The Miami Heat played a much anticipated game against the Indiana Pacers on Monday night, and got the win 114-92. After a tie game at the half, Miami came out sharp in the second half on both sides of the ball. Here’s five takeaways from this big win…
#1: Jae Crowder continues to be Heat’s most consistent player.
Due to the amount of lethal shooters on this roster, including Duncan Robinson, Jae Crowder seems to get left out of the conversation. But, he continues to be the Heat’s most consistent player on both sides of the floor, and is shooting 60% from three in the bubble. Jae Crowder is also one of those guys that does the dirty work for you, which obviously fits well into this system. This is why Jae made his way into the starting lineup and replaced Meyers Leonard, since versatility matters on this current team more than ever due to their depth in wings.
#2: Bench unit struggles with Goran Dragic moving to the starting lineup.
Goran Dragic got the surprising start in tonight’s game against the Pacers, but consequently caused a problem. Goran had such a groove with the second unit, which was one of Miami’s biggest strengths this season. When most teams had bench drop offs, Miami didn’t. But today, it was evident they did. When Goran exited the game, it wasn’t the same bench unit we’ve seen all season, which caused Indiana to comeback early. Goran came back into the game with the second unit in the second quarter, which seemed to settle Miami down on offense, and led to Miami’s second half display. Although there’s been questions about taking Kendrick Nunn out of the starting lineup all together, it may be better to continue this rotation and let Goran and Tyler run the offense smoothly with the bench unit.
#3: Derrick Jones Jr tries to lock up a spot in the rotation.
Derrick Jones Jr has been in and out of the Heat’s rotation this season, but this may be Derrick’s time to lock up his spot. He has proved that he can guard every team’s best player, but his offense has been in question. But today, he showed he can use his vertical spacing to his advantage. And he’s beginning to improve his shooting from beyond the arc, which if he can hit one to two threes in a playoff game, that can change a game. There also seemed to be a special connection between Derrick and Goran Dragic tonight, since about 80% of his points came from a Goran lob. Derrick has said time and time again that he wants to be here, but he will need to prove his impact during this last stretch before he goes into free agency.
#4: Bam Adebayo comes out aggressive out of the gate, which is essential.
Bam Adebayo started the first quarter with fire in his eyes when he had the ball in his hands. And with Myles Turner basically daring Bam to take a mid range jump shot, he took it with no hesitation, but it wasn’t falling. The thing is with Bam though, it doesn’t need to fall to help the offense. There are plenty of guys on the court who can hit these jumpers on offense, but they can’t open up the floor like Bam does. He also had a defensive motor tonight, which he brings every night, but it seemed to have a little more energy behind it, due to the Myles Turner match-up. Myles got the spot on the USA team over Bam, which obviously didn’t sit right with him. If Bam can bring this energy and aggressiveness every night, it benefits this team’s offensive versatilities even more.
#5: TJ Warren truly isn’t in Jimmy Butler’s league.
Everybody has been waiting for the TJ Warren-Jimmy Butler match-up since their scuffle back in January. Fast forward eight months later and Jimmy Butler still hasn’t forgotten. TJ Warren has been going on an absolute scoring tear in the bubble. Emphasis on scoring. Someone in Jimmy Butler’s league would have to be able to score, rebound, play-make, defend, and lead the way Jimmy does. Jimmy showcased this today scoring 19 points, along with 11 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals. Jimmy also mentioned after their game in January that “I can guard him and he can’t guard me.” Jimmy guarded TJ to start the game, while TJ guarded Jae Crowder, which definitely raises an eyebrow. This was also far from a meaningless game since Miami is trying to secure the four seed, which may ultimately mean a first round match-up against TJ Warren and the Indiana Pacers.