The Miami Heat went down to the wire with the Washington Wizards, and lost yet again in a game that was basically a must win. Some awful and sloppy late fourth quarter offensive possessions led to yet another late Miami collapses. Here are five takeaways from the game…
#1: Tyler Herro must’ve heard the Bradley Beal trade talks.
Well, Tyler Herro seemed to play with an offensive purpose in the first half on Wednesday night, and it just so happened to be against Bradley Beal who is constantly in trade talks. Seventeen points while shooting 7-9 from the field in the first half is impressive on it’s own, but the way he was doing it stood out more. The reason shots were falling at that rate was because of the confidence level Tyler was playing with. It’s always visible with his body language on his jumpers oddly, since when he jumps higher utilizing his legs, the shots looks better. It also makes those opportunities easier when he’s able to get to the rim as easy as he does now. His touch around the rim continues to impress, since as I’ve mentioned in the past, he utilizes the backboard in a way that not many players do at his age.
#2: Miami’s offense turned to constant penetration and paint activity.
When discussing the Miami Heat’s offense, it usually begins with three point shooting generated by dribble hand-offs. But tonight the plan seemed to include getting to the rim, not only for a good portion of possessions, but basically the entire first quarter. This is a very positive thing for a few reasons. For one, early activity at the rim allows increased three point opportunities for guys like Duncan Robinson as seen in the second quarter. It’s also the area of the floor where Miami’s two stars love to operate. It wasn’t about getting to the rim for Jimmy Butler to get points, but instead where that got him which was the free throw line. If Miami can continue to rely on their play around the rim and mid-range area, it opens up everything in their entire offense.
#3: Miami’s perimeter defenders became essential on isolation sets.
Jimmy Butler, Avery Bradley, Andre Iguodala, and even Bam Adebayo are the guys known for wrecking havoc out on the perimeter when defending one-on-one. And after seeing a good amount of isolation sets from Washington, it generated transition offense for Miami. Andre Iguodala is known for his unique and active hands when defending individually, while Avery Bradley’s defensive grit and will was shown by his ability to pick up full court. Jimmy Butler also got a good amount of deflections, which is pretty much expected when he is on the floor. Miami clearly has defensive holes that tried to get covered up by these guys on the perimeter, and it worked for possessions early on. Now, that probably won’t be the case on a nightly basis, but it’s a positive aspect for Miami’s high impact guys.
#4: Third quarter offense becomes stagnant, settling for threes once again.
It’s one thing to get into your offensive sets and shoot up open threes. It’s another thing to get away from dribble penetration completely to begin chucking up catch and shoot threes. The play I discussed tonight that proved Miami getting away from what was working was a 3 on 2 fast-break, which led to Jimmy Butler kicking it out for a Kelly Olynyk three. These empty possessions add up, especially when offensive spacing basically becomes non-existent out of nowhere in the third quarter. The common denominator for Miami’s lack of offensive effectiveness begins with Jimmy Butler becoming a non-factor as he began to shy away from the ball. Even on a great scoring night from Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler is the only person who can spark and generate a working Miami offense, and when he begins to play off the ball, things fall apart.
#5: The continued quest to find their offensive identity.
Finding the identity of this Heat team is something Coach Erik Spoelstra has harped on since the beginning of the season. The issue is that it’s hard to have a sustainable identity with the current personnel, due to the mix of one dimensional guys either defensively or offensively. Looking at the Brooklyn Nets for example, although their defense looks to be very problematic, they know their identity is just to score points and outscore the opponent. Miami’s inconsistent lineups doesn’t allow a natural flow, since there’s no wholesome continuity generated on either end. As mentioned previously though, nonstop offensive aggression from Jimmy Butler patches those issues up a bit, but when he becomes an off-ball guy for long stretches, it leads to Miami falling off on both ends of the floor very fast.