipers are left alone or poorly defended is if the two of them inflict maximum damage in the lane.


To his credit, Bam has shown up yearly with improvements to his scoring arsenal.  Last season, 60.8% of baskets were assisted.  Through 18 games in this campaign, only 52.9% of buckets come with help, per Basketball Reference.    




Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Bam Adebayo to the Rescue (Alive, They Cried)

The Heat’s pulse-dropping win over the burning Suns boosted its record to 7-7, and for the first time this season, the group is at .500.  


As the road team retreated to the locker room, the home crowd gave their squad a feverish standing ovation.  Although, with fewer than eight minutes left, the game was trending toward the opposite outcome.


Miami was ahead by a point at the half (58-57) and didn’t see the lead again until the last two minutes.  The Heatles suffered another notorious turd quarter and were outscored by eight.  The slippage hit its climax in the fourth as Phoenix ascended to a 13-point lead.  


The hosting unit had shot 1/8, four minutes into the final period, only scoring five points, while Phoenix buried a quick 11.  Next, Jimmy Butler was inserted for Gabe Vincent, and, alive, they cried.


On their next possession, Kyle Lowry stood on the left wing, guarded tightly by Devin Booker.  As soon as his defender’s left foot moved a step back, #7 had his opening.  Lowry then put the ball on the floor and darted to the middle, but his man didn’t give up on the play. Booker managed to seal off the lane after a couple of steps into it, but Kyle hit a seven-foot floater over the defense.


The Suns came back the other way seeing the Heat’s 2-3 zone.  Booker passed to Bismack Biyombo, posting Butler in the lane. Biyombo couldn’t get more than a dribble off before JB’s left tentacle reached around, poking the rock free for Bam Adebayo to recover and take off on the break. 


As Adebayo raced downhill, Booker backpedaled with him and reached for a strip at the ring wing. Bam casually spun past him for an acrobatic layup outside the restricted area while taking contact from Torrey Craig.  


Max Strus scored the next bucket for Miami. He breezed past Booker at the top of the key and beat Deandre Ayton, in drop coverage, to the cup for the finger roll.


On the following possession, Caleb Martin batted away Ayton’s pass to the corner, over to Butler. The 3-2 fastbreak started with Jimmy dribbling up the middle, with Kyle dashing to his left and Bam gliding to his right. Booker and Mikal Bridges were the only Suns tracking the play and managed to seal off the restricted area from a cutting Adebayo, but he just took a foul and hit a runner over the defense.  The Suns called a timeout, but their lead was cut to three following Bam’s made free throw.  


With fewer than five minutes left, Bridges lost the ball in the paint, and Adebayo took off the break.  He ran and give-and-go with Strus cutting right and was fed back in the lane for the slam.  


Butler scored the next pair of points at the line.  He earned the trip to the charity stripe by taking a smack from the helping Ayton on the arm.


Then Martin got involved in the action by hitting a triple in the right corner as he faded to the left. Craig’s contest was weak because he bit on the pump fake and had to reenter the shooting space.  


On their next turn with the ball, Lowry was in the right corner when he noticed his man, Booker, was overcommitted, guarding the post with his back toward the shooter.  Lowry shifted to the wing and fired away for three.  Booker’s contest was a second too late, and now Miami had its first lead since the opening minute of the second half.


Phoenix refused to go away quietly.  On their next possession, Booker came out from the middle, curling to the right-wing Butler on his tail.  Ayton set a weak pick, and Butler went over it, getting a handoff in Booker’s grill as he launched away.  It was a solid contest but against a greater offense.  The Suns were back up by one (110-109).


The shootout continued with Lowry cutting left as Adebayo split his screen and rolled to his right.  Miami’s QB caught the help of Ayton and Craig as he entered the post and attempted a floater that bounced too high off the glass.  Adebayo kept rolling and soared through the air for the putback lay-in.  


The pendulum swung again towards the home team, but for a mere 12 seconds until Cameron Payne and Ayton ran PNR to switch Martin off the ball.  Adebayo stayed with his matchup, but Phoenix’s big-man had shed Caleb, and Payne took an open path to the paint and hit a floater over Butler. 


The crowd was delirious. Coach Spo then called a timeout and relayed his instruction.


The Heat inbounded with a full shot clock from the sideline and went to work with some Lowry-Adebayo PNR.  Bam caught the pass on the roll behind the line, attempted a runner, and was fouled by Ayton.  He buried his freebies, giving Miami a 113-112 lead that it wouldn’t concede.  


Guarding the next play, Miami was fortunate Payne bricked his uncontested driving layup through the middle.  Yet, Ayton recovered the miss and passed outside to reset.  Ten seconds were left.  Butler guarded Booker at the top of the key and forced him to drive right.  Booker pulled up at the elbow, got rejected by #22, and picked up his miss. Frantically, he got off the next shot he could, fading on the right wing with Butler perfectly contesting.  


The ball hit the side of the iron as the final buzzer rang.  The Heat survived and extended the club’s winning streak to three games—Miami’s longest stretch of decent play for the season.


When Butler checked in with 7:44 left in the game, ESPN Analytics’ chart said Phoenix had a 97.9% probability of winning.   His influence on the rest of the squad activated them as if Frankenstein’s Monster had come to life on the operating table.  


Adebayo dropped 14 points, making 80% of his field goals in all 12 minutes of the fourth.  Lowry and Strus were the next leading scorers for Miami in the period, with five apiece.


Off to Toronto, the Heatles go for the third matchup of the season with the Raptors on Wednesday.


Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Positives and Negatives of the Heat’s Week Four

The Heatles improved to a 6-7 record entering the fifth week of the NBA season.  In week four, Miami played three games at home, losing one to the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday and beating the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday and Saturday.


During these three games, the Heat flashed moments of their former selves.  They also demonstrated a handful of bad habits.  Let’s examine the positive and negative aspects of the Heat through week four.



1. Seizing the passing lanes


Miami came away with 27 steals and forced 52 turnovers in their last three matches at home.   Jimmy Butler was responsible for a third of the takeaways. In total, the Heat scored 67 points off turnovers  Yet, the high volume of interceptions in the passing lanes and forced errors skewed their rebounding numbers.


Yes, Miami was beaten on the boards 50-38 in their overtime win against Charlotte. But the Heat would have had more opportunities to recover the ball off the glass if the other team didn’t lose it 20 times.  


Nonetheless, these repeated instances were a reason why Miami took more field goal attempts in all three games.  

2. Dependable at the line


In week four, Miami averaged 24 free throw attempts a night but more impressively converted 83.4% of their shots.  Butler, as usual, was the Heat’s most reliable option to get to the “welfare line.”  He logged 26/28 freebies, helping his squad by cutting the flow of the game and giving his teammates a break on defense.  


When Butler wants to, he can get to the line at will.  He’s currently averaging the third-highest volume of attempts in his career (8.3) that come as a result of his consistent pressure in the lane.  This season, Butler is averaging 66.7% of his tries from 0-10 feet from the hoop, a new career high.  


As a unit, the Heatles shoot 86.7% for the year, which puts them at  #1 in the league.  Counting only the players who qualify for league leaders, Miami only has one guy who shoots below 80% at the line, Caleb Martin (72.7).  


3. Money in the paint


Over three nights, Miami made 75/123 (61%) interior shots with a combined 150 points in the paint.  


Even on a night where they couldn’t hit anything from outside the square, like on Thursday against Charlotte, Miami was still sharp attacking the box, cashing 63% of their attempts in the non-restricted area.


Miami’s best options at attacking the interior are Butler and Bam Adebayo.  Their quick recognition of their opponent’s 2-3 zone coverage did not deter them from breaking down the scheme by attacking the middle, clenching the defense and giving extra space to shooters on the perimeter.  


4. Crisp ball movement without a starter + a role player filling big shoes


Tyler Herro hasn’t played since Nov. 4 in the Heat’s loss at Indiana.  Despite his absence, Miami still logged a 2.5 assist/turnover ratio with Max Strus inserted into the starting rotation. In the first quarter against Charlotte on Saturday, 11 of Miami’s 14 baskets of the period were assisted.  


One play that stood out during the Heat’s most recent victory was Kyle Lowry’s eighth dime of the night.  At the top of the key, he noticed Robinson on the left wing with his defender, James Bouknight, wholly turned away from the ball.  Robinson, not known for attacking inside, darted to the basket with his man draped all over him. Lowry still hit his man on the run, and Robinson finished with Bouknight behind his hip.  


Another sequence worth mentioning occurred with fewer than six minutes left in the same game.  At the top of the key, Gabe Vincent was matched up with LaMelo Ball.  Adebayo then came in, splitting a screen, and rolled right to the basket as Vincent went left, attacking the drop coverage.  A couple of steps into the lane, Gabe lobbed up the rock as Mason Plumlee was caught in no man’s land.  Adebayo reached into the heavens and powered the rock through the cylinder.  


For the week, Miami turned the ball over 10.7 times a night.  Passes were executed with precision when the opponent overcommitted on the Heat’s rim attacks or when a mismatch was identified.   


This year, Herro is a near 20-point per-game scorer.  Filling in for #14, Strus averaged 19.6 points on 42.4% shooting from 3-point range on 11 attempts a night.  Mad Max put constant strain on the opposing defense by having his man actively trail him + curling around screens and firing away in the openings of the zone.  


5. Offensively productive second unit


In week four, Miami’s bench was relied on for 35 points a game, outscoring all three of its opponents by an average of five points.  For the stretch, the Heat’s strongest reserve was Vincent. 


In overtime on Thursday, he took a pair of trips to the line and was immaculate.  On Saturday, both his buckets in the fourth quarter were difficult shots.  The first materialized from a left-wing drive.  Vincent circled toward the left low post, turned, and hit a fadeaway jumper over the taller Ball to give Miami a 13-point lead.


On his next basket, Dedmon ran a dribble hand-off on the right wing for Vincent, and Ball went under the pick.  As Vincent turned the corner of the screen and entered the lane, Ball was back on his right hip but was thrust backward by Gabe’s strong side.  Vincent picked up his dribble, faded and hit the nylon.  


Now for the other side of the coin.



1. Paint Coverage


In the past two seasons, the Heat were #1 in opponent scoring in the paint, giving up only 42.1 points in the area both years.  In this campaign, Miami has dropped to fourth after a three-game stretch conceding 51.3 paint points.  


When Miami went to the 2-3 zone, Charlotte’s Kelly Oubre had no issues getting to the middle past Robinson or Strus and finishing.  Ball, in single coverage with Martin or attacking through PNR, was also able to get to the box on his terms and convert.  

2. Inefficient catch-and-shooting 


The Heat are too skilled from deep to be shooting 33% on catch-and-shoot triples for the season and over the last three games.  


Lowry took six of these shots on Thursday, some with the help of a screen and missed five.  The lift on his legs looked fine, but he was missing makeable looks and wide-open trays.  


Robinson had the same issues all week, launching away from deep. When a pass from a teammate beat the closeout defender, he was still off target.  Against Portland, when hit with a pass by Butler on the right wing, Robinson unthinkably fired away over the much shorter Damian Lillard by fading to the side.  Clank. 

3. Not capitalizing enough on the break


Miami did make its rivals pay when they committed a lousy pass, having 18.8% of its total points for the stretch attributed to scoring off turnovers.  Although, only 9.8% of their output was created on the fastbreak.  


In the future, the Heat must maximize these opportunities by out-hustling the opponent, so they have easier chances to score on 3-on-2, 2-on-1, or any break upper hand.  Usually, the starting lineup features four players who could get down the court in a hurry.  It also has a distinguished veteran QB who is highly proficient at launching hit-ahead passes that leave defenders out of the picture.  


For the season, Miami is 25th in the NBA in this category at 10.2%.  In week four, the Heat were 18th best in the NBA in this stat, yet they had a lower percentage (9.8) than the yearly average.


4. Opponents shot well from the field


Through three games, Miami’s defensive rating was 111, and opponents recorded better than league-average efficiency from the field (50.9%, LA- 46.5%).  In the future, everyone not named Adebayo, Butler and Martin will need to show more consistency staying in front of their man and closing out to shooters on drive-and-kick plays.  


5. Too dependent on Butler to get to the line


Despite the Heat’s stellar shooting at the line, players other than Butler are not getting there enough.  JB was responsible for 43% of Miami’s free throw points during week 4. He took 9.3 charity shots, and his teammates tied for next in attempts were Adebayo and Vincent, each averaging 3.3 tries. 


That volume is too low for Bam, and it’s below what he logs for the year (4.2).  Adebayo’s percentage of shots taken from 0-3 from the cup has dropped 5.8 points and his efficiency in that spot has fallen 7.7 points as well.  


Weekly Grade: C+

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: The Evolution of Max Strus’ Game

Max Strus is a dangerous sharpshooter who has become the perfect role player. His combustibility from beyond the arc earned him a spot in the starting rotation at the end of last season and made him again one of coach Spo’s trusted eight this year.

Strus is not a one-dimensional player. His primary role will likely always be as a premium deep threat, but he has made noticeable improvements scoring inside the arc through the Heat’s first 10 games (4–6).

Last season (2021/2022), Strus took 78.4% of his shots from 3-point range. His volume from that area has dropped to 64.1% this year. Despite a lower frequency, he has become harder to guard because his efficiency has risen on two-pointers.

In Miami’s win over the Sacramento Kings, Strus hit 2/5 from deep while converting a pair of shots in the restricted area. On his first made two-pointer, he beat everyone on the break, catching a pass launched by Kyle Lowry in the backcourt. Strus caught the rock just outside the restricted area, gathered, and came up for a layup with Keegan Murray on his tail.

His other inside finish came in the halfcourt. From the top of the key, Strus cut inside, curled to the left baseline, and dusted Kevin Huerter on the dive back to the basket, assisted by a bounce pass from Bam Adebayo for a layup.

In Tuesday’s win at home against the Golden State Warriors, 10/17 of Strus’ attempts came from the outside (4/10), but he consistently put pressure on the rim too.

In transition, he caught a hit-ahead pass from Adebayo as Kevon Looney closed out to the right wing. Strus faked a dribble pick-up, freezing Looney while he dashed inside for a soft lay-in.

On the next inside score, Strus caught a pass on the left wing and immediately darted past Andrew Wiggins, hitting a floater over Draymond Green in the low post.

The trend continued for Miami’s ignitable marksman in the Heat’s narrow loss in Indiana on Friday. Half of Stus’ makes came in the restricted area, but two of those scores stemmed from steals.

Covering the left wing in Miami’s 2-3 zone, Strus recognized that Myles Turner was about to pass to Tyrese Haliburton up top the moment a pindown was set by Jalen Smith. Max blew up the play by bursting forward, intercepting the rock, and slamming it through the cylinder on a none-on-one fastbreak.

On the next two-point play, Strus closed out to the right wing as Bennedict Mathurin caught a pass. Indiana’s rookie put Strus on his back hip but was stripped in the lane because he shifted his dribble back to his right hand. Strus recovered the ball and took it to the cup, finishing past a contest by Haliburton in front and Turner behind him as he converted the finger roll.

His final inside score came in the halfcourt. Caleb Martin crossed over Turner in the right corner and cut through the baseline. Strus, standing at the left wing, noticed the defense ball watching the breakdown and not sending help. He then cut through the lane, received the pass, and layed it up softly.

On shots from 3-10 feet from the rim, Strus is shooting 50% from the field. In 2021/2022, only 5.3% of his attempts came from that zone. This season, he has nearly doubled his shots from that territory while also raising his efficiency by 6.3%.

Through 10 games, #31 has finished five dunks. Last year in 68 matches, he slammed seven.

Currently, he’s averaging 14.2 points on 44.8% shooting from the field and 37% from deep. Plus 4.6 boards and a couple of assists a night too. But Strus is more than that.

He’s turned into the ideal role player- an egoless and complete teammate. He produces on the court, never throws anyone under the bus, and accepts whatever duty is shouldered on him.

Strus is a guy who keeps polishing his game because still has the hunger that comes with going undrafted. His work ethic is unteachable. People like him are special.