The Miami Heat had their hands full with a scrappy Indiana Pacers team, but came away with the victory 113-101. Indiana’s offense was led by their bench unit throughout, including Justin Holiday and JaKarr Sampson. But, Miami overcame this behind Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic’s big games. Here are my five takeaways from the game…
#1: Playoff Jimmy Butler was in full effect today.
The entire Heat team knows that this is Jimmy’s time. The playoffs is when you get the ball to your best player on the floor. Jimmy came out with that mindset right away and did what he does best, which is draw fouls. He ended the game with 28 points and went 10-12 from the free throw line. He seemed to have fire in his eyes whenever he had the ball in his hands, trying to put a spark in this Heat team. This did seem to light up the rest of the team and get everybody else on the level of Jimmy. But, it’s pretty clear that Jimmy will need another part of his offensive game to step up in order for this team to go far, since driving to the basket to draw fouls can’t be your only offensive threat. And that’s exactly what Jimmy did. He had a pair of clutch threes down the stretch of the game, and iced the game with a mid-range bank shot in the final minute. This is the Jimmy Butler we’ve been waiting for.
#2: Goran Dragic’s scoring barrage late elevates team.
Goran Dragic got the start on Tuesday afternoon over Kendrick Nunn. Goran has been a key piece for this Heat team all season due to the chemistry he had with the second unit. And well, he didn’t seem to be a big part of their offense in the first quarter with the starting lineup. But, Spoelstra only ran a nine man rotation, which lead to Dragic getting minutes with the second unit as well. This was a big part in Miami’s second quarter run. Goran became more comfortable on the floor, which lead to Tyler Herro threes and Andre Iguodala lobs. Goran picked it back up on offense in the second half with the starters, and hit clutch basket after clutch basket in the fourth quarter. And since Kendrick Nunn went from starter to out of the rotation in today’s game, it seems as if Goran will need to play an extended amount of minutes in this post-season at 34 years old, which could be a problem.
#3: Bam Adebayo showcases his ability to be an aggressor with the ball.
There was an aggressive Bam Adebayo siting in today’s game, beginning in the second quarter. It’s pretty evident that Bam isn’t the best offensive player with his back to the basket. But when he gets a full head of steam on his way to the basket, he’s tough to stop. He’s just plainly a huge spurt of energy for this Heat offense, since he plays hard on every possession. He also showcased his play-making today, especially with the off-ball movement from Jimmy Butler. Bam ended up with 17 points on 50% shooting, along with 6 assists and 10 rebounds. It seems as if second and third options will be huge in these playoffs after guys like Jamal Murray, Fred VanVleet, and Jaylen Brown all had big games yesterday, which just further proves the offensive importance of Bam Adebayo.
#4: Andre Iguodala gives more quality bench minutes.
Playoff Iggy seemed to be in full effect in game 1 today. He entered the game with Tyler Herro in the first quarter and did what he does best. Make plays. If you looked at the stat sheet from today’s game, you’d see 4 points, 1 rebound, 0 assists, and 0 steals from Andre. But if you watched the game, you’d know that he was one of the biggest reasons for Miami’s second quarter run. His off-ball movement, active hands, and of course his on court leadership. Andre told media yesterday that his most important moments with this team come in between timeouts, since he can talk with the young guys. This is why Spoelstra will use him in lineups down the stretches of close games in the playoffs, as he did today.
#5: Miami’s death lineup showed up big in today’s game.
When I wrote about different playoff lineups back in June, it included the death lineup of Herro-Duncan-Butler-Crowder-Adebayo. Spoelstra seemed to role with this lineup throughout the third quarter, which gave Miami a 10 point lead before he made a substitution. This lineup seems to be one of Miami’s deadliest lineups due to the mix of shooting and defense. This lineup hasn’t shared the court much as well, other than the last few bubble games. But, they seem to have great on court chemistry together on both sides of the ball. This is a lineup that Spoelstra will probably roll with a bunch throughout the first round of the playoffs, and seems to be a very positive thing for the Heat.