The Miami Heat got a much needed win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, headlined by their back-up back-court. Both Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro returned to the lineup tonight, leaving only Victor Oladipo on the injury report. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this important win…
#1: Tyler Herro is….back.
Tyler Herro returned on Friday night against Minnesota with limited expectations. And that’s the best thing for Herro. He scored 14 points in the first half, including 4 for 4 from the three-point line. The one takeaway from that second quarter spurt from him is that he is such a rhythm shooter. When that first one falls, expect a few more to fall as well, since that type of lift and confidence translates to very good things. Herro’s role on this team must be that offensive boost that can be relied on nightly, since although spark scoring is obvious, consistency is next. Another thing to mention about his performance is that he did it in lineups without Jimmy Butler, which is usually some of his best minutes. If he can control lineups with Goran Dragic, who I will discuss next, this team can take that next step.
#2: Goran Dragic looks like a rejuvenated 35 year old.
After Goran Dragic turned 35 years old a day ago, he looked like a different player. He has caught some momentum over his past few games, but this was the icing on the cake. Although that impressive scoring stretch from Herro will be harped on, Dragic was the consistent offensive force that was looked to. Getting to the rim and making mid-range jumpers aside, one specific thing stood out in tonight’s game: he plays off of the defense. He was being guarded by a smaller Jordan McLaughlin, which means he adjusts his ways of scoring. An unexpected way tonight was in the high post, since the slight size advantage allowed him to not only find ways to score by backing him down, but also play-make with skip passes in the post. Dragic’s ability to adjust to a defense is one of his most underrated offensive abilities, and this corner he’s currently turning will further prove that.
#3: Miami’s bench outscores starters in first half, which is….different.
The starting lineup had 25 points at the half, while the bench ended up with 34, which is a very different scene on this Heat team. Miami went from trying to survive non-Bam and non-Butler minutes previously, to leaving them on the bench together for the longest period of the season. That just reiterates the first two takeaways of Herro and Dragic’s play, but don’t let Andre Iguodala and Dewayne Dedmon’s five combined points at the half confuse you. Iguodala was as active as ever on the defensive end, while Dedmon just mucked things up for Minnesota after Adebayo exited the game with some early foul trouble. The thing about these two guys is that they play their role perfectly, and it becomes even more apparent when their guard pairing among reserves really get going.
#4: A third quarter energy shift, sparked by Butler, Adebayo, and, oh, technicals.
When looking at the third quarter throughout the season, that’s usually Butler’s queue to begin to increase his aggression. Well, he did just that again tonight, mostly through Miami’s most effective bridge of offense, which begins on the defensive end. His defensive staple is the unexpected double on the perimeter to rip the ball away and play in transition. Adebayo also initiated offense a bit more after a tough first half for him, which seemed to be generated by some calls going in the opposite direction. And speaking of certain calls from the referees, some technical fouls were issued to a couple complaining Timberwolves, giving Miami some easy points, as well as D’Angelo Russell being ejected. One thing about this Heat team is that they thrive off of energy, and night’s like this further prove that point, no matter if they were facing a weaker match-up.
#5: Time to watch the standings.
As the Miami Heat are in play-in range, it’s important to keep your eyes on the teams that are fighting for those 4th, 5th, and 6th seeds. The Boston Celtics are the team to watch the closest if you’re Miami for a bunch of reasons. For one, they lost to the Chicago Bulls tonight, which means Miami’s currently in the 6th seed in the East. But once again, the next two games seem to be the deciding factor. The Heat’s next two games are the Celtics, meaning they must take care of business in those games and they can safely say that they get a week off while Boston’s fighting in the play-in. If anybody needs that extra time off, it’s this Heat team. Giving Butler and Dragic some rest, Herro some time to recover, and the entire team a mental reset will be huge if they want to make a push in the post-season once again.