The Miami Heat beat the Orlando Magic to begin the second half of the regular season on Thursday night. Jimmy Butler stepped up in every facet for the team with Bam Adebayo out, which is no surprise after his recent play. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game…
#1: The continued quest to survive the non-Butler minutes.
The non-Butler minutes have been something that I’ve discussed for the Heat for quite some time. It’s a bit of a different story when Bam Adebayo is on the floor to fill some of those holes, but clearly Miami didn’t have him tonight. That basically means Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro would be looked toward to step up in that stretch, and Herro was trying to find a rhythm when he entered and shots weren’t falling much for Dragic. Offense became stagnant with that group, and there early defensive moments fell off rather quickly. It seems like there’s always a discussion about filling holes with this team, due to constant rotational changes, but on nights when it’s a banged up Orlando Magic team that you’re facing, it’s necessary to adjust and thrive.
#2: The KZ Okpala experiment to Moe Harkless experiment to Chris Silva experiment.
As mentioned earlier, Adebayo did not play against the Magic tonight, which made that starting spot next to Kelly Olynyk interesting. As expected, KZ Okpala got the nod, since starting Precious Achiuwa doesn’t make much sense with the lack of bigs behind him. Okpala showed some early flashes on the defensive end, leading to impressive transition offense, but three quick fouls sent him to the sideline quickly. Moe Harkless then checked in, and gave pretty much the same exact thing Okpala brought, with a bit less perimeter aggression. After Achiuwa entered for a short stint, Coach Spo threw in Chris Silva for a spark, and he actually didn’t look bad. When going that deep into your bench, the player probably won’t be very reliable, but Silva knows how to play his role in limited minutes, battling in a similar way that Achiuwa does.
#3: One fallen Tyler Herro jumper early alters his game.
Tyler Herro appeared a bit lost offensively throughout the first quarter in a game he was needed to step up. But once again, a similar theme came up with Herro involving his confidence. When the shots aren’t falling, he finds himself fading to the corner, becoming a floor spacer. But after a shot or two begin to fall, his game begins to operate from the top of the key or the wing with the ball in his hands. One three-pointer on the wing once Jimmy Butler checked in seemed to be that spark, leading to a timeout for Orlando. From that point on, he had much more bounce in his game, which means his ball-handling, play-making, and scoring abilities increase majorly. It just furthers the point that Herro’s confidence is not an overstatement, and holds much value for this team’s current success.
#4: A Jimmy Butler third quarter step-up necessary, but not ideal in big picture.
It was a tight game throughout the night, but Jimmy Butler stepped up in the third quarter to sustain a close score, which can be looked at in a number of ways. For one, it shows the overall dominance of Jimmy Butler to turn it on whenever he chooses. Doubling guys down low for steals into transition offense, working the offense through him in the post into back-door cuts for layups, and much more sparked this team for a short stretch. But it can also be viewed in a negative way, since Miami needed him to do that to tie the game at the end of the third quarter against a depleted Orlando Magic team. Now, obviously Bam Adebayo was out, which means an adjusted offensive and defensive scheme, but Miami’s other role players should be capable of stepping up in these spots. Once again, it does provide extra clarity on both Butler’s ability to flip a switch, and Adebayo’s overall impact.
#5: Some interesting Coach Spo adjustments late in the game.
Coach Erik Spoelstra’s adjustments were fluid in the fourth quarter tonight, finally finding a spark for Miami. They went into a 2-3 zone for the first time, which seemed to throw the Magic off a bit. Miami usually chooses to sprinkle it in throughout the entire game, so the opposing team can dissect it by the time the fourth quarter comes around, but that changed tonight. Another interesting Coach Spo adjustment involved the rotation, since Precious Achiuwa never reentered the game after an early insertion. On a night that Miami lacked any type of big, it was far from expected that Achiuwa would not be utilized. These type of games without Adebayo seem to be the best time for Achiuwa to find any type of NBA level rhythm, but Spo went the Silva route, which actually wasn’t a bad option.