Dream come true: 3-star WR Lee commits to the Canes

Recruiting for Miami in the 2022 cycle has been, well, slow to say the least with fans growing a little restless. The Canes’ lone commit is QB Jacurri Brown, but with the June 1st lifting of the dead period looming, recruiting should pick up very soon. Soon as in Wednesday afternoon, when 3-star WR Quan Lee out of Gainesville committed to the Canes.



Lee committed to his dream school over West Virginia, UCF, Nebraska, and Coastal Carolina at a small ceremony at his high school. He has alluded to his relationship with QB Jacurri Brown as a big factor in choosing the Canes, having experience playing with Brown on the 7-on-7 circuit.


Ranked as the 86th-best receiver in the country according to the 247Sports’ Composite, he’s still a very under-the-radar prospect with limited tape but don’t let the stars and ranking fool you. 


Turn on the tape and you’ll see that Lee is easily one of the fastest and shiftiest prospects in the country, all while being a very physical wideout who is very solid at high-pointing the ball.


At receiver, he caught 47 passes for 1003 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2020 while also lining up at running back and cornerback for the Bobcats. As a result, he was a Gainesville Sun All-Area first-team selection.


Even while committed, Lee still has plans to take all five of his official visits, with trips locked up to see West Virginia, UCF, and Coastal Carolina. Lee will visit Coral Gables during the June 11th weekend, where he will be joined by Brown.


This is a huge get for the Canes after they missed out on Georgia-based receiver Isaiah Bond, who committed to Florida recently.


Recruiting should get really interesting starting next Tuesday, June 1st, when Miami will host a BBQ Cookout for a star-studded list of 2022 prospects. Expected attendees include the likes of 4-star Miami Central LB Wesley Bissainthe, 4-star CB Khamauri Rogers out of Mississippi, and American Heritage’s elite trio of CB Earl Little, CB Jacolby Spells, and DE Marvin Jones Jr.


To stay up to date with anything Miami Hurricanes, be sure to follow @PaulAustria_ and @SixthRingCanes, and stay tuned for a NEW episode of The Sixth Ring this Thursday at 7:30, where we’ll recap the impact of Lee’s commitment as well as BBQ Cookout next week. You won’t wanna miss it!



Evaluating the Dewayne Dedmon and Bam Adebayo Front-Court Pairing

There aren’t many things that Miami wants to carry over from game two into game three in this first round series against the Bucks, but there is one thing: a revealed front-court pairing with Dewayne Dedmon and Bam Adebayo.

Many have been waiting to see these two get minutes together, and I kept mentioning that I expected it to be one of Erik Spoelstra’s post-season moves up his sleeve. But I definitely didn’t expect it to come in a game down 30, which shows that he was giving it a trial run before going to it the rest of the series.

It’s definitely been in Coach Spo’s game-plan, since Dedmon mentioned after the game that “It’s definitely something that Coach has talked about doing earlier.” Now that they’ve gone to it, there are plenty of offensive adjustments that can be expanded from those lineups, which I will look into here…

Adebayo was forced to drop with Giannis Antetokounmpo off the quick dive, and it led to a miss. And even more importantly, a rebound.

Rebounds were hard to come by for Miami yesterday as they lost that battle 61-36, and 21-9 on the offensive glass. But if anybody can continually go up and grab them, it’s Dedmon who led the team in that category by a wide margin in game two.

The other reason rebounding is key in these lineups is due to Adebayo being able to freely guard the perimeter, knowing Dedmon is utilizing his space to muck up the paint. A huge reason that the rebounding battle doesn’t fall in Miami’s favor most of the time, is that their center is at the three-point line due to the scheme, meaning it’s on everybody else to crash.


Anyway, after that missed shot and rebound, the ball found Adebayo to push up the floor quickly. He flows into a DHO for Duncan Robinson who gets a good look, but take a glance at what happened next. Antetokounmpo matched up with Dedmon in transition, but flashed out to the perimeter on the Robinson three, leaving a runway for Dedmon to crash the boards.

He grabbed it and laid it in, giving a quick introduction to how things can look in their minutes together.

Another element to this front-court pairing is the Bam Adebayo offensive discussion. We’ve talked enough about the spacing he’s been given and the lack of comfort in his offensive role, but there’s a good chance this could open him up into different things.

For one, Dedmon was the one running most of the DHO and PnR stuff in these minutes, leaving Adebayo off the ball on the baseline. There’s been a lot of talk about Adebayo worrying about himself more than others, and there’s a chance this could do just that.

Also, this leads to that offensive creativity that I discussed earlier, which allows Erik Spoelstra to do what he does best. This play is a good example, since Dedmon drives on the roll and collapses the defense, leading to an Adebayo pin-down for a Goran Dragic corner three.

This stuff doesn’t change the outcome of game two, but it’ll be important for them to apply this in the two games back home.

When Dedmon was asked about playing next to Adebayo, he responded, “I definitely like that pairing…I feel like it worked out well and I’m hoping we can continue more of that.” And I think we see just that.

As much as this can open up Adebayo, it’s another one of those topics that come down to him. In this clip, Dedmon is once again running most of the hand-offs and setting most of the screens, while Adebayo isn’t included at all on the baseline.

If that happens, then the effectiveness of these lineups will fade quickly. But if you’re wondering what I mean by being “creative” in these lineups, why not start with some 4-5 PnR?

We always talk about getting Adebayo downhill with screens, and there’s no one better than your big man being that guy. Butler clearly needs some of the pressure off of him after his struggles in the first two games, and this could be one of Spo’s ways, possibly very early.

Some seem to think it could be the starting front-court in game three, but I don’t believe that will be the case. No back-up big doesn’t seem like a very good option, and he’s currently playing so well in his role that there’s no need to change it.

When Adebayo was asked about their minutes together, he said, “It was good to switch it up. That’s one thing about Spo, in the playoffs he’s willing to switch it up. It was good minutes to be in there with Dewayne, and you never know, you might see more of it.”

Two more losses and this Heat team is out, so it’s time to throw it all on the table. And this pairing will be one of the first things laid out in game three.


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Dolphins center Matt Skura took snapping issues ‘personal’

The Miami Dolphins had ample opportunity to address the center position in the 2021 NFL draft. But ultimately, much like the running back position, they determined heavy investment was unnecessary. As of now, the clear starter at the center position is former Baltimore Raven Matt Skura, who signed a 1-year contract back in mid-March.

If this were 2019, Skura would be considered one of the best centers in the NFL. His blocking prowess is highly regarded. His ceiling is much greater than Miami’s recent centers (Daniel Kilgore, Ted Karras). However, there is one fatal flaw that has Dolphins fans understandably concerned. After recovering from a gruesome ACL, MCL, and PCL injury in his left knee in 2019, Skura reclaimed the starting center position in Baltimore in 2020, only to be benched late in the season after two straight games of wildly errant snaps in crucial moments.

Following these incidents, Ravens fans went after Skura and his family, which prompted a response from both Skura and his now former Ravens teammates, including QB Lamar Jackson, who spent the most time catching snaps from him.

Naturally, that made the situation very personal for Matt Skura. Eventually he was benched altogether, as ‘the yips’ – to use NFL jargon – continued plaguing Skura. As a result, he had to test the free agent market instead of remaining with Baltimore. Now he finds himself with the Miami Dolphins. With a new environment, Skura hopes to reset himself back to his Pro Bowl caliber self.

“I didn’t really have any problems with it and the things with the snaps; it was the Patriots game where we were having a little bit of a torrential downpour, but I’m someone who really doesn’t like to make excuses. I don’t care if it’s a blizzard, a hailstorm or whatever it is.” Skura said back in March. “That’s something that I have to take responsibility for, so that’s been one of the main things in this offseason literally every day – snapping – whether it’s getting 10 snaps in or 30 snaps in. Whenever I can that time basically permits for myself, I’m doing snaps, doing o-line drills, doing everything I can to make myself feel prepared.”

This past Monday, Dolphins OL coach Lemuel Jeanpierre offered some insight into how he’s handling Skura to ensure the problem doesn’t continue.

“I think it happens in golf, when you’re shooting.” Jeanpierre said. “You’ve got to know your rhythm and you’ve got to first be able to identify the mistakes. I know we’ve talked to you guys about linemen. We don’t make excuses. The difference between an excuse and a reason is very slight. I think it’s just the person who is listening and how they take it. What we do is we just rep it. It has to be multiple reps over and over again. Like when we’re doing drills, he’s doing it pre-practice, he’s doing it of course during practice, he’s doing it even after practice. You want to do it before something happens. So if it doesn’t feel right, even if you didn’t get a good snap, you want to get more snaps anyway to be preventative, not reactive.”

As a former center, Jeanpierre is well-acquainted with small details that throw centers off their game.

“If there are any issues – of course because I played it, I’ll be able to talk to him and try to see some things.” He said. “Sometimes you want to move the ball a little bit to the center of your nose. You might be off. Sometimes you may want the ball more tilted up, which can affect the pendulum swing. There are many things that could have affected him; but this year so far, when he’s been in there at center, he’s been good. I saw his interview.

“He’s been snapping like crazy because that’s the type of guy he is, where he took that really personal. It’s another chip on his shoulder like a lot of the guys on the line are. He’s worked at it. I’ll be preventative and so will he. We talk to the quarterbacks, ‘did you get that snap? Good. Is it left? Is it right?’ Things like that.”

It’s clear the Dolphins have faith in Matt Skura. Their decision to not draft the likes of Creed Humphrey in the draft indicate they feel comfortable he’ll fix his snapping troubles. With QB Tua Tagovailoa and his fellow offensive linemen primed to make a jump in their development, clean snaps will be crucial to their success. There is no apparent Plan B, as Matt Skura is miles ahead of the likes of Michael Deiter as a blocker.

It’s often said that no player touches the ball more than a quarterback. Technically speaking, that is untrue. The center touches it more than anyone, and Skura will have to prove he can deliver it accurately and on time in 2021. So far, he seems to be off to a good start.

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for seven years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung


Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

Visit them at everythingtradeshows.com or call 954-791-8882

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Game Two Loss to Milwaukee

The Miami Heat lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in game two on Monday night, and well, it wasn’t pretty. A scoring explosion from the Bucks and poor play from Miami leads to a result of one team looking much better than the other. On a very one-sided night, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: A historic night. And not in a good way.

A good place to start this post-game piece is stating that this was a historic night for Miami. A historically bad one. They trailed 46-20 at the end of the first quarter, and 78-51 at the half. There aren’t many schematic ways that I can approach this game. But there are some obvious points that must be stated: Milwaukee made shots, a lot of them, and Miami did not seem fully ready. When a team is putting up that many points, there’s just not many things that you can do about it. Pinpointing certain issues throughout the game and individual players seems useless to an extent in this match-up, due to the fact increased play from one single player wasn’t changing the outcome. Of course there are things to discuss with specific players, but this night was going to be historically bad either way for the Heat.

#2: The first time Jimmy Butler wasn’t playing at his own pace.

The main takeaway from Jimmy Butler’s game one struggles was that he just missed shots, since many of them were open. Tonight’s primary takeaway was completely different. Butler was forced to play at a much different pace, and that’s something I haven’t seen from him many times in a Heat uniform. He is always able to speed up or slow down the game by getting to the free throw line or playing downhill in transition, but he doesn’t have the room to do so at the moment. When people claimed Miami would have to make threes against this Bucks team, there was a reason: the interior is just absolutely packed with solid team defenders at all times. They’re now able to throw different guys at him throughout the night, which puts a lot more pressure on the surrounding cast.


#3: Well, Dewayne Dedmon was good, but that’s it.

You may have thought all five takeaways would be negative from this domination of a game, but well, I got one positive thing to mention. Dewayne Dedmon was Miami’s best player tonight, and well, that’s an issue. He was the only Heat player in double figures at the half, and he only missed one shot in that span. An above the break three, the usual flip shots around the rim, and aggression made for a pretty unique half for Dedmon. When your buyout market acquisition is your only source of offense in a playoff game, that is a pretty big issue. Even though this was my one positive takeaway, it leads right back into a negative result, which was the theme of this game.

#4: Bam Adebayo didn’t have the expected #BounceBack, but I’m not sure it would’ve made a difference.

When people were talking about Bam Adebayo coming back from that non-aggressive game one to take initiative in game two, I wasn’t sold. That jump wasn’t made throughout 72 games in the regular season, so why would it be made in the second game of the post-season? He has his role on this team, and he’s not just going to flip a switch to become that natural scorer that many expect him to be in the future. But as much as his aggression seems to be harped on in this game, it would not have made the difference. It’s pretty clear that many people just want to see some heart from their second best player no matter the score, but it’s just a lazy take at times to just immediately point to that. He will need to be more aggressive if they want to compete in this series, but no level of aggression puts them in this game with the way Milwaukee played.

#5: Who takes things more personal?

In the big picture, this Milwaukee win felt like a team that lost in five games the year prior to this Miami Heat team. Not only did they play a lot better, they played like a team that had a chip on their shoulder. Now, the reason I posed the question about who will take it more personal, is due to it being Miami’s time to feel that way. The Heat players must go into game three on Thursday night playing like they just lost by 30 in game two. This Heat team loves to discuss the chips on their shoulders and playing for extra reasons, yet they have an even bigger chip on their shoulder after this game two domination. It’s hard to see Butler going out this way, even while he’s being blanketed every possession, which is why these two games back in Miami may come down to the mental battle.

Marte Marlins

5 Takeaways from a week of Marlins Baseball

The Miami Marlins took two out of three versus the first place New York Mets this weekend, cementing their place in the NL East. They now stand only 2 games behind the Mets, with another division rival in the Phillies looming this week. The Fish are now 53-53 over their last 106 games, proving that last year was not a fluke. As Jazz Chisholm said, “[The Marlins] have the most swag in baseball.” The pieces are finally coming together. 


Here’s 5 key takeaways from a successful weekend of baseball:


Cody Poteet deserves the rotation spot


After being called up from Triple-A for a spot start versus the Diamondbacks a little over a week ago, Poteet has dominated. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, which results in low strikeout numbers, but he gets outs: and a lot of them. He now has a 1.06 ERA through his 3 starts, and he is the second Marlins starter in history to not allow 3 runs through his first 3 starts (the other is now-Met Jordan Yamamoto, who he beat today). Poteet was quoted after the game saying, “You never know when your last day in the MLB is going to be.” As of now, he shouldn’t have anything to worry about.


Garrett Cooper found his swing


Cooper has struggled to start the season, and for an injury-riddled Marlins, this was a source of early panic. Clearly, any doubt was premature, as Coop has not only started to hit for average again, but also hit the long ball. He homered to tie the game in game 1 of the Mets series and hit a 2-run walk-off homer in game 2. Last year, he had the 2nd best OPS on the Marlins, and his bat is essential if the Marlins want to make a run for the playoffs. 


Sandy, Pablo, Trevor


Guys. I’m taking these three guys over anyone at the moment. With Poteet emerging as a strong option, and Sixto and Elieser in the wings, we could be looking at the best rotation in baseball. 


Sandy Alcantara struggled in LA, but bounced back with a dominating performance versus the Phillies. 6 innings, 9 strikeouts, no runs. His ERA is at a 3.63, and without the one bad performance versus the Dodgers, would be much lower. 


You have to feel for Pablo Lopez. It has felt like every outing he has had throughout this season, he has deserved the win. Last night versus the Mets was no different. 7 IP, 8 strikeouts, no runs. And still, the Marlins found a way to give him the no decision. He has been brilliant, per usual, lowering the ERA to 2.73.


Trevor Rogers: the unexpected ace and frontrunner for NL Rookie of the Year and Cy Young. It feels like every time he takes the mound, the Marlins are going to win. Unlike the other two stars, the Marlins have had no trouble giving him run support. His win versus Philadelphia improved him to 6-2 on the year with a 1.74 ERA. Wow.


And Sixto Sanchez isn’t even here yet.


Bullpen woes?


In the Phillies and Mets series, the Fish lost 2 games. Both losses can be credited to the bullpen; however, there is no reason to get stressed about it. Bullpens have off nights, and you have to deal with them throughout the course of a season. It is when those off nights become consistent that an issue arises. The Marlins bullpen has been relatively dominant on every other night. 


Floro, Bass, Garcia, and the boys have given the Marlins great innings over the past few weeks and are doing exactly what is needed from them. Floro had one bad outing that cost the Marlins a win in Philly, but that came after a multitude of good ones that led to wins. The bullpen loss on Friday was more due to running out of options than a failure on the bullpen’s end of things. As Anthony Bass comments on seemingly every Miami Marlins Instagram post, “Keep the faith. I promise we will figure this out.”


This squad is NOT a fluke


For anyone who has tuned into my coverage of the Marlins over the past year or so, you know that I am very upfront about how I believed last season to be the lucky result of a small sample size. 


With the 46 games played this season, the Marlins are now 53-53 in their last 106. Maybe, just maybe, the Marlins were no fluke last season and were actually a .500 team that benefitted from an extended playoffs. What does that mean for this year?


Well, it means that the Marlins can get to the playoffs: this time by winning the NL East. In an extremely condensed division that is separated in total by 2.5 games, it is anyone’s to win.


Why not the Marlins?

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Breaking Down Miami’s Late-Game Offensive Execution in Game One

Well, it was an interesting game one between the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat to say the least. There are so many different angles to approach this game from a negative aspect, but I’m going to focus on the late-game offensive execution here.

Some things that I’m looking to point out may seem minor, but as Erik Spoelstra said after the game, sometimes the deciding factors of a playoff game are the stuff “in-between.”

And yet, there were a lot of things “in-between” through 53 minutes of basketball, while I’ll begin at the five minute mark in the fourth quarter…

When talking about some of the odd statistics from beyond the arc, Jimmy Butler definitely headlined it. He attempted nine threes in this game, which is an interesting number for a player that usually finds himself inside the arc.

But speaking of bad three-point possessions, Miami sprinkled in some odd moments of chucking up threes in a very early shot-clock. They actually did a good job of controlling the pace early on, which is necessary in this series, but that control definitely seems to shift when settling for these type of shots.

In the clip above, two above the break threes before setting up offense occur in a span of about 20 seconds. That just can’t happen in a playoff game. Well, unless the guy taking it is Duncan Robinson.

Two wasted possessions in a tie game just doesn’t seem to be the recipe for success. Obviously this was a much different Butler, who went 4 for 22 from the field, but maybe the three-point element isn’t just a one game thing.

He said after the game, “I might shoot nine next game as well. They will fall.” I’m not so sure that he will actually shoot up nine on Monday night, but those shots will be there. The difference is that he must pick the correct times to put them up.

Here’s another minor element that went wrong, and it has nothing to do with a missed three from Goran Dragic who was open in the corner. The play actually worked exactly how they planned, but the action early on is the part to harp on.

Robinson setting an on-ball screen for Butler then darting to the perimeter after a screen from Adebayo was used frequently in this game. Too frequently.

As mentioned earlier, rough games for Butler and Adebayo mean that this set isn’t providing many options, even though it worked pretty well on this possession. Miami began to flow into this as their base set at times, while everybody knew what was coming next.

The main issue when Butler and Adebayo are off has nothing to do with their actual numbers. It’s actually about what it means for everyone else.

The spacing basically becomes non-existent in these moments, which is hard to do when you have the ultimate space provider on the floor, in Robinson. To that point, I feel there could’ve been some extra creativity on offense down the stretch, and I believe that’s one of the biggest adjustments that are made heading into game two.

Miami’s two stars hitting shots is an adjustment on its own, but the next element is providing some diversity.

For example, one thing I don’t think we saw enough of in game one is guard screening. It’s something I touched on in my previews, and it’s something that appeared to be coming in the second half. But it didn’t.

Specifically, the bench unit with Butler seemed like a perfect time, since Dragic or Herro screening could leave Bryn Forbes on Butler, which is exactly the purpose. Also, even though I’ll touch on the issues of Adebayo in this game down the line, some guard screening could’ve been great for him as well, whenever Brook Lopez wasn’t socially distancing from him on defense.

There’s nothing better for Miami down the stretch than a Butler-Adebayo PnR in an empty corner. It’s such a hard combo to guard, even when both guys are struggling. But there just seemed to be something a bit off, and I’m not just talking about their jumpers.

In this clip above, this is something we see quite frequently, but not in this fashion. Usually, it would be Butler probing left as Adebayo dove quickly, leaving the two options as a lob pass or an easy bunny, which may not have been too easy in this one. Instead he utilizes a snake dribble, allowing the recovery and leads to a jump ball.

To say that the issue with Miami’s stars was shots not falling is not entirely true, since the process of getting those shots looked to be the bigger issue. And yet, it still came down to one final shot, and I don’t think we see anything close to this Butler performance again in this series.

As much as we can talk about some of the errors and struggles down the stretch from the guys on the floor, there were some questionable moments regarding timeouts and decision making late in the fourth on the coaching side of things.

Everybody was aware that this game was in the mud, and that’s an understatement. This possession left Butler without a dribble and not a person to pass to, and yet no timeout was called with two of them available. This isn’t one of those free flowing situations where an out of the blue slip up occurs, since as mentioned before, the offensive spacing was an issue all game.

So, as we talk about offensive execution in this game, it’s important to note some of the miscues that occurred all across the board. Yes, Miami ended up tying it up anyway to go to overtime, but these type of “in-between” plays matter in the post-season.

And now, the current focus for the Heat at the moment by many observers: Bam Adebayo.

Butler’s issue at times was taking shots he shouldn’t have, while Adebayo’s issue was not taking shots he should have. And even though that’s been the way things have been trending all season, a week of preparation against an opponent that gives you a clear opportunity seemed to be the turning point.

For starters, take a look at Lopez in this clip. Forget the space between Adebayo and himself. Instead look at the space between Butler and himself. The element of Adebayo’s aggression has more to do with others than it does his own benefit or points on the board.

As I pointed out, spacing was an issue with the way things were going, but allowing a team to just double guys in the paint and not have to pay for it is exactly what they can’t do in this series.

Now, back to Adebayo, this is much more mental than it is physical. Yes, he can make that mid-range jumper at the elbow or free throw line. Yes, he can take an extra step in to get into rhythm closer to the basket. No, he can’t be indecisive.

If there’s one thing the Bucks defense exploits, it’s indecisiveness, and that’s exactly what Adebayo had on Saturday afternoon. He ended up attacking Brook Lopez, who did a great job around the rim in this game, leading to an unnecessary and contested shot at the basket.

The team knew what shot would be there. Adebayo knew what shot would be there. This wasn’t a surprise, and it won’t be surprising if this Miami team goes down if that doesn’t shift quickly. As I discussed this week, the deciding factor in this series is Adebayo.

Not to take an unrealistic leap in the post-season to will this team to win. But actually, just to be himself. And even though his attributes consist mostly of unselfishness, the occasional bucket to keep the Bucks defense honest is all that is needed.

Adjustments will be made heading into game two, and I don’t believe they will be major. As I’ve said, sometimes the minor adjustments are the most important.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Bucks in Game One

The Miami Heat fell short in game one against Milwaukee, in a very odd game all around. Jimmy Butler sent the game to overtime on a buzzer beating layup, while his overall performance wasn’t as positive. Goran Dragic and Duncan Robinson kept them in it throughout, but it ultimately wasn’t enough, after a Khris Middleton jumper in overtime to take the lead with 0.5 left. Here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Miami’s early offense was, indeed, a flash from the past.

As explained in my previews throughout the week, I mentioned that the initial adjustment for Miami would occur on the offensive side of the ball, reverting back to DHO’s with Duncan Robinson. The reasoning was due to Brook Lopez’s deep drop giving Robinson more than enough room to get shots off, and he did just that to begin the game. Three triples early in the first quarter came out of that set, and well, that was pretty much all they got from that area of the floor, which I will discuss next. It’s great to see Robinson getting these type of looks in a playoff setting, since his only way of offense throughout the season has been either catch and shoot or high pick and roll stuff. As Milwaukee did last year in the post-season, they will start to send more out to the three-point line to eliminate Robinson’s looks, which is where Bam Adebayo comes into play.

#2: Shooting was far from being pretty on both sides.

Miami shooting 8 for 21 from beyond the arc in the first half may look bad, but not as bad as Milwaukee’s 2 for 17 shooting display. The exact opposite was the expectation in this series, since both teams give up a good amount of threes. Shots just weren’t falling on both ends, but that shouldn’t discredit each team’s defense. The Bucks did a good job of chasing Miami off the line and forcing them into tough shots at the end of the shot clock. And by the way, it wasn’t only threes that weren’t falling early, since they only shot 30% on twos in the first half as well. The looks that many expected Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro to knock down against the drop, wasn’t occurring as frequently. And well, the shooting from Miami’s stars definitely didn’t help, as I dive into next.

#3: Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo struggle in first half.

3 for 16 from the field in the first half of game one of the playoffs is not what was expected for Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, but that’s exactly what happened. Butler had the mid-range jumper plenty of times, but charged the basket instead, leading to plenty of missed bunnies. But at least Butler was trying to generate offense. Adebayo was not taking advantage of the offensive space that I’ve been discussing all week. One possession in the second quarter told the whole story: Adebayo searches for a DHO on the elbow with nobody near him, and looks to pass to Butler who waves his arm for him to go. Adebayo uncomfortably and reluctantly turned into a jumper which clanked off the rim. The moments in which his jumpers are effective is when he’s comfortably shooting them. And that first half proved he wasn’t comfortable in that role.

#4: Miami’s bench was an absolute roller coaster with positives outweighing the negatives.

When discussing the Heat’s bench as a roller coaster in this game, it’s the perfect description. For starters, Goran Dragic played with great pace and burst throughout this game, which was the one element that was unexpected to begin the series. He was one of the few guys that gave Miami positive minutes all the way through, which is a positive element for this team as they go forward. Another positive bench player was Dewayne Dedmon, since he just carried over his regular season role perfectly into the playoffs. He fights on the boards, contests shots at the rim, and has an odd level of efficiency around the rim. Lastly, Tyler Herro rounded out the phrase roller coaster with the second unit. He wasn’t in his normal rhythm as Milwaukee hounded him, and couldn’t get to the spots in the drop that many expected heading in, but began to become his usual self in the fourth for a spurt. An interesting element to the Heat’s reserves is that some night’s they can be the team’s biggest boost, while being the team’s biggest downfall other games.

#5: Once again, this isn’t last year, meaning overall schemes change.

My last takeaway from this game is that this isn’t the same series, and last year shouldn’t continually be harped on. The reason for Miami stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo was not because of Jae Crowder alone. They built a scheme that included Crowder who did a great job of utilizing his strength against him. But he’s not here anymore, and Miami’s still going. Trevor Ariza does not provide the best one-on-one match-up for him, but one-on-one and Antetokounmpo are two things that don’t go together. They throw a bunch of guys at him, which is why it’s been so effective over time. So, my final point is that harping on the past is just a lazy take at this point of the season. They have their guys, they have their adjustments, and it’s working just fine on the defensive end.

Austin Jackson

Dolphins OT Austin Jackson looking towards second-year jump

Austin Jackson is entering his second year in the NFL. That means one of two things. He is either going to make the biggest leap of his career, or he is going to begin the dreaded sophomore slump.

Many players have suffered from this dreaded phenomenon. Matt Ryan, Sam Bradford, even former Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick didn’t do nearly as well in his second year in the NFL. However, there are many players who escape the slump, and instead improve tremendously after suffering growing pains in their rookie year. Jackson, for his part, went through a lot of growing pains in 2020. On top of the usual in-game adjustments required by all rookies, he had to endure pandemic-related restrictions throughout the year.

Fortunately, things are finally changing for the better.

“Things are a lot different when you’re not in a pandemic, first and foremost obviously.” Jackson said on Thursday. “Being able to just have way more access to resources this year as opposed to last year certainly helps a lot. Getting my feet set for my second year, having more knowledge, knowing a little bit more of what to expect is pretty good. I would say that’s probably the biggest difference from this time last year to this time this year … Last year was very unusual for I think everybody. I think that everybody in the world had an unusual last year. The NFL was definitely affected. We have all of our drafted guys down here already; but my class, we weren’t able to do that. It’s a big difference. I think we’re all excited to get over this thing.”

In spite of the limitations, Austin Jackson had a decent rookie season as the starting left tackle. He certainly isn’t on par with his predecessor, Laremy Tunsil, but he showed promise. That untapped potential is what Miami is counting on for the 2021 season. With one year under his belt, Jackson is turning his attention to honing his technique.

“Obviously every year – well, that’s not obvious but every year, you want to kind of try to take off bad weight and add more good weight because muscle is heavier.” Jackson said. “Just working out and making sure my technique is consistent. It’s hard to pick one thing to work on because you’re pretty much working on everything. But I can say that knee bend and getting lower is something I’ve been working on – my flexibility. Strength and conditioning, torque power, turn power and all of that stuff, that’s something we as offensive linemen work on every day.”

Austin Jackson has high expectations on him as a first-rounder. The former standout out of USC was selected over the likes of wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie with the Minnesota Vikings. Fair or not, rookies always get compared to their fellow draftees. First rounders most of all. Austin Jackson knows this. He also knows the old adage that players make their biggest improvement from year one to year two.

“From a personal standpoint, it’s really exciting.” Jackson said. “As a competitor and as a teammate, I definitely want to go out there and do everything perfect for myself and for my team. Having that kind of expectation, but also having the knowledge of what needs to be done, is exciting. It excites me a lot and I’m looking forward to it.”

Should he stay at left tackle, Austin Jackson actually will not be responsible for the blind side of the quarterback. With Tua Tagovailoa being a left-handed QB, that responsibility falls squarely on the right-tackle’s shoulders. Nevertheless, an offensive line is only as strong as its weakest link. When Laremy Tunsil was traded, it showed the team’s confidence in developing a replacement. Jackson has to at least reach that standard as the Dolphins prepare for a playoff run. He cannot be a weak link.

Fortunately, Jackson has an excellent chance to improve in his second year. The culture is non-negotiable. Development of players is priority one for this coaching staff. And it’s clear Jackson’s teammates have confidence in him as well.

“I think just the way that he comes into work on a daily basis.” said Dolphins linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel. “He’s competitive, he’s tough and he’s going to do exactly what the coaches ask of him, so I expect him to make a big jump in his second year and just to continue to improve and get better. I’m looking forward to seeing how he progresses this year.”

Will the sophomore slump drag Austin Jackson down in 2021? Or will he see a dramatic improvement? All signs point to the latter. He’s one of the youngest players in the NFL, and he already has a year of experience under his belt. Now with access to all the resources he lacked in his rookie year, who knows what’s to come?

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for eight years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung

5 Takeaways from Panthers Game 3 OT win over Tampa

The Florida Panthers clawed their way back into the series with a 6-5 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but all that matters is the “W” in the win column. Here are tonight’s five takeaways. 

Second period disaster

After shutting out the Lightning in the first period, Florida started the second with a 2-0 lead. What followed suit was quite possibly the worst period of hockey all season by the Panthers. Florida conceded five goals in the second period and were 0/2 on the penalty kill. 

Florida wasn’t strong in front of their own net and Tampa exposed that by out muscling the Panthers in 50/50 battles, leading to multiple goals in front of Chris Dreidger’s crease. Dreidger was pulled after the second period and was replaced by Sergei Bobrovsky.

Tampa’s five goal onslaught quickly wiped away Florida’s two-goal lead and stole all the momentum from the Cats in the second. The Panthers only got one goal in the period and Tampa led 5-3 after 40 minutes of play.

Vasilevskiy’s 41 save night

Despite the six goals against on the stat sheet, Andrei Vasilevskiy still showed why he is one of the best goaltenders in the world, specifically during the second period. While Florida had a defensive collapse in the period, the forwards continued to put the pressure on the Lightning. 

Prior to the fifth Lightning goal, MacKenzie Weegar had a golden opportunity to tie the game at four a piece when he found himself alone on Vasilevskiy. Weegar had the perfect angle to pull the puck across his body and bury it into the far side corner of the goal, the only thing stopping him was a sprawling poke check by the Russian netminder. Tampa went on to score after the big save and grabbed a two-goal cushion on the Cats.

Vasilevskiy quickly bounced back from a poor first period and won the goaltending battle against Chris Dreidger. Without his play during the second, Tampa may not have scored as many goals as they did. He ended the night with 41 saves.

Dumb mistakes led to Tampa goals

When you blow a two-goal lead in under 10 minutes, at least one thing had to have gone wrong. In Florida’s case, bad decisions led to their blown lead in this game.

Whether it was turnovers in the neutral zone, taking penalties in the offensive zone, or getting burnt on odd-man rushes in transition, the Panthers didn’t play their best hockey in that game.

First of all, Tampa once again showed that their power play is dangerous, going 2/3 on the man advantage. In Game 1 they scored three on the power play. One of the keys to the series was to keep Tampa off the power play, unfortunately it almost cost them again in Game 3. 

The Panthers won tonight, but it was a close game that had a lot of mistakes. If you give Tampa an opportunity, there’s a good chance they’ll make you pay.  

No Yandle, no problem

Tonight the Panthers and Coach Q made a big decision, one that potentially changed the outcome of the game and that was to scratch Keith Yandle. 

Yandle has the second longest ironman streak in NHL history for consecutive regular season games played with 922. He played in the first two games of the series, but he has often turned over the puck too many times in important situations. In Game 2, a Yandle turnover led to Tampa’s game clinching empty net goal, putting the Cats down 0-2 in the series.

Panther fans immediately called for Yandle to be benched and that’s exactly what happened. 

The biggest on-ice strength for Yandle is his ability to quarter back the power play. Without Yandle in the lineup tonight, Florida had to switch up their top power play unit. Luckily for the Cats, they didn’t seem to miss a beat, going 2/2 on the man advantage without their long-time top PP defenseman.

Cardiac Cats

Once again, the Cardiac Cats kept you on the edge of your seats until the final whistle. Heading into the third period down two against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, you wouldn’t think the Panthers could come back after the disaster of a second period, right? Well, we know what happened.

Coach Q made the decision to yank Chris Dreidger and put Sergei Bobrovksy back in the net. Bobrovsky last played in Florida’s 5-4 Game 1 loss.

The Panthers opened the third with a power play goal, cutting the deficit to just one. They continued to push the play but Tampa held onto their lead until the dying minutes of the game. That’s when Gustav Forsling found himself open in the slot and buried a five-hole goal behind Vasilevskiy.

The Cardiac Cats forced overtime, but they had to kill off a penalty against the always dangerous Lightning power play. After killing off the penalty, Florida never looked back.

The game winning goal came off of a defensive zone face off that was quickly broken out of the zone. Radko Gudas played an aerial puck towards center ice, which found its way towards Frank Vatrano. Vatrano tipped the puck behind the Lightning defense and Ryan Lomberg bursted into the zone alone on Vasilevskiy. The unsung hero “Lomberghini” beat the former Vezina winner glove side and brought Florida back in this series.

The Cardiac Cats are back and they are ready to try and tie up the series in Game 4. Bobrovsky is the expected starter for Saturday.

How Will the Match-ups Look Between the Heat and Bucks?

The individual match-ups between the Heat and Bucks first round series has become a hot topic leading up to Saturday, but the truth is that there isn’t one set solution.

Especially an Erik Spoelstra coached team, there will not be only one guy thrown at the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, as well as Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. Speaking of Holiday, this gives the Bucks some options as well, after they lacked that type of versatility in the series a year ago.

Anyway, let’s start off with how the Heat will look to defend the Bucks match-up wise. And by the way, this may not be the initial coverage, but I do feel that this will be the number one adjustment that Miami will find themselves in for a good portion of the game:

Kendrick Nunn on Donte DiVencenzo

Duncan Robinson on Khris Middleton

Jimmy Butler on Giannis Antetokounmpo

Trevor Ariza on Jrue Holiday

Bam Adebayo on Brook Lopez

Many expect Trevor Ariza to step into that Antetokounmpo defending slot, which I think is the most likely option to begin the series, but there’s a reason Miami adjusts into this base.

As explained in my latest piece on Miami’s defensive scheme, Ariza and Robinson are going to find themselves as the primary blitzers on Holiday and Middleton, which is why it makes sense for them to match-up automatically.

Robinson’s improved defensive abilities combined with his length make it possible to stick him on Middleton and await the double, while Ariza’s strength is guarding smaller players. This allows Butler and Adebayo to play as the free safety at times and play in transition when hitting the passing lanes.

Of course, the match-up many would look at here is Butler on Antetokounmpo, due to the fact you may not want your best offensive weapon to have that type of weight on his shoulders. Spoiler alert: Butler wants that weight on his shoulders and will take that match-up 10 out of 10 times.

Once again, things are going to change over and over again throughout the series, and Miami’s switching means that mismatches will be fluid. But in a tight game, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is what we see from Miami in the half-court.

Now, on the other side of the ball, the Bucks have some extra guys to throw at Miami this time around. The consensus seems to be that Holiday will find himself on Butler from the start, which I expect as well, but I don’t believe that’ll be who he guards as the game progresses. Here’s how I believe it plays out:

Holiday on Robinson

DiVencenzo on Nunn

Antetokounmpo/Middleton on Butler/Ariza

Lopez on Adebayo

This prediction doesn’t have many surprises, but the reason I bundled up Butler and Ariza is due to those two guys flipping back and forth. If Holiday is guarding Robinson, many believe that it will just be the normal Middleton on Butler, but I feel Milwaukee’s counter would be to try out Antetokounmpo on him.

Middleton is capable of guarding a stretch 4 in Ariza, which makes this option even more possible.

But the head of the snake in this assignment would be Holiday guarding Robinson, and there’s a reason that I see that happening. If you asked me Holiday’s biggest defensive strength, I would immediately point to his ability to constantly navigate around screens without getting lost. And that description points directly to Robinson.

He will be an even bigger part of Miami’s offense in this series, as shown in my offensive breakdown, since he’s the one who will get Miami into their base sets. To that point, it just seems obvious that’ll be the route they go as the series moves forward.

This has become an interesting debate over the last few days, but as mentioned earlier, it’s semi-useless to a degree with the amount of cross matches that will occur. Milwaukee shifting into a switching scheme at times means that Butler will be able to handpick who he wants guarding him, which makes this series so interesting for him.

As much as the focus is on the starting lineup here, the real exploit should occur with both bench units, since Miami will need Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro to pick up the slack again, as the Bucks adding Bryn Forbes, PJ Tucker, and Bobby Portis means they feel good about their second unit as well.

The match-up discussion is pure, but the main match-up that will not be debated in this series is Erik Spoelstra and Mike Budenholzer. If you don’t think Spo has completely different adjustments up his sleeve for this series, you are completely wrong.


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