The Miami Heat finally had a full roster on Monday night against the Charlotte Hornets, and fell short in overtime. A Max Strus scoring display into a Jimmy Butler closing display wasn’t enough after Miami slowly lost their 10 point lead with 3 minutes to go. Anyway, here are five takeaways from the game….
#1: Max Strus gets early playing time, and surprises just about everybody.
Max Strus being able to shoot the basketball is no surprise to Erik Spoelstra and this Heat team, since Spo mentioned before the season that he rarely missed in training camp. And well, he rarely missed in the first half, scoring 17 points with 5 threes. Two early Duncan Robinson fouls led to Max getting thrown in 3 minutes into the game, and the Miami Heat motto is to always be ready. Miami’s ability to utilize Duncan Robinson has been great, but becomes harder with the amount of defenders that constantly fly out at him. Not many know about the name Max Strus, which allows him to make an opposing team pay. The theme this season has been opportunity, and the unique situations as of late allowed Max to make his name known on this roster. If he keeps up this impressive offensive play, Coach Spo will find a role for him on this team.
#2: Precious Achiuwa enters as immediate spark.
It’s honestly impressive that Precious can get thrown into a game and make immediate impact. He doesn’t need time to adapt into a game setting, instead he can check in and block a guy off the glass from behind. Getting to finally see him with a healthy roster is the most important part, since his connection with Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic has been clear, but his ability to roam the interior when Jimmy Butler attacks looks efficient as well. Coach Spo does not have to worry about certain fits when inserting Precious, since he just makes everybody on the floor better, which isn’t normal for a rookie. As I’ve mentioned before, he just knows his role and does not stray off from that exact offensive task. And that’s exactly why he’s so effective and is trusted every single night.
#3: Goran Dragic and Avery Bradley struggle early upon return.
The first half of a game when returning from an absence is always difficult, and that was apparent for Avery Bradley and Goran Dragic tonight. They were combined 0-7 from the field in the first half, which is clearly unlike the offensive savvy Goran Dragic. But their presence alone means immediate impact for this team. Avery Bradley’s perimeter defense against Charlotte’s solid guard depth, and Goran can settle down the second unit once again. Spo has not been able to go to that core four bench unit in quite some time, but finally gave them some run tonight with a full roster. Andre Iguodala settled in offensively with a healthy team, knocking down much needed threes down the stretch, while Precious has his favorite lob passer out of the pick and roll back. Although scoring and efficiency wasn’t there for Goran and Avery early on, everything else from them were positive things.
#4: Kelly Olynyk bounces back with efficient shooting night, but can’t stay on court.
Kelly Olynyk is known to have games where he shoots the lights out and struggles from beyond the arc majorly. And after a few games in a row where he struggled, the bounce back game was upon us. He hit two first quarter triples to begin the game, which is the most important part of the game for Kelly since it foreshadows how he will play the rest of the night. It mostly has to do with the fact that he has a role he can stick to with a normal starting lineup. Constant penetration from Jimmy Butler and company allows many opportunities for Olynyk, and it just comes down to the jump-shot falling. The issue is that he’s not the answer as the starter next to Bam moving forward, and as seen tonight, he’s clearly not a trusted player down the stretch.
#5: Bam Adebayo stepping up in his strongest areas, but still not enough.
It’s widely known that Bam Adebayo’s overall impact begins on the defensive end. And when Miami needed to get into a rhythm with Jimmy Butler on the bench, Bam began to wreck havoc on that end of the floor. Taking one-on-one assignments on the perimeter, blocking shots, double teaming. He did it all. Instead of always waiting for Bam to step up in a separate area every night, it’s necessary to evaluate the areas he does takeover since it truly is impressive. One of the most interesting parts about his defensive play is that when smaller guys see a big switch onto them, they look to take advantage. Except it’s an outstanding perimeter defender with length standing across from them, and it leads to turnovers from kick-outs as seen in the fourth quarter. But obviously there’s much more to defense than just Bam, and as seen in overtime, Miami’s point of attack defense began to breakdown once again.