The Miami Heat took down the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night to kick off their West Coast trip. After it appeared it may be a long night for Miami following the first quarter, they turned it around completely to get a solid all-around win. So, let’s take a look at five takeaways from this game…
#1: Bam Adebayo showing peak Adebayo levels early on.
Bam Adebayo’s impact against Portland began on the first play, as a deflection led to the first turnover of many for the Trail Blazers tonight. Although defense is always the hot topic with Adebayo, his offense in the first half specifically must be harped on. This isn’t just because of his 15 point box score in the first half, but actually the importance of those 15 points. Miami had a rough first quarter, with extra emphasis on rough. The offense wasn’t clicking for anybody, except Adebayo. Attacking the drop bigs, getting to the free throw line, knocking down turn-around late shot-clock jumpers. He did it all, and it’s just further assurance that he’s more than capable of doing it on a consistent basis, but it’s up to him.
#2: Tyler Herro playing his role, thriving against one specific defensive scheme.
Tyler Herro gave Miami an efficient 10 first half points tonight, but it’s important to discuss the specifics of this scoring run off the bench. He’s mentioned many times that he is more than comfortable against drop coverage, and that statement is not an overstatement. High pick and rolls with Adebayo as the screener should make anybody comfortable, but giving Herro that many options that fit his strengths are the clear indicators. He showed the ability to hit the open pull-up mid-range, make the lob pass, and most importantly, make the pocket pass after some shots begin to drop for him. It may not be as much about comfort against the scheme as it is about overall confidence when he sees it, since a lot of the time it’s more mental than physical, especially when talking about Herro.
#3: Duncan Robinson’s defensive flashes may be minor, but they’re happening.
Duncan Robinson’s improvements on the defensive end may not be incredibly loud, but that doesn’t mean it’s not progressing. Something that is constantly talked about is his high IQ from a team defense perspective, and that was on display tonight, especially in the first half. Nunn-Herro-Robinson lineups don’t sound like the most effective defensive lineup, but Robinson basically saved them from completely falling apart. When Nunn defensive breakdowns would occur for example, Robinson predicted the rotation to get into position, either leading to kick-outs or drawing a charge. This not only increases the comfort level and willingness to keep him on the floor late in games, but it also makes the off-season contract discussion even more interesting, since a functional defender changes a lot of things.
#4: Trevor Ariza’s fit with this Heat team becoming clearer and clearer.
When talking about Miami Heat player acquisitions that just completely embody everything that they’re about, Trevor Ariza would probably be pretty high on that list. Aside from his growing comfort level in the offense as a catch and shoot guy, while sprinkling in an obvious ability to put the ball on the floor to get to the rim, his defensive impact is the true headliner. When talking about high impact guys like Andre Iguodala whose stat lines don’t tell a thing, Ariza is in the same category, since he just constantly wrecks havoc, even without discussing steals and deflections. His rotations are crisp, his length is an offensive player’s nightmare, and most importantly, he can handle his own against the best point guards in the league. He’s more comfortable on smaller guys that lengthier wings, which means this team’s confidence rises against perimeter oriented teams in the East.
#5: Kendrick Nunn back as a starter, Kendrick Nunn back producing.
Kendrick Nunn is like a revolving door on this Heat team, since he goes from starter to out of the rotation to an opportunity rising, as the cycle begins again and again. A key piece to that as well is that he always finds himself back into his role playing at a high level, since he’s surprisingly become a pretty consistent player on the offensive side of the floor. He quickly showed some of the things that he can improve for Miami, beginning with a guy that can attack bigs in drop coverage. The half-court ability is a known element, but he has proved to be pretty great in transition, which Miami has missed with their current personnel. And with the amount of turnovers they’re forcing in this swarming defense, transition offense is necessary, which Nunn brought to this team upon arrival.